Jun 28, 2011

U.K. companies at risk from inadequate social media policies: Survey

Senior managers often unaware policies out of date

The majority of employees in the United Kingdom have not been provided with clear guidance on using social media networking sites, according to a study from Protiviti, a business consulting and internal audit firm.

Of those with access in the workplace, almost 39 per cent indicated there is no policy in place regarding social media networking and 24 per cent are unaware of any such policies, found the survey of 1,038 adults.

“The global social media landscape has changed so dramatically and so quickly that many companies are struggling to keep up. We’re seeing a growing number of cases where firms have vague or out-of-date social media policies that are unenforceable if inappropriate activity takes place,” said Jonathan Wyatt, managing director at Protiviti UK.

Social media usage in the workplace has grown enormously in recent years, according to Protivity, with more 51 per cent of workers claiming to engage with a social networking site while at work. Almost one-third (30 per cent) of workers use sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on a daily basis, while more than five per cent do so several times an hour. 

Workers aged 18-24 years are the most regular users of social networking sites, with one in five (21 per cent) claiming to engage with them several times an hour. This generational divide in the workplace poses a threat to firms as senior managers are often unaware of whether their company’s HR and IT policies are adequate, said Protiviti.

“Many senior managers assume that their less experienced colleagues would not post inappropriate comments online and that they would think about the risks involved, but time and time again they are proven wrong,” said Wyatt.

While 35 per cent of U.K. employees said social media activity is not allowed in the workplace, staff are still able to access social networks from home, posing the same potential risks to the company’s brand.

“We recommend that companies have very clear policies targeted at issues specific to social networking,” said Wyatt. “For instance, they should consider providing guidelines regarding the sharing on Facebook of photographs from corporate events and measures to mitigate potential accusations of favouritism resulting from a senior manager linking to one employee but not to another. Likewise, guidance should be provided as to when a blog might be perceived to be a corporate forum.”


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