Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are now an everyday part of our lives, and that includes in the workplace. But while social media can be an excellent communication and marketing tool for businesses, personal use of social media at work can interfere with productivity and pose some serious data and cybersecurity risks. So how can businesses mitigate these risks and help make sure the company isn’t trending for all the wrong reasons?
Create an Acceptable Media Use Policy
Make sure you have a clearly outlined social media use policy in place, such as an Acceptable Media Use Policy. These policies typically warn employees that they:
o May not divulge trade secrets or confidential or proprietary information online
o Can be held accountable for content they post on the Internet—whether in the office, at home or on their own time—particularly if something they post or share violates other company policies
o May need approval (from a specific person or department) before posting certain types of information that could be associated with the organization, employees or customers
The most successful social media use policies also:
o Explain employee productivity expectations in conjunction with social media habits
o Provide examples of policy violations
o Explain disciplinary measures for policy violations
Overall, employees need to understand that they are ambassadors for the organization’s corporate brand. What they write on social media could be disseminated to the world—even if they only share it with their “friends.” Encourage employees to think twice before posting comments they would not say out loud or that they would not want their CEO or grandparents to see. Employees should be encouraged to use disclaimers and speak in the first person to make it clear that any opinions expressed are not those of their employer.
A note for unionized workforces: Employers operating in union environments need to be mindful of additional requirements that may impact their policies under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Under the NLRA, policies that are too broad or too restrictive might interfere with a workers’ right to complain about their employer and discuss the terms and conditions of employment with other employees. Always review any policies with counsel before implementing to make sure they are suitable for your particular circumstance.
Make Training Mandatory
Even the best social media policies won’t go far if employees aren’t properly trained on social networking’s benefits and pitfalls. Training should be succinct and interactive, including real -examples and table-top exercises on both the specifics of your social media use policy and more general best practices for using social media responsibly.
At Beckage, we encourage employers to leverage training such as Cybersecurity Best Practices 101, which covers topics like network security and protecting confidential and proprietary information. Organizations must educate employees about how a downloaded application or even a simple click can infect computers and the network at large. A critical concern about social networking platforms is that they encourage people to share personal information. Even the most cautious and well-meaning people can give away the wrong kind of information on company-approved social networking platforms.
Address Negative Incidents Promptly
If it seems like an employee is misusing social media at work or there’s a negative incident, it’s important to promptly investigate, document all conversations, review internal policies and procedures and take disciplinary action if warranted.
But be aware that workers’ speech is protected in certain situations. In addition to the National Labor Relations Act, federal and state employment laws protect employees who complain about harassment, discrimination, workplace safety violations and other issues.
Be Careful Using Social Media During the Hiring Process
Employers must exercise caution when using social networks during the recruiting or hiring processes. Social media can play a role in the screening process, but employers should consider when and how to use social media this way and weigh potential legal pitfalls. For example, a candidate could claim that a potential employer did not offer a job because of legally protected information found on a social networking site (such as race, ethnicity, age, associations, family relationships or political views)
In short, successfully managing social media in the workplace comes down to the employer’s policy: in today’s workplace all employers should have a robust policy, train on it annually, and then consistently enforce it. If you’re not sure where to start, turn to experienced legal counsel to craft a social media policy that works for your company culture and brand. The experienced team at Beckage PLLC can help navigate state and federal laws, pinpoint potential social media pitfalls, and ultimately set your employees on the path to social media savvy.
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