In a recent survey by international law firm Proskaur, 76% of the organisations questioned use social networking as a tool for their business. Nothing surprising there. Nor did it come as much of a shock that 29% still actively block their employees’ access to social networking sites.
(Mind you, with virtually every new mobile handset coming preloaded with a host of apps for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc, you have to admire the blind optimism, if nothing else, of an employer that thinks it can still prevent its employees from wasting time on social networking sites during working hours, or writing anything defamatory, libellous, untrue, or just plain old fashioned nasty about them, simply by controlling access through their own network. Why am I reminded of the story of the little Dutch boy who put his finger in the dyke to stem the flood waters?)
Getting back to the point, perhaps a more surprising finding from Proskaur’s survey is that 27% of organisations monitor their employees’ use of social networking sites? (And following the furore over News International/NOTW’s telephone hacking, I wonder how many employers will admit to workplace monitoring like this in next year’s survey?)
But the most surprising finding to have come out of the survey, surely, must be that 43% of employers have had to deal with employee misuse of social networks (with a third of those surveyed having taken disciplinary action as a result) whilst 45% of all businesses still do not have social networking policies in place.
To paraphrase countless Private Eye correspondents, “are these two results by any chance related”?
Yes, of course they are.
So if you haven’t got a clear social networking policy in place, one that makes it clear what you consider to be acceptable behaviour and reminds employees of their contractual obligations to you, and if you haven’t communicated that policy clearly to your workforce, it really is your own fault if things go wrong. And no matter what you do to limit access or monitor your employees’ social networking activity, if you haven’t got that policy in place, nothing else will prevent the inevitable.
(So if you are one of the 45% that don’t have a policy, I would suggest you head on over to TechRepublic’s useful guide on what you should and shouldn’t include, and ask your legal department to start drafting your soon-to-be-launched policy).