Employment Issues / Social Media

Social media risk and reward, at work (part I)

Multiple devices (apple).jpgOrganisations should take time and care to reduce the risk presented by social media whilst at the same time maximising the rewards it offers, especially where employees are concerned. In the first of a series looking at social media in the workplace, I consider how to go about implementing a policy which is suitable and sustainable in your organisation.

For many organisations, social media is both a blessing and a curse. An essential marketing tool, a direct line of communication or just a bit of fun, social media has many positive uses, but in an instant, good can turn to bad. If your business hasn’t yet suffered at the hands of social media, you’ve been either wise, lucky, or both.

When developing a social media strategy, every business is different. What you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it is open to you to choose. With so many social media platforms available, each offering something different and appealing to a different audience, it is easy to lose your way. When it comes to employees’ social media use, it is equally important to consider your business objectives.

The challenge of getting the policy right may seem insurmountable and faced with that dilemma, some organisations prefer a social media lock-down whilst others too quickly accept defeat over being able to control employees. For most, though, there is third way and this is almost always the right path to choose.


At our recent event Board Games: Social Media Risk & Reward at Work, panellist Charlotte Henney, HR Partner at architect Robin Partington & Partners started by looking at what employees were doing already: “Employees use social media to share interesting things they’ve seen…but we need to guide best practice. We don’t allow bikini shots on the beach! I try to steer employees into good content.”

A different view was taken by Ellie Silson, UKI Social Media Manager for global accountancy software giant Sage: “We wouldn’t discourage bikini shots! We have two Instagram accounts; one is customer curated and the other is #lifeatsage – so on that one we encourage “missing you” while on holiday posts. We don’t encourage pictures of them in their private lives with the software.”

Inevitably, your workforce will already be using social media in some form, whether text messages and Whatsapp, LinkedIn or Facebook. How that interferes with their work and impacts on you as an employer is something you can exercise control over.


Whether you call it a policy, guidance, a code of conduct or incorporate elements into existing policies, it is essential to have something to inform employees what is expected of them on social media. However it is done and under whatever name, a policy must be workable, accessible and communicated to employees.

Policies should be simple to find and easy for employees and managers to understand

Some policies have been described as anything from “a one pager, fluffy, with pictures” or “a nice friendly policy saying – just be careful of these things” to “a cast iron policy which we use defensively as a backup”.

A common problem with policies is that they are launched and quickly forgotten, only removed from the vault to be used as a weapon against employees when they are breached. Policies should be simple to find and easy for employees and managers to understand. That way, people are more likely to follow them and, ideally, avoid the need to be enforced against employees.

As social media evolves – there are new platforms and features being launched daily – so should your policy. As and when an issue arises, it can be used to remind all employees what the standard and tolerance is. If necessary, update or amend the policy to prevent any unwanted issues arising again.

“Try to reinforce a positive message. You shouldn’t create fear or you won’t get engagement. You need people to champion it” added Charlotte Henney. However, any policy must be applied equally and fairly across all employees, who should also be trained and supported, especially when tasked with social media use as part of their day to day role.

In future articles we will look more closely at enforcing social media policies, monitoring and moderation as well as how social media can be used to engage and motivate your workforce.

To discuss how social media is impacting your organisation and what steps may be taken to reduce the risks, from board level down please contact me through LinkedIn, Twitter or email at knpoulter@gmail.com


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s