The Employment Team at Gorvins recently hosted two HR Junction breakfast meetings on the subject of social media in the workplace, ranging from inappropriate photos on Twitter to ownership of LinkedIn contacts.

A couple of years ago, any such discussion on social media would have been firmly centred on disciplinary issues relating to private use and, to be fair, similar issues are still to the fore in 2015.  But what’s interesting is the way in which some organisations are now looking to harness the wide-reaching marketing and publicity capabilities of Twitter and the like, encouraging their employees to use it for the greater good of their employers.

What became clear from our recent Junctions was the need for employee education – whether social media is used for private or work purposes.  People need to understand that their use of Twitter can unintentionally have a negative impact and on a far wider audience than ever intended.  The adage (long used in approach to email use) that you shouldn’t tweet anything you wouldn’t be prepared to shout out loud on a bus remains good advice.  And yes, I am going to suggest you need a policy in place because when trouble comes to call and you’re in Tribunal, the Employment Judge will expect to see a clear policy in place and that it has been effectively communicated.

The policy does not have to be short-listed for the Booker Prize.  A side or 2 will usually suffice.  On the other hand Microsoft’s “Blog Smart” may be a little too concise, relying a little too much on the “smartness” of the individual.  Some organisations ask their people to watch interactive online programmes on social media use.  This can be an effective method of communication but may not suit the smaller companies out there or those where internet access is not standard.  In the latter case, nothing can beat a manager talking through the policy, fielding questions and getting employees to think about the issues that can arise.  This is also a matter of fundamental employee relations.  To plagiarise a recent talk from Ryan Cheyne, People Director at Pets at Home, if you think you have a social media problem, you probably don’t, you have a people problem.

So, to conclude:

  1. Draft a concise, transparent policy (or ask us to draft one or review your draft);
  2. Communicate the policy to everyone.  Don’t just leave it hanging by a drawing pin on a notice board;
  3. Remember that social media can be a benefit to your business.  If people deliberately abuse it, perhaps you have the wrong people.

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