We have noticed that many companies, whilst relying on the internet and email to carry out their business, have concerns about the way in which staff might be using these facilities for their own use and yet more are really not sure what they should be doing when it comes to Social Media at work.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, downloading books, films and music, paying a bill online, keeping in touch with friends, organising your weekend plans  – we might be forgiven for thinking that it’s a miracle anyone has time to do any work!

Facebook is the most popular social networking site with millions of UK users and the popularity of this and other forms of Social Media is evident, let alone the use of the internet for managing our daily lives – but are they impacting on your business?

The Telegraph reported that 70% of UK businesses bar access to Social Networking sites as they believe that staff waste time that impacts on productivity.  Many other companies warn staff that accessing these sites during working hours will be a disciplinary offence.

There are numerous cases of employees being dismissed for things they have posted to Social Media sites, as well as cases at Employment Tribunal where those decisions have been found to be unfair dismissal as a company is seen to have reacted disproportionately to the “offence” committed by the employee.

Simply put….it’s an employment minefield!

But is there another way of looking at this issue?  Social Media is here to stay so could we be doing more in our businesses to make greater use of them to enhance our success?

Could you make more use of your employees accessing such sites for market research, watching trends, making contacts, business networking, information exchange, promotions and advertising, and if companies such as BMW, Adidas and Sony recognise the value of a presence in the virtual reality world Second Life, perhaps there might be something worth exploring for smaller businesses too?

Whilst we encourage you to take a fresh look at this issue, we’re not suggesting that you don’t set out your expectations to employees so here are few simple guidelines to get you thinking about your Social Media policy:

Know your staff – what do people do at the moment with Social Media when they are at work?  What benefits does this give them? What difficulties does it cause?

Know your business – what gains could be made by enabling all staff to use Social Media to yours and their benefit at work?  What’s appropriate usage in your business?

Know your culture – how do you want people to behave at work?  How do you achieve that?  How do you ensure that policies are consistent with your business values?

Know your market – what are your competitors doing with Social Media?  What are their staff saying about them (and maybe about you?)  Where do people who want to know about your business (or your competitors) look for information?

Know your policies – how will you ensure that you have consistency with other policies you already have regarding email, internet, phone use, confidentiality and data protection?

Know your Tweet from your Blogroll – ensure you know what’s out there and how it is being used.  Make sure you know what is being said about you and your business!

If you want to chat about anything to do with managing a successful approach to the HR implications of Social Media in your business call Sam on 07816 316598, email sam@vivohr.co.uk

Please follow Sam on twitter @SamSwinstead

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