Smart Social Media Policy Starts with Manager: 5 Key Questions to Ask

Released: 05/08/2013

Guest Post on We Know Next

With social media, what you don’t know can seriously hurt your organization. One 2010 survey found that employees estimate spending roughly four hours every day checking multiple email accounts, with up to two hours spent on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A 2012 survey found that 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites daily. And don’t think blocking employee access to social media on company networks is the answer; personal smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, and easily fill the gap.

The dilemma for today’s organizations is that while social media use at work has definite risks, it also is one of the best ways to empower and engage employees. Increasingly, in our connected 24/7 businesses, the line between work and personal time is blurring. This is especially true for Generation Y employees; as long as they meet deadlines and deliver, these employees feel that it’s not particularly useful to distinguish between time spent updating Twitter or engaged in team meetings. Organizations may beg to differ, especially when an offensive or inappropriate blog post or tweet can damage their brand, lower employee morale, and even lead to workplace lawsuits.

Yet, most organizations don’t really know how their employees are using social media, either personally or professionally, let alone what impact it’s having on employees’ overall levels of productivity.

That’s why, before you set policy, it’s important to know how your individual contributors currently leverage social media use at work, as well as how its use is handled by theirmanagers. Get to the heart of these fundamental issues by asking managers five key questions:

  1. Have your employees’ use of social media ever triggered a workplace lawsuit or regulatory investigation?
  2. What impact has your employees’ personal use of social media during work hours had on their productivity, if any?
  3. How do you use social media to help manage your projects and employees?
  4. Has someone helped you and your employees review all applicable federal and state laws governing electronic data content, usage, monitoring, privacy, e-discovery, data encryption, and business record retention? What about updating you on other legal issues in the various jurisdictions in which you operate, have employees or serve customers?
  5. Could you comply with a court-ordered “social media audit?” That is, could you produce legally compliant business blog posts, email messages, text messages and other Electronically Stored Information (ESI) within 99 days?

Social media can speed innovation and collaboration, but ONLY if your employees know how to fully leverage it as well as steer clear of its many pitfalls. Start by asking managers these five simple questions. They often surface extremely important information that, especially in larger organizations, you may not have been aware of. Finally, even if your employees have been using social media without incident for some time now, it’s still a very good idea to fully educate them. As the old proverb goes, “No matter how far down the wrong road you’ve gone, turn around!”

 Tags:  Social Mediasocial media policyHR Policies



Steve Miranda is Managing Director for Cornell University’s Center for Advanced HR Studies (CAHRS) as well as the Founder and President of “Four Forces Consulting, LLC.” Prior to joining Cornell, Steve was the Chief HR Officer for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest professional HR association, serving over 260,000 members in over 125 countries. Before SHRM, Steve was a HR VP at Lucent Technologies (currently Alcatel-Lucent). At Lucent, Steve spent 3-1/2 years in Hong Kong providing HR leadership for Lucent’s 14,000 person Asia-Pacific business. He also led the development of HR strategies for Bell Laboratories, the world famous R&D engine that has generated seven Nobel Prizes over the past 70 years. 

Steve currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) and the Council for Adult Experiential Leaning (CAEL). He is also advisor to three different start-up organizations as well as a past United States representative to the North American HR Management Association (NAHRMA). His team’s work has appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, the BBC and many others. Steve has presented at multiple events worldwide, including the American Chamber of Commerce, The Chinese Ministry of Personnel Development and the National Institute for Health. He is a well know HR executive in the Washington DC area and a highly respected member of the Human Resources profession. He also teaches at the graduate level as an adjunct professor at Cornell University, Georgetown University and the Sasin business school of Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.

“Steve is the author of eCornell’s new online course Designing and Implementing Effective Social Media Policies. The course is one of three that make up the Certificate in Social Media in HR: From Policy to Practice, offered in partnership with the ILR School at Cornell University.”

Steve holds an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts and a Masters degree in Computer Science (both Summa Cum Laude) from the University of Detroit.