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Since we largely train recruiters and businesses how to leverage the power of social media as a sourcing tool, an employer branding tool and a business development tool, one common question we get asked all the time from nervous HR managers to company directors is advice on a social media policy that will enable their teams to have the freedom to roam social sites for business reasons, but limit them sufficiently so that they can’t doss during work hours.
Well, our first piece of advice in this regard: You can’t have it both ways.
You can’t block Facebook for fear that your recruitment consultants and sales people will be on it all day having the chats with their friends, but then expect them to update your company Facebook page or search for potential business or new hires through the same medium. It’s entirely oxymoronic thinking. The lines have become so blurred between work tools and personal tools that it’s impractical for businesses to try and make a distinction between them.
Secondly: You need to treat your teams like adults (as you hired them to be).
Place emphasis on trust to your team and clearly state your expectations of them at the beginning. You trust they won’t be slacking off and meandering along their newsfeeds all morning, and that you expect them to achieve their work goals each day, right? Giving them your trust and confidence will further encourage them to behave appropriately. This is the world of work after all!
Third: You don’t own the data contained on Social Networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.
Using Social Networking sites like LinkedIn as a sourcing tool to find potential candidates and business leads etc. can be a double edged sword. On one side, LinkedIn is a wonderfully rich database with great functionality to source new candidates for your vacancies, but on the other, LinkedIn can revoke access to any part of their database without notice, suddenly insist on charging you for any search capability, or heaven forbid, completely close down in the morning.
Our advice in this regard is simple and methodical: every day, make a habit of downloading your connections to an Excel spreadsheet, and any candidates that you believe could be very worthwhile getting in touch with for a job role, import them in to your database or ATS and code them appropriately. Don’t take the chance that all of that data will be sitting there ready for you to access any time you want. LinkedIn going up in smoke isn’t exactly as far fetched as it might first appear. They are a private company, and have every right to close off massive parts of their database in one fell swoop.
Fourth: Twitter is a powerful research tool, not just for following Footballers.
Well yes, Twitter is also for following footballers (amongst other “celebrities”), but in your specific field I can guarantee that there are bloggers out there who are posting brilliant articles and conversation, stirring real debate about your industry, and can help to create ideas and new ways of doing business. While some tweets in your team’s streams may be from X-factor Contestants and the like, we have to allow for the team to follow influential and important twitter profiles that can help steer your team’s careers and productivity as they read more about their industry and do more research. Furthermore, your own company’s blog, new jobs announcements and more can be fed through your company and your employee’s Twitter accounts too, so it has to work both ways.
Fifth: Social Media and its Networks are constantly evolving, so any social media policy must be just as fluid
Naming specific sites or refusing access to one or two popular sites isn’t going to work. The most you should ever be worried about is porn, but let’s face it, that’s a separate matter. A social media policy that is official in your organisation needs to be vague enough to not single out one site over another, but general enough to cover a whole host of activity on the web without the need for dramatic change should one social media site become suddenly obsolete as times and popularity move on (recently we saw a social media policy that specifically listed MySpace but not Facebook – obviously more than 4 years old, and now completely out of date). Similarly, social media policies must be carried through to after-work time, since personal profiles like their LinkedIn and Twitter are often accessed outside of work, and these are key places which state their current employer. Your policy must therefore make reference to the fact that simply by being online, they are a virtual representative of the company at all times, and so care must be taken when posting content on a social networking site so as not to offend or misrepresent the firm.
Sample policies for recruitment agencies:
- Ensure that your teams are aware that they are personally responsible for the content they post online, whether on networking sites or blogs, or any other form of user-generated media. They must be mindful that what they publish will be public for a long time, so be respectful and try to make accurate comments and fuel debate in a positive way.
- If matters related to your company are discussed in an unofficial capacity, have employees identify themselves by name and role at the company. They should make it clear that they are speaking for themselves and not on behalf of the company, whilst disclosing any conflict of interest.
- The company’s standards of business conduct still apply, even over the internet, and behaviour deemed inappropriate or offensive should equally not be tolerated. This can be as broad-ranging as misrepresenting the company, disclosing financial or business-sensitive information about the company, cyber-bullying a fellow member of staff or someone unrelated to the company, or viewing material of a sexual nature that is inappropriate to view at work. State that they are to behave with the same integrity and respect that they would conduct themselves with in the workplace with their colleagues.
- Be aware of your employees presence online as a representative of the Company. If they identify themselves as a member of your team (like on their LinkedIn profile), then ensure that all profiles and related content is consistent with how you wish they present themselves with colleagues and clients. It can’t but help also for them to state publicly that all opinions are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the company, just to be sure.
- Give official logos of suitable quality to be used online, where appropriate. Do not allow for your company logos to be used by employees unofficially.
- Bear in mind that time is a precious commodity, and state this clearly. During work-time, team-mates do not have time to spend in a personal capacity on social networking sites. It is important that the team stay focussed on goals as a team and work diligently to achieving them on target and on time.
Have you a social media policy in your business? How effective has it been in marketing your company to an online audience, and have you ever experienced trouble from employees misrepresenting themselves online? Tell us your experiences in the comments.