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Does Social Media and Work Mix? Employers See Problems Rise

With an estimated half of all Americans using social media, venting about the workplace has grown into a major problem for employers.

09/08/2011 // Boston, MA , USA // jtheriault // John Theriault

Truventis, a local management consulting firm, has developed a social media training to help businesses communicate the risks around social media to their employees. The training uses multi-media and real world examples of cases that cover Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The focus of the training is to help employees understand how social media actually works, and the risks involved when discussing the workplace.

“Employees often think they’re ok talking about work because their privacy settings are on,” said Truventis founder John Theriault. “But most of us have ‘friended’ people from work, so comments about work or clients can end up being seen by unintended parties. The stakes can be higher if your company works in certain sectors such as healthcare, where strict regulations cover privacy concerns,” said Theriault.

“What’s becoming clear is that employers need to have a social media policy in place or they put themselves at greater risk,” said Theriault. “Companies must demonstrate they have an established policy in place and it was communicated to all employee before something adverse happens. They also need to train their employees on the social media policy and expectations related to the workplace.”

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce review of 129 worker cases before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) demonstrates that employees are now regularly using social media (in particular Facebook) to “vent” about their employer. The NLRB has stated it’s planning to release guidance for businesses on social media policies “in the coming weeks”.

Truventis has identified five steps for companies:

1. Develop and implement a social media policy (employers should review that policy against the NLRB guidance when it becomes available);

2. Require an acknowledgement receipt of the social media policy and update it annually;

3. Conduct a training for everyone at the company around social media risk and keep a record of attendance;

4. Train managers on how to respond to adverse postings, demonstrate restraint, and consider the potential posting for ‘protected speech’ before taking action;

5. Train managers to not go actively looking on employee social media pages for adverse postings since this can be construed as undue surveillance.

NLRB actions to date show that while employers should not actively search for adverse postings, they can use information presented to them.

“Most of us are using social media networks every day, have no idea how they actually operate technically. As a result we’re unaware of what data we may be communicating and to whom,” said Theriault.

Social Media Tags:social media, social media training, social media policy, facebook policy, facebook, twitter, human resources

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