Over the last few months I’ve been aware of many professional practices banning their employees from using social media at work. Whilst I can understand this very short sighted thinking – after all, who wants their employees to be mucking around on facebook while they should be working? I think that this is a bigger issue, and one that professional service firms need to wake up to and smell the coffee. The world around us is changing, and our means of communicating with others is shifting from a predominantly in person/phone/e-mail mix to one where social networking is very much part of our personal and professional communication mix.
Like many professionals I don’t need a computer to tweet, link or even blog. I can use my smartphone, ipod or even ipad – and I would lay a heavy bet that most of your employees can also use their phone to access their social networking accounts. If they want to take a ‘social networking’ break (the new ‘fag’ break) – they will do so regardless of whether they use the firm’s IT systems or not. Banning your employers from using linkedin, facebook or twitter at work is actually stopping them from using three very powerful online networking tools, which they could be using to develop relationships with potential clients for your business. Do you really want to be limiting your employees potential to bring in new business?
I’ve recently heard of 2 solicitor firms who actually ban their staff from having social networking accounts. Sorry? Banning staff from using social networking? Yes, you did hear me correctly. I understand that at work this may just be legally acceptable, but stopping staff having a linkedin or facebook account? I’m not an employment law specialist, but is this ethically and morally acceptable? I know that there is an argument that says if my staff don’t post anything online, then they can’t damage our reputation. Well, are you going to ban your staff from speaking to others outside of work – just in case they damage your reputation? At least, you can monitor the conversations which your staff have on line. I’d much prefer to be listening to the conversations staff are having about my firm than driving the conversation underground. This isn’t possible for off line conversations. Plus, what does this say about the trust you have in your staff?
If you needed more proof to let your employees use social media, than a recent study found that 48% of people on social media would recommend their company’s products and services, while 22% would not, or a net score of plus 26%. Can you afford not to have your employees advocating your services?
So what’s the solution – because banning access to social media is a short sighted solution to a problem which is not going to go away. The solution is simple… good quality people management and leadership. This involves the following three things:
1. A social media policy in place which states in black and white what isn’t and what is acceptable usage of social media (whether in work or not in work) For example,
- drunk pictures appearing of a member of your staff? I’m assuming that you would want they to untag themselves and ask for the offending photo to be removed from public viewing. (As much for their future career prospects as well as the firm’s reputation)
- standard pieces of copy for their linkedin profiles about the firm, and links for them to use on their linkedin profile to the company websites
- the ownership of company data – for example, it is not acceptable to trawl through the companies mailing list in an attempt to link to everyone on the database on LinkedIn
2. A process of monitoring conversations of staff on line. This is very easily done, by using automated searches. Your IT specialist should be able to set this up for you.
3. A programme of training for staff to show they how to productively use social networking tools to enhance their personal brand (good for their career prospects) and network online (helpful to generate new clients for the firm)
What’s your thoughts?
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