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<Connecting to co-workers and employer on social media >

Connecting to co-workers and employer on social media

Yosie Saint-Cyr LLB, Managing Editor, HRinfodesk--- a database of Canadian payroll and employment law and compliance news, June 2012

Our last HRinfodesk poll asked readers if they connect with their boss or any of their co-workers on any social media platform. According to poll results, the majority said they don't or never will. Out of 305 respondents, 24 percent (73 respondents) said they never will, 23 percent (70 respondents) said no they don't, while 23.28 percent (71 respondents) said they do and 19.24 percent (59 respondents) said they do but use a professional account instead of their personal accounts.

According to a paper titled, Social Networking and Its Effects on Companies and Their Employees, by Douglas Baker, Nicole Buoni, Michael Fee and Caroline Vitale, social media is a possible tool of communication between management and employees to ensure that employees are productive but not overworked. Another possible use is as a marketing tool.

Contact with employees can be difficult for management. Social networking websites provide an opportunity for management to have faster contact with their subordinates. If there is an issue that needs immediate attention, a manager can send a message through social networking websites and the Internet to their employees to get the information they need to make a decision.

According to Swartz (2008), “corporate social networks also cut down on unnecessary email and instant message among co-workers.” Social networking websites reduce the amount of time it takes for a job to be completed because they cut down the amount of time it takes for employees and management to contact each other.

Information is easily found through the Internet. Social networking websites can be one of the fastest ways to obtain information. “Organizations are actively leveraging the power of social networks to find new business opportunities, new groups of like-minded individuals and companies, and new sources of industry specific wisdom, advice and expertise” (Wilson, 2009). Social networking websites allow companies to find and share information about different marketing strategies and techniques.

Among the benefits of social networking in the workplace, company presence can be maintained. Social networks can act as an advertising or marketing tool to help the company reach out to both potential employees and customers. Wilson (2009) says “a logical extension of this is to employ people to spend their entire day maintaining the sanctioned company presence on various social network sites, acting as a company's "voice."

However, a recent survey by research firm Gartner says digital surveillance in the workplace is on the rise, with around 60 percent of companies aiming to increase a formal presence on social network—including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn—to monitor their staff. The watchful eyes are said to be a bid to curb breaches in corporate security and data leaks.

Employee accounts would be non-intrusively monitored to discover data breaches as soon as possible, the research suggests, but also to prevent corporate equipment or offices from being abused or misused.

So, as I understand, employers are trying to use social media to benefit their organizations and give themselves an advantage with employees, while friending employees to comfortably monitor their electronic communications to prevent liability or trade secret theft.

What a double-edged sword!

However, monitoring employees brings about a boatload of challenges, as well as legal troubles. Monitoring employees can violate employment privacy and human rights laws, among others, which we have discussed at length on HRinfodesk (archived articles can be accessed in the Library section of the website).

In addition, using whatever information you find while friending an employee is not clear-cut. Friending does not mean consent to use information, especially against the employee-friend, within a workplace context.

The bottom line is, the best insurance against cyber mishaps is to explicitly communicate a clear company policy on computer usage and Internet, email and social media use during work hours while using company equipment, access and services.



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