To celebrate Labor Day, I want to revisit my post where I told you to ditch your social media policy. On this day when we, in the United States, take a day off from our labors to do this, I tell you again that your employees are not the enemy. This day when we recognize the contributions that an engaged workforce brings is the day to tell yourself to truly engage with your fellow workers and embrace what they can do for you. So, here is my post again, with a few tweaks. This is important stuff, so I hope you enjoy.
Employees Are Not The Enemy
Why is it that you treat employees like the enemy? Why is it that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) feels they have to protect them from you? I can’t answer the first, and that answer to the second lies in the first. Stop treating them as enemies and make them your allies. Every policy you have in your employee handbook is an attempt to keep employees from doing things that hurt the company, either directly or indirectly. If you think about your social media policy as a way to do this, please recite for me the social media serenity prayer:
In Social Media, grant me the courage to just manage the things I can, the wisdom to marvel at the things I can not, and the serenity to know the difference.
Social media engagement is all about authenticity. If you ever hope to tap into the oil well that is employee advocacy, their advocacy has to ring true. If you hamstring your employees with policies, at best they will not engage. At worst, their messages will sound contrived and fake. They have to be equal participants in their online communities who just happen to be employees. Not employees, first.
If you accept my premise, you need to dump this attitude that you need to control them. Let go of that control. Stop trying to control. Controlling your employees and managing the expectations of the NLRB will be an exercise in futility.
Back to Our Regular Programming – The NLRB Fires Again, And Will Keep on Firing (pun not intended, mostly)
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gives me more ammunition for my argument. In a recently released advice memo, they advised that social media policies (and guidelines, as well) fall under work rules. Work rules are mandatory subjects of bargaining. So the next social media policy you write has to be approved by your unions. Do you need to be hit over the head any more? Stop doing this to yourself.
I also need to back track alittle. I have written a few posts on employees in social media and attempts to control them:
I need to go back even further from what I said. I talked about drafting effective social media guidelines, and now I want to step even more away from that. You have enough disciplinary support in your employee handbook to deal with mis-steps even in the social sphere. You don’t need anymore. This may be a cat and mouse game, but work on language that avoids the impression that these are work rules. Your employees already have work rules that you negotiated (if you are a union shop), don’t add any more.
It’s Just Going to Get Worse
If you think that the NLRB will all of a sudden get any nicer to employers, you need to stop that. While I applaud statements from the new NLRB appointees that they will be fair and impartial, I don’t believe it. I think the pro-labor slant of the NLRB will only get worse. Don’t be near the tip of their spear.
My applause also goes out to those companies that want to fight the good fight. That want to work on language that controls employee’s activities in social media and passes NLRB scrutiny. Heck, I think walking that tightrope is harder than Nik Wallenda crossing the Grand Canyon. If your bonus plan includes more money for changing the legal landscape, go forth. If not, avoid the fight, avoid the NLRB, and stop beating your head up against a stone wall.
The NLRB is Not Your Friend – In Social Media
To my counting there is still only one policy that has passed scrutiny by the NLRB. Everyone else has lost, either fully, or partially. Do you like those odds? If you do, I have some windmills that need tilting. Your best bet is avoidance. Avoiding this thought that you need to control via policy.
Look at Different Ways to Accomplish Your Goals
There are a few other ways, though. Start with your goal in mind. Engaged employees connected on social media feeling they are not going to lose their job every time they tweet something out. That is your goal. From the other side, employees want to know what the risks are, how to engage while being respectful, and how to do it right.
Your employees want to do the right thing. They really do. You don’t need to beat them over the head with a stick.
So what are some of the other ways to accomplish your goals:
- Training. Training can take many different forms. It can be actual classroom sessions. Certification courses are another way. Interrupts at employee login showing rotating messages are another way. A collection of videos that not only show what is right, but other fun things. Help your employees learn the platforms. Maybe even take some time and teach them some privacy concepts.
- Examples. I don’t mean example messages (though you should have some as guides). What I am talking about are example employees. Regular check-ins and feel good stories about employees touching your customers through social. Employees receiving warm feelings from customers. I think rank and file employees are essential here, but I also think that showing executives engaging as well is also important.
Employees Are Not The Enemy!
Stop thinking that your employees are the enemy. They are not. They want your company to succeed. Maybe not as much as someone who’s bonus is tied to the quarterly earnings, but they still want you to succeed. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be working for you.
Treat them as allies, and they will be.