SOCIAL NETWORKING RESEARCH SOCIAL NETWORKING RESEARCH
SOCIAL NETWORKING RESEARCH The key issues facing employers
Charles Russell, in conjunction with Personnel Today, recently commissioned research amongst 226 HR professionals across a wide range of sectors, exploring the key issues facing employers in relation to the use of social networking sites.
The internet has brought many benefits to companies and is a business tool that few could now do without, but employers are becoming more aware of the knock on effects at work of employee’s use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo.
The majority of HR professionals surveyed were concerned about the potential misuse of these sites and their HR practices are changing as a result. Below are some of the key findings:
Limited or unlimited internet access?
79% of companies allow their employees limited internet access only, with 20% allowing unlimited access. Smaller companies were more likely to allow unlimited access as well as organisations operating in the media and IT & communications industry sectors. Of those who allow internet access two thirds monitored employees’ usage. Just under half of respondents (47%) expressed concern about excessive internet use by employees. Half of respondents would consider restricting personal internet use to lunch times if excessive internet use became a problem for the company. Around one third would consider a ban on personal internet use at work. Just under one third (29%) of respondents do not allow employees access to social networking sites at work. Time wasting, security and loss of productivity are the main reasons for not allowing access to social networking sites.
How is this going to change?
Over two thirds (69%) of companies who allow access to social networking sites are planning to monitor or limit usage throughout the next 6 months. 8% are planning to ban usage of these sites.
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Around one third (35%) of respondents think there is a need to have a separate blogging / social networking policy. Three quarters of respondents believe a Code of Conduct is required where employee/ employer agree on the use of social networking sites.
What use do employers make of employee information on social networking sites?
Over 70% of respondents would consider disciplinary action for the discovery of inappropriate photos on social networking sites that identify the employer. Around one quarter of respondents would use searches of social networking sites as a recruitment tool. 90% of respondents do not search social networking sites for comments by exemployees.
Our Key Recommendations
Ensure there is a clear policy on internet usage; setting what is, and is not, acceptable. If certain behaviour may lead to disciplinary action, this needs to be fully explained. Clarifying the parameters is key. Consider a Code of Conduct whereby the employer sets down the specific internet access that is allowed, and the employee agrees not to bring the company into disrepute or otherwise undermine the employment relationship through the use of any social networking sites. In appropriate cases consider including specific provisions in termination agreements/arrangements to the effect that former employees will not make derogatory comments about the company on these sites. Link these clauses to clawback provisions so that termination monies may be returned to the employer in the event of a breach. Employers need to ensure both the existing employees as well as new recruits know why and exactly what the employers are monitoring as well as what they will do with any data they retrieve. Good communication is therefore essential to prevent hostility to any perceived intrusion. How data gathered is then processed brings into play the complex data protection legislation as well as exposure to discrimination claims if irrelevant information is being sought and relied upon.