Employers wary of social media

55 per cent of employers monitor employees’ web usage: Survey
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/09/2010

A majority of employers are worried about the amount of time employees spend on social media sites and have developed policies governing their use of these sites, according to the latest Pulse Survey.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents say employees’ use or abuse of social media has garnered “some” or “a fair bit” of attention in their organization, found the survey of 777 Canadian HR Reporter readers and members of the Human Resources Professionals Association.

Nearly as many respondents, 60.2 per cent, are at least somewhat concerned about how much time employees spend on social media sites at work and 60.5 per cent have developed a policy or position on employees’ use of these sites at work.

Development Dimensions International (DDI), an HR consulting firm in Toronto, doesn’t worry about employees wasting time on social media sites, said Greg Leskew, operations manager for Canada at DDI.

“We’re so busy that there’s really not the opportunity for them to do that,” he said.

In fact, the company wants employees to use social media as a way to get the company’s brand out to more people, said Leskew. To ensure this is done the right way, the company has developed a strong and clear policy around social media, he said.

“Each person is a kind of a walking, talking billboard for the company,” said Leskew. “We take all of our other policies, and also the way people are expected to carry themselves and be professional, and we expect that to also be extended into social media.”

It was especially important to extend the company’s confidentiality policy into the social media policy to ensure client data isn’t compromised, he said.

“We just want to be careful with people putting opinions or giving out information through social media sites that might share information about the company or clients that really they shouldn’t,” said Leskew.

While social media can present some challenges, blocking these sites wasn’t the answer for DDI, said Leskew.

“The best way to mitigate those was to put a policy in place and do some training around it. We make sure if people do want to put some things on LinkedIn, or whichever, that we do have some guidelines for them. We share our rationale so our associates understand where we’re coming from so it’s not just an edict,” he said.

While DDI doesn’t block social media sites, it does block other inappropriate websites, as do 60.9 per cent of respondents to the Pulse Survey.

Also, 55.5 per cent of respondents monitor employees’ web usage during work hours. At DDI, if an employee’s usage of a social media site is excessive, such as more than a couple of hours a day, then the information technology department notifies the employee’s manager, said Leskew.

Despite anxiety around social networking sites, 92.2 per cent of respondents say their organization is “somewhat” or “very” open to new technology.

Social networking sites are an integral part of communication firm Veritas’ business so many employees are actually required to use these sites for work, said Andra Brigmohan, HR manager at Veritas in Toronto.

“It’s something we talk about and promote in a really positive manner,” she said. But the company’s policy clearly states employees should use these sites for client purposes only, such as market research or promotion, she added.

“We promote (employee) curiosity in the online space and off-line. We promote this because it will ultimately better the agency, better their knowledge base for their clients and we promote it as part of our team’s professional development,” said Brigmohan.

She also uses social media sites during recruitment to ensure a candidate doesn’t have any questionable online activities and to confirm details about past employment, she said.

“It’s just part of due diligence, like reference checks,” said Brigmohan.

This is a relatively common practice among respondents as 36.7 per cent said they use social networking sites in recruitment.

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