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Social networking is here to stay; it’s time to amend your e-policies

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Cave drawings were the earliest form of social networking. Today people tweet their thoughts for the world to see. In between, we’ve had instant messaging, MySpace, Facebook and blogs. Online social networking is here to stay—the only change will be in what form it takes.

According to a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, 22% of employees say they use some form of social networking five or more times per week, and 15% admit they access social networking while at work for personal reasons.

Yet, only 22% of companies have a formal policy that guides employees in how they can use social networking at work.

And as an HR professional, it’s up to you to understand and set rules for these social media technologies in the workplace. Our interactive webinar - Social Media for HR Professionals - will acquaint you with the tools of social media and explain how those tools should (and should NOT) be used in the workplace. Learn More!

Before we can figure out what to do about these exploding media at work, we need to know exactly what we are dealing with. So, for the uninitiated, here is a short lesson on the various types of social networking likely being accessed from your workplace right now.

•    Blogs:
Blog is short for weblog. Blogs either provide commentary on news or a particular subject (such as the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog), or serve as an online diary. There are hundreds of millions of blogs on the Internet, many updated every day.

•    Facebook: Facebook started as an online tool for college and university students to connect with each other. It has since expanded to allow anyone over the age of 13 with a valid e-mail address to open a free account. It is loosely organized into a variety of networks based on schools, location, employers, charities and other causes. Connections are known as “friends.” People update with short written blurbs about what they’re doing as well as pictures, video and the like. Facebook has over 200 million registered users. Even my mom has a Facebook page.

•    LinkedIn: LinkedIn is an online network for professionals. It allows people to search and connect via alma mater, location, employer or various user-created groups. It has over 41 million members.

•    Twitter: Twitter is the latest big thing in social networking. It is known as “micro-blogging.” “Tweets” are text-based posts of up to 140 characters, displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to followers—other users who have subscribed.

I could draft a perfect social-networking policy to cover these new media using only a few words: “Be mature, be ethical and think before you type.”

Ultimately, you may decide that such brevity is what you want for your business.

Get the best of both worlds! Presenter Jennifer McClure combines her 20 years of HR experience with her knowledge of social media—she’s a self-described social-media “addict”—to help you navigate this brave new world. She’ll be joined by attorney Cynthia Gibson — an expert in employment law matters, and a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Register now for this live event!

For the sake of completeness, though, review the section below to consider the seven most important questions when drafting a social-networking policy.


Drafting a social-networking policy: 7 key questions

1. How far do you want to reach? Social networking presents two concerns for employers—how employees are spending their time at work, and how employees are portraying your company online when they are not at work. Any social-networking policy must address both types of online use.

2. Do you want to permit social networking at work at all? It is not realistic to ban all social networking at work. For one thing, you will lose the benefit of business-related networking. Further, a blanket ban is also hard to monitor and enforce.

3. If you prohibit social networking, how will you monitor it? Turning off Internet access, installing software to block certain sites, or monitoring employees’ use and disciplining offenders are all possibilities, depending on how aggressive you want to be and how much time you want to spend watching what your employees do online.

4. If you permit employees to social network at work, do you want to limit it to work-related conduct or permit limited personal use? How you answer this question depends on how you balance productivity versus marketing return.

5. Do you want employees to identify with your business when networking online? Employees should be made aware that if they post as an employee of your company, the company will hold them responsible for any negative portrayals.

Or, you could simply require that employees not affiliate with your business and lose the networking and marketing potential Web 2.0 offers.

6. How do you define “appropriate business behavior?” Employees need to understand that what they post online is public, and they have no privacy rights in what they put out for the world to see. Anything in cyberspace can be used as grounds to discipline an employee, whether the employee wrote it from work or outside of work.

7. How will social networking intersect with your broader harassment, technology and confidentiality policies?

Employment policies do not work in a vacuum. Employees’ online presence—depending on what they are posting—can violate any number of other corporate policies. Drafting a social networking policy is an excellent opportunity to revisit, update and fine-tune other policies.

Whether you’re a Twitter devotee or new to the game … a Facebook aficionado or a beginner … this insightful webinar will help you formulate policies, train your staff, recruit top talent and more. We’ll discuss:
  • What Social Media/Web 2.0 is
  • How HR can benefit
  • The difference between profession-based and “pure” social networks
  • Using social media in recruiting, career development and employment branding
  • Three internal legal risks of social media
  • Three external legal risks of social media
  • Analyzing how your employees use social media
  • Developing a social media policy for your workplace
  • And much more!

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