Keeping abreast of emerging technologies is a full-time job for many organizations. Human resource departments have to focus on identifying issues with new technologies before they become a problem for the business. The current big issue is social media compliance.
Social networks count their users in the hundreds of millions. Facebook alone boasts a user count of over 500,000,000. Add Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and the others to the mix and you have a significant portion of the population online at any one time. It isn’t just these sites that are regarded as social networks, forums, blogs, and wikis are also counted.
Many companies use forums and wikis to interact with staff, publish knowledge and other information. Social networks are used for lead generation, publicity and to interact with a customer base, so are often too valuable to ignore. This is where the balancing act becomes important. While the value of these resources outweigh the risks, businesses should continue to use them.
Some of the inherent risks associated with social networks are:
- Data breaches
- Trademark and copyright infringement
- Harassment, discrimination and defamation
The main challenge is assessing these risks and trying to preserve the rights of employees have to free expression. Add privacy to the mix, plus the intangible benefit that employees feel connected when using social network sites. That makes a heady brew for any HR department to manage.
Social network compliance raises a couple of important questions for any company, such as:
- Are comments made by a manager of an employee on a social network a potential liability?
- When does friendly chat go beyond acceptable limits and become harassment, defamation or discrimination?
- What does a company do if an employee posts inappropriate comments on a social site?
- Is a recommendation of an employee by a manager made on a network a liability or regarded as a company endorsement? Such things as “liking,” or “recommending” on a network.
These are important questions that need to be answered by any organization that’s considering allowing access to these sites. Social networking compliance is a big issue, especially with regulators waking up to them too.
The main weapon we in HR have is the “acceptable use policy.” This needs to be a complete and robust set of rules that govern the way an employee behaves on the social network. This policy needs to highlight a few issues, such as:
- Employees should not disclose confidential information on blogs or social networking sites
- Nobody should use company trademarks or logos on sites unless on company business
- Employees should not speak for their employer on social networking sites or blogs, only for themselves. Again, unless it’s on official business
- Managers need to know that whatever they put on a social network can be used against them or their employer
Social network compliance is an evolving policy, but it’s one every business should consider if they allow access to these sites.