Social Networking and the Workplace

Social networking – how it impacts you in and out of the workplace. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the emergence of social networking and its use in today’s workplace. Issues surrounding privacy and how information from these networks is being used are emerging at a rapid rate. The most popular sites are reported to be: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning Network.Two Trends to NoteTwo trends are important for both employees and employers to note. The first is that an increasing number of people are using a variety of these networking sites. A recent ISPOS survey noted that 24% of adults in the USA have visited a social networking site with two-thirds of those having done so in the past 30 days. This phenomenon is not limited to North America. In Korea for example, the number of adults reported to have visited such sites is as high as 49%.The second is that employers are using these same networks in recruiting activities. CareerBuilder reported that 22% of hiring managers used social networking sites to screen job candidates. Of these, 34% reported they had obtained information that caused them not to hire a candidate, while 24% reported they found content favourable to the candidate.It seems that the use of these networks is increasing and will continue to do so for some time. While individuals are using these and other sites to stay connected and build and expand their personal networks of friends, colleagues and business associates, employers are using these networks for recruiting purposes.A Darker Side?The U.S. based Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics reported that 24% of respondents to a recent survey indicated that employees had been disciplined by their employers for inappropriate activities on social network sites in the workplace.
This is made all the more fascinating when you consider that other reports indicate that only 34% of employers have policies that address employee social networking site activities both on and off the job, while 50% responded they did not have a policy that relates to off the job activities on these networks.Why Employers Use these SitesEmployers use these sites for many of the same reasons employees use them:
- They are easy to use and offer an inexpensive source of information;
- Employers feel they can obtain information about an individual that may not always become readily apparent on a resume or during an interview;
- Network sites often provide an insight into how the person represents themselves; and
- Employers feel they may be able to learn about an individual’s basic communication style and skills.It should be noted that it is likely impossible for an individual to determine whether their application was screened out due to their social network profile or representation. It has been said that employers may not always believe what they see on an individual’s social network page, but they may not like what they see.What do Employers Look For?A wide variety of unintended information may be available to employers from these sources such as:
- Illegal behavior
- Heavy Alcohol use
- Derogatory comments or potentially offensive behavior
- Risqué photos
- Poor writing or grammar skills
- Comments made about previous employers, coworkers or others.Policy ConsiderationsThe complex and emerging area of social networking poses a major opportunity for misunderstandings and conflict between employees and their organizations. Employers are well advised to establish and implement clear policies relating to employee use of social networking sites both on and off the job. Reasonable boundaries can be set in policy to promote and protect business interests and the employer’s reputation. Care needs to be taken to ensure policies are not excessively restrictive or unreasonable. Once established, the employer needs to ensure that a comprehensive communication campaign is undertaken and maintained to ensure employees are aware of and fully understand policy requirements and their implications.

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