The Great Social Media Monitoring Debate
by Rob Wilson, CEO of Employco USA We live in a digital world where the details of our lives are constantly promoted on social media channels. It’s become the new norm to post pictures of weekend activities, relationship woes and even job happenings. Employers are in a unique position when it comes to social media. They can use the various outlets to screen candidates, monitor employee activity and can potentially have access into their employees’ personal lives. In fact, one survey from CareerBuilder found that 43 percent of hiring managers decided against extending a job offer based upon information they found via social media vetting. There’s no escaping this scrutiny, but when does the surveillance stop becoming business-minded and start becoming an invasion of privacy? The line is thin and arguments are strong for both sides.
The Case for Social Media Monitoring.Legally, employers have a right to monitor any activity on their equipment, server or their Internet. Whether employees are browsing social media sites, posting pictures of office events or using company email or other company resources, employers can access the information. Monitoring becomes a valuable tool in instances where employees discuss customer interactions, talk negatively about coworkers or share company information with the public. If employers identify an issue early on, they may be able to thwart the concern before it becomes a real threat. Social media can also be a great tool to screen potential employees. Are candidates referencing illicit activities or posting harassing comments? Is there a discrepancy between a candidate’s postings and reported work history? Questionable posts may influence an employer’s decision to extend an offer of employment. At the same time, employers must be mindful and ensure their social media research doesn’t result in any type of discrimination.
Recognizing Cyberbullying as an Issue.There are times when employers may be obligated to monitor social media. Cyberbyllying via social media or email correspondence can create hostile work environments. If left unaddressed, emploloyers may find themselves faced with harassment or discrimination claims. Employers should establish a zero-tolerance policy on cyberbullying that prohibits employees from lashing out against each other or the company and encourage a safe, positive and productive work environment. Employers should properly educate all employees on cyberbullying and take a proactive stand. The topic should be discussed during onboarding and through training module as well as revisited during employee meetings or periodic human resources emails.
The Case against Social Media Monitoring.Just because employers are legally allowed to monitor employees’ social media accounts doesn’t mean that they necessarily should. Employers should note that the practice of social media monitoring can easily be portrayed as a “witch hunt,” particularly when it appears the employer may be targeting a single individual. However, one of the few instances where employers should monitor an employee’s social media activity is when an employee is suspect of illicit or questionable activities. Furthermore, employers should strive to create a pleasant work environment. Although employees should be aware that their activity may be monitored, if employees are constantly worried or concerned that they are being “watched,” that can raise tensions and eventually turn employees against each other. The most important aspect to consider when deciding if and how to monitor employees’ social media channels is that the employer must be upfront about it. Employers should establish a clear-cut social media policy with the details pertaining to how, why, when and where employees will be monitored. That way, employees will be aware of the employer’s position and liable for their actions. Rob Wilson is CEO of Employco USA, a human resource outsourcing company offering human resource related solutions for small to mid-sized businesses.
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