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Social Media Issues Facing Employers Today

Social media is a communication staple for the general public and therefore is very important to employees.  As such, its use also has a tremendous impact on employers.  Today’s companies frequently count on social media platforms to increase brand awareness, create loyalty within their customer base, improve customer service processes and procedures, increase the company’s digital exposure and increase traffic to the company website.  Additionally, social media can be a great way to cut marketing costs, effectively increase sales and even reach new customers.  A company may even assign specific job duties pertaining to social media to its employees and encourage staff to promote the company through their own use of various sites.


On the negative side, there are also considerable concerns over social media with regard to employees.  First is an employer's use of social media when recruiting and hiring for a company.  The second is employee use of social media in the workplace.


A recent article in HR Magazine concerning social media and the workplace stated that in the past year, one-third of companies have uncovered information about a prospective employee that ultimately led to disqualification of the applicant.  A large percentage of employers around the country use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other professional or association networking sites as a standard part of their recruiting process.  This trend will only continue to grow in the future.   Employers in ever increasing numbers are using social media to publicize job openings as well as to verify a candidate’s qualification for a particular position. 


There are however, some concerns that a company should keep in mind. ONe is that using social media in recruiting can have a potentially adverse impact on those who do not have the economic advantage of being able to conduct a job search through the medium. Employers may also uncover other information that places a candidate in a protected class under EEOC guidelines and a hiring decision cannot be made based on this information.


The percentage of individuals who use social media continues to rise and employees may be tempted to engage in its use during the workday. They may use personal mobile devices while at work to post to sites they favor. Employees may even feel it is perfectly acceptable to use company resources to view and post to social media. It is critical that employers create policies that establish parameters around what is acceptable and what is not.


Employees may be allowed to use social media during working hours if it is part of their established job responsibilities. They may also be governed via a company policy that occasional incidental use of company resources is acceptable, but it must be limited. Use of company resources may also be restricted to break time or before or after working hours. Just as it is important to establish policies with regard to social media in the workplace, it is as important to ensure that the company is consistent in its application and enforcement of those policies and any discipline across all of the employee population. Keep in mind also that employers must ensure the policies that are created and enforced do not violate the employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Employers must be careful not to discipline employees for posts they make to a social media site that discuss aspects of their employment.


Social media is here to stay and when applied properly can greatly benefit an organization. Be mindful, however, of the potential for it to become a detriment.


Source: HR Workplace Services