Why Does Your Workplace Need a Social Media Policy?
Since its inception, social media has presented a minefield of issues for businesses – from concerns about worker productivity to the challenges of controlling a company’s online reputation.
But with 1.73 billion social media users worldwide, a number expected to reach 2.55 billion by 2018, there’s no keeping it out. So business leaders are left to grapple with sticky issues that pit employee privacy against protection of company assets.
Social Media at Work. Yay or Nay?
Many have embraced social media as a valuable hiring tool for conducting applicant background checks. Some have responded with restrictive social media policies that attempt to control how employees behave online, while others have gone so far as to require new hires to provide login information for their private social media accounts.
With internet privacy laws still evolving, it’s tough to weigh how much control businesses should have over workforce’s online activity.
And because the laws are constantly changing, staying compliant means business leaders must stay on top of the latest best practices for social media in the workplace. It’s also crucial to tread carefully when developing social media policies and using social networking sites while researching prospective hires.
Taking Control with Social Media Policies
As social media becomes a bigger part of employees’ lives, many companies have felt the need to enact policies governing both on- and off-the job use of social networking sites.
In 2012, 40 percent of employers reported having a formal social media policy, and a third had disciplined an employee for violating it within the past year. Protecting proprietary information, complying with federal financial regulations and avoiding exposure to legal liabilities are just a few of the reasons organizations give for wanting to control social media use among employees.
Implementing a social media policy is an important step toward compliance for every organization – but if you’re not careful, you could find yourself prohibiting activities protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
In a rash of rulings and memos over the past few years, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) declared a number of high-profile corporate policies overboard and unlawful for broadly restricting employees’ free speech rights. Many of the policies sought to prevent employees from discussing their conditions of employment, which is a protected activity under Section 7 of the NLRA.
Creating a Clear (and Legal) Social Media Policy
Surprisingly, one of the policies that passed muster was Walmart’s. Although it contained many of the same provisions as those that had been rejected, it provided plain examples of egregious behavior to help employees understand it did not attempt to restrict protected behavior.
When crafting an organization-wide social media policy for employees:
- Ensure compliance if you operate in any state with a password protection law (or pending legislation)
- Strictly prohibit all personnel from asking for access to employee or applicant social media accounts
- Ensure human resources personnel and decision makers know the laws when it comes to hiring, investigating and disciplining employees
- Provide your employees with training on your social media policy so that they know your expectations
Staying compliant with social media privacy laws can be tricky, especially if you operate in more than one state. Companies with clear policies that offer social media training will be best positioned to navigate the stormy privacy waters ahead.