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September 7, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Drafting a Social Networking Policy (part 2 of 2)

Below is the second of a 2-part installment on this popular and trending topic. I can”t claim credit for writing this informative post however. It is written by HRN”s own Content Manager, Joyce Campbell. To receive more current and easy-to-read HR topical content directly from HRN at no cost, simply register to receive our monthly HR whitepaper and/or HR Legal Update e-newsletter by going to:

Part 2 of 2

9. How could social computing help your organization?
a) Professional contacts may use these methods to communicate with your employees.
b) May provide an opportunity to improve community presence or reputation.
c) Creates opportunity to get “the word out” about the company.
d) Can serve as a means to launch marketing campaigns.
e) Can put your company at a hiring advantage by using business sites as recruiting tools.
f) Provides the chance for employees to interact with those in their same fields, increasing employee knowledge, resources, and professional contacts.
g) Keeps morale high.
h) Keeps you in touch with your customers and obtains their feedback.
i) Provides information regarding products and services.
j) Is a means to respond to news stories.
k) Provides a service to customers and the public by answering questions and offering information.

A Few Items to Include / Consider for Your Policy

1. Require that all communications meet your existing policies’ standards regarding confidentiality and proprietary and sensitive information.

2. Ban the use of company logos, trademarks, etc., unless on company approved sites.

3. Remind employees that their online activities reflect on the company and that they should be respectful of coworkers, customers, vendors, and the organization’s reputation at all times.

4. Don’t infringe on copyrights, trademarks, etc.

5. Make it understood that employee violations of applicable policies and procedures may result in corrective action, up to and including termination.

6. Distinguish “at work” standards from “off hours” standards. In other words, what’s allowed at work?

Other Things to Consider

1. Ensure that your policy and or guidelines are appropriately communicated and distributed. Consider having employees acknowledge receipt (sign off) of the materials.

2. Update your policy and guidelines at least annually, with input from legal, HR, IT, and management. Keep in mind employee’s rights with reference to the National Labor Relations Board and recent case law in your specific state regarding social networking.

3. Make sure managers “buy into” and actively support your positions. Ensure that they fully understand their special roles in the company to serve as examples and to enforce company standards.

4. Train employees regarding your expectations.

Bottom Line

It’s difficult to change or control employee behavior under any circumstances. Given the widespread use of social media sites, a total prohibition against employee use (on and offsite) is unenforceable and possibly illegal. Yet employees need guidelines to follow. The goal then is to use common sense to use social networking in a manner that can help the organization and which does no harm to you, the employer. While that’s easier said than done, it’s important to be proactive and address the issue. It’s tricky to find the balance between ignoring the issue and acting as “Big Brother.”


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