It is amazing that employers think that turning things off is the way to manage employee social media risk. Haven’t we learned the axiom, if you can’t hear the kids they are probably in trouble. While employees are not your kids, a variant on that definitely works. If you turn off access to sites, your employees will be silent to you, but they will still be talking. According to a recent workplace survey from Statista 1 out of 5 workers are not allowed to access Facebook at work. The first comment captured my gut reaction, what about their mobiles.
That comment summarizes quickly the problem with any type of control in this day and age. Actually it highlights the problems of employee control inherent across the ages. Social just speeds things up and reduces the friction of sharing. The workers who built the pyramids probably told their families about the conditions there and how crazy the project was. What they didn’t have was a Facebook Group “Pyramid Workers for Better Conditions.” Too bad they didn’t have their own version of the NLRB, huh?
Control is impossible, it really is
You can’t control your employees 24/7. They will always be talking to people about the company they work for. Most of the time it will be great things. Some times it will be less favorable, but honest. Yes, in social a bad comment from your loan processor about your internal processes will spread very fast and it is easy for that employee to get on their mobile to do it right when they get mad about how hard their job is.
There is another problem with this type of sideways conduct. You can control what goes out the front door, which you watch by the way. You don’t watch the back basement window though. They are getting out that way. Here’s the great thing about the front door, which is easy, by the way. The front door is yours. You tell your employees they have no expectation of privacy when they go through the front door. You can watch their traffic. If you want to know what they are doing, make it easy to go through the front door.
What about employee social media privacy?
Some of you are saying that with all the Internet privacy bills out there even this is problematic. No it isn’t. All those laws are centered on one thing, compelling employees to hand their credentials over. Avoid this pitfall (which would give you access to their private side, which is bad), and the front door is great. See network traffic that is a post from the twitter handle @employeehandle which originated from your company. I don’t see anything wrong with putting that twitter account on a watch list.
Everything I just said is wrong!
Now that I have given some thoughts for you control freaks, let me tell you to disregard my thoughts. Stop this controlling line of reasoning. Every step at control will force employees out in different ways. In this day and age you will get anonymous postings on sites like pissedconsumer.com, which quite frankly all brands scoff at. I don’t know any brand that takes that place serious. What happens when that anonymous posting becomes the center of a huge Facebook campaign? You have to have a really disgruntled employee to get to that level, or have something really wrong at your company. If your problem is the former, you have bigger problems than a social media dust-up.
Managing your employee’s conduct in social isn’t so much about social as it is about employee happiness and expectation setting. If you have unhappy employees, their postings in social are just a symptom of a larger problem. Quite frankly worried about their social postings are like putting lip balm on someone impaled on a steel spike. Makes you feel good, but doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
That is where people really get the whole idea of social wrong. They think about a social strategy, not a strategy. They think about social marketing, not marketing. If you think you have an employee social media problem, you don’t. You have an employee problem.
Employee culture is the key
If you have great employee engagement and culture your problems with employees in social will be minor and dealt with. You already have great policies and processes in place to manage your employees and all aspects of employment. Social doesn’t change any of those. It speeds some of it up, but it doesn’t change anything.
What social appears to give you is the illusion of control. For those companies that block access to Facebook, I wonder what percentage of them think they have really blocked social problems. Set the over/under line at about 60% and I will take the over. What percentage of them are monitoring social for mentions of their brands and their companies? I bet it is not an insignificant percentage.
Addressing social media risk is about risk management, period. It’s all about serenity as well. Do not forget my social media serenity prayer:
In social media, grant me the courage to manage the things I can, the wisdom to marvel at the things I can not, and the serenity to know the difference.
Managing employees are something you do every day, and you do it well. Teach your people who have been doing it well for all that time about social, about what tools are available, as well as the speed/scale of social. Let them figure out how to incorporate social into existing strategies. You will inevitably get the control freak in that group. Give them a laminated card with my social media serenity prayer and have them read it 100 times. That might help.
NOTE: If you think the pyramid workers were slaves, head on over to this Guardian article and have your mind blown.