With social media, what you don’t know can seriously hurt your organization. One 2010 survey found that employees estimate spending roughly four hours every day checking multiple email accounts, with up to two hours spent on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A 2012 Salary.com survey found that 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites daily. And don’t think blocking employee access to social media on company networks is the answer; personal smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, and easily fill the gap.
The dilemma for today’s organizations is that while social media use at work has definite risks, it also is one of the best ways to empower and engage employees. Increasingly, in our connected 24/7 businesses, the line between work and personal time is blurring. This is especially true for Generation Y employees; as long as they meet deadlines and deliver, these employees feel that it’s not particularly useful to distinguish between time spent updating Twitter or engaged in team meetings. Organizations may beg to differ, especially when an offensive or inappropriate blog post or tweet can damage their brand, lower employee morale, and even lead to workplace lawsuits.
Yet, most organizations don't really know how their employees are using social media, either personally or professionally, let alone what impact it's having on employees’ overall levels of productivity.
That’s why, before you set policy, it’s important to know how your individual contributors currently leverage social media use at work, as well as how its use is handled by their managers. Get to the heart of these fundamental issues by asking managers five key questions:
- Have your employees’ use of social media ever triggered a workplace lawsuit or regulatory investigation?
- What impact has your employees’ personal use of social media during work hours had on their productivity, if any?
- How do you use social media to help manage your projects and employees?
- Has someone helped you and your employees review all applicable federal and state laws governing electronic data content, usage, monitoring, privacy, e-discovery, data encryption, and business record retention? What about updating you on other legal issues in the various jurisdictions in which you operate, have employees or serve customers?
- Could you comply with a court-ordered “social media audit?” That is, could you produce legally compliant business blog posts, email messages, text messages and other Electronically Stored Information (ESI) within 99 days?
Social media can speed innovation and collaboration, but ONLY if your employees know how to fully leverage it as well as steer clear of its many pitfalls. Start by asking managers these five simple questions. They often surface extremely important information that, especially in larger organizations, you may not have been aware of. Finally, even if your employees have been using social media without incident for some time now, it’s still a very good idea to fully educate them. As the old proverb goes, “No matter how far down the wrong road you’ve gone, turn around!”