Since the advent of the printing press, it seems that there will always be someone out there who will find a way to misuse technology. It seems like just yesterday we were dreaming about how next-generation communication tools like cellular phones, e-mail and the Internet were going to revolutionize the way we do business. As employers, we were just getting comfortable overcoming all of the learning curves and pitfalls when not even ½ a generation later, along come Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn….Oh My! Welcome to the Web 2.0 age: a period of where the Internet has become exponentially and instantaneously interactive.
Don’t get too comfortable though because keeping ahead of the ever changing technology landscape is not going to be easy. While technology may be a bit more unpredictable, fortunately behavior is much easier to predict and control.
A Happy Medium
With the advent of social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, employers are finding themselves in a situation where the workplace and people’s personal lives have come uncomfortably close together. Some employers have embraced and leveraged the technology allowing them to instantaneously connect with their customers, using viral marketing to promote and sell their goods and services and even attract and recruit talent to their organization.
Others have done the exact opposite and banned and/or cut off employee access to such tools for fear that they will accidentally or purposefully divulge confidential information, bad-mouth the company or other employees or create legal issues of catastrophic proportions.
Thankfully, a happy medium exists. With any kinds of tools or technologies, employers need to create and implement guidelines so that employees know what is expected of them. More specifically, this means developing and refining policies that clearly articulate how employees may or may not use technology while on the job.
So What Should Employers Do?
If you don’t already have an existing electronic communication policy that covers at minimum employee usage of the Internet and e-mail, cell phone and other mobile electronic devices, then you need to develop that as soon as possible. Next, you’ll need to determine and establish guidelines and expectations regarding employee use of social media and networking technologies.
Because these tools have multi-faceted applications and implications, it would be wise to bring together a team that can represent all of the perspectives that may be impacted. These may include Human Resources, Information Technology, Marketing, Public Relations and Legal.
Once your team is established, then you can develop strategies for how to best leverage this tool and manage it in a thoughtful and compliant way. History has a funny way of repeating itself and the fears surrounding this technology are probably very similar to what these same employers felt when the Internet and e-mail first came out. However, employers will soon realize that just like e-mail and the Internet, social media and networking will be a vital necessity to doing business and staying competitive.
Have you integrated social networks into your organization? We’d love to hear from you! Please tell us about your social media experiences in the comments box below.