HR Advice Social Media Policy Reputation.

They said what?!

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.” In business, many good deeds can also cost a lot of time and money. But successful companies know it is worth investing in developing their brand, building a good reputation and engaging their employees in maintaining this reputation.

An organisation’s reputation is perpetuated through the many many channels we now have for connecting with each other. It used to be about what was seen in print, in person and through products or services but with the explosion of the Internet, we all form opinions and spontaneously broadcast them to anyone who will read them. I remember delivering training on ethics and reputation, saying “imagine that [statement you just made] as a newspaper headline, would it bring the company into disrepute?” It was a good way to help managers and employees think about reputation and the power of the words we use. Nowadays, even though some of us still read newspapers, that question has definitely lost its impact. We have adapted and changed, not just moving away from ‘training’ people but also changing what we do to protect reputations.

Social media is a powerful tool and employees should feel empowered to collaborate online when it supports their role and the business. For example, they may use social media for recruitment or for identifying and maintaining business contacts. So if you are a business owner, responsible for employees, how do you control what is said online? Can you control it? Should you control it? My answer is – it depends on your business and culture. If control is part of how you run your business then your communication style and documentation should reflect this. But control is a strong word and even the best policies cannot control individuals’ thoughts and actions. Communicate with your employees and engage them in the broader business and this will limit risk to reputation. If your employees understand and feel committed to the organisation, they are less likely to damage the business and its reputation.

Social media policies and Employee Handbooks lay the foundation for how your employees should manage business communications and therefore reputation online. You should develop and maintain a social media policy to protect your business against liability for your employee’s actions, but also to manage performance effectively. You should make sure your disciplinary and grievance policies refer to social media (mis)use as well. Here are my 3 tips for a social media policy:

  1. Be clear on how to use social media effectively and sensibly, both in the workplace and for personal use
  2. Use your common sense; treat ‘online behaviour’ as you would ‘real life behaviour’
  3. Keep reviewing your policy, it can swiftly become out of date as social media evolves

There needs to be a common understanding and structure within organisations for them to be effective, efficient and successful. Clarity and communication regarding your culture creates that common understanding and relevant, easily understood policies provide the structure. If you would like to know more about creating common understanding and structure within your organisation or are worried about how to handle social media at work, please give me a call.

Victoria Sullivan, GreenShed HR

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If you have something to say on social media, Wendy Jennings Creative can help with creating content that really works.