Social Media in the Workplace: The Challenge of Training and Monitoring Employee Compliance

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For larger firms, highly regulated firms, and firms with assessed risks, social media can appear to be more of a curse than a blessing.  But developing a social media policy, offering workplace training, and monitoring employee compliance can go a long way to mitigating the risks associated with social media.  The larger the firm, the more complicated this effort becomes.

Large Firms Need More Than A Social Media Policy

According to a recent survey, 81% of Fortune 500 firms have a social media policy, addressing what is and what is not appropriate in terms of employee usage.  However, only 31% conduct formal training to address security policies and the appropriate usage of social media, both inside and outside of the workplace.

That’s a problem.  Social media is not well understood by everyone.  Employee misconduct does happen.  Without ongoing employee training, a social media policy is not nearly as useful as it could be.

Training Considerations

Training begins at the top.  All executives, managers, supervisors and human resources personnel should be thoroughly orientated to social media, it’s uses, and its potential mis-uses. To be an effective leader, every executive and manager needs to have social media literacy.

The company’s leaders should know the company social media policy, and be aware of how it will be monitored, and the consequences of non-compliance.  These staff members will be serving as role models and may be involved in enforcing the policy, so they should know how to do that with consistency.

The next step would be providing employee orientation and ongoing training  and communication.  Social media training and compliance is not a one-shot deal, to be provided only at a new employee’s orientation.  Employees use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube everyday. To protect the company’s interests, employees need to be repeatedly reminded (in creative and positive ways, when possible) about the boundaries of appropriate usage.

Monitoring: A Necessary Evil or Potential Legal Nightmare?

For a policy to work, however, it must be enforceable, and for most large firms, that involves some degree of employee monitoring to ensure that security breaches are not occurring, employees are remaining productive, and that there is compliance with the social media policy.

Monitoring is fraught with complications, however.  In addition to the resources that must be devoted, which can range in costs from $2 to $10 per employee per day, employees may resent monitoring of their social media usage after hours, and even in the workplace.  The monitoring systems are new, of course, and not infallible.  Even more seriously are the legal issues associated with employee monitoring, which vary from state to state.  The legal issues range from freedom of speech to fair employment practices.  Signed employee agreements may help offset the risks associated with employee monitoring, however.

Implementing social media in the workplace, particularly for larger firms, is an effort that has to involve participation from leadership, human resources, legal, marketing and communications, IT, and — often — risk management and security consultants.  The development of workable social media policies, workplace training programs, and monitoring systems are solutions that must be customized for each firm.

Given the potential risks and expenses, and rapidly changing platforms, it can be easier to understand why so many larger firms are reluctant to adopt social media outreach and access in the workplace.

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on August 16, 2011, in Social Media in the Workplace, Social Media Tips and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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