4 Tips for Setting Up a Social Media PolicyApril 30, 2015 - By: Jason Carney
While email and internet usage are both critical to the workplace nowadays, certain programs and sites can lead to distractions or even create legal risks. Social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be distracting and take time away from projects and clients, and at worst, they can cause the company some embarrassment as well as expose liability issues when used incorrectly.
An ideal way to mitigate the risk and provide guidance to employees is to have a social media policy in place, especially because nearly 90 percent of businesses now use social media for business purposes. In addition, a survey found that 70 percent of businesses reported having to take disciplinary action against employees for misuse. We think a social media policy can make a huge difference in your employees’ productivity and your company’s online integrity. Here are four helpful tips to help craft your company social media policy that allows employees to take advantage of electronics in the workplace while preventing non-related business distractions.
1. Find balance.
Monitor productivity in the workplace without crossing the privacy line. Set up work-related guidelines for using the web, but refrain from going through confidential materials and property. While employers have the right to monitor internet usage and email communications, they do not have the right to use that information for any purpose other than disciplining an employee. Be clear with your employees about what is expected and allowed when they use company equipment. Consider posting guidance, rules, and limitations in the company break room.
2. Invest in safeguards.
Use virus scans and password protection services to ensure confidential materials are kept safe and secure. Give your employees guidelines on what kinds of websites they are allowed to access on business computers and state clearly that inappropriate or illegal materials are unacceptable. Be sure to educate your employees on what a security breach might entail. Educating employees about the negative effects their internet use might have on the business can help prevent unwanted internet behavior.
3. Outline Uses.
When determining which sites and outlets your employees may access, consider if employee usage would alter your company’s reputation or affect the company image. Make employees aware that their online presence represents the company, some times more directly than others. Because social media sites can have such a major impact, employees need to be able to understand what is expected from them and where to draw the line. For example, outline access to and use of chat rooms, discussion groups, bulletin boards and blogs. Put guidelines in place to ensure employees are interacting in a professional manner.
Key policy pointers:
- Read and sign policy at hire
- Require adherence to code of conduct/values
- No slurs, demeaning jokes, sexist terms, offensive photos, etc.
- No disclosure of confidential information
- Remind employees of personal responsibility for posts
- No right to privacy (at work)
- Mandate strong, specific disclaimers: Opinions are the employee’s, NOT the company’s
- Limit blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking at work to business-related purposes
- Violation can lead to discipline, up to and including termination
- Encourage positive use of blogs and sites if appropriate for your business or organization
Recent legislation enacted by the National Labor Relations Board prohibits employers from limiting speech about working conditions or wages that may be critical to organizations. While traditionally only an issue for unionized employers, the NLRB has expanded to shield non-union employees from being disciplined for “Protected Concerted Activity.”
4. Put Someone in Charge.
To make sure your communications policy is effective, train new employees on all the guidelines you expect them to follow and present each employee with social media and web guidelines. A manager or leader within the company should be tasked with enforcing these polices and following through in the event of a violation.
Many organizations have had their reputations damaged by disgruntled employees who have left a permanent online footprint. All businesses should take a close look at their policies and procedures to limit exposure.
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