Every company needs clear insights into how their employees operate, communicate and feel about their job. They are, after all, the face of your company. And, while there are many social media platforms, there’s one thing they all have in common. Both your employees and your customers are using them.
70% of Internet Users have Social Media Accounts
Out of the internet’s 3.17 billion users, more than 70% are social media users. That’s 2.3 billion social media addicts. If you think your company can ignore indicators on social media, guess again. Your HR team needs to proactively monitor social media in order to ensure appropriate branding and messaging is used by employees.
Employers are Paying Attention to Social Media
And employees, if you think your employer doesn’t have the right to view your social media feeds, guess again. A recent news report highlights how one woman from Texas was fired the day before she started her new job. Her post about hating “…working at daycare” cost her the position she had secured in a daycare center.
Companies are carefully monitoring social media use, but are they missing out on the big picture? There are opportunities to not only correct bad behavior, but reward good behavior. What’s more, there are real opportunities to get an accurate pulse on the operation of your company and the engagement of a business’ employees.
Anonymous Social Media Could be the Key to Accurate Employee Reports
If you wonder how your employees feel, skip the “suggestion box” and the “employee satisfaction surveys”. Your employees need true anonymity in order to feel safe sharing things. Some employee surveys offer this, but the survey is likely to be commissioned at a time other than when employees feel the need to express themselves.
Enter Whisper, a social media hit that launched in March of 2012. This app allows users to vent their frustrations and share their most private thoughts anonymously. The other users have no way of knowing the identity of the individual sharing their thoughts and feelings.
For companies, there is a feature that’s especially useful. The “groups” option allows for an individual to start a group. Without giving up their anonymity, Whisper members can join groups and share their thoughts and feelings. For companies, this provides a real-time, vital connection to the company as a whole.
In my personal company, we created a whisper group and encouraged employees to share their thoughts and feelings, without revealing confidential or proprietary information. As we rolled out company changes and made updates to our HR policies, the management team sat with our phones open. We watched as honest, unfiltered feedback (both negative and positive) came streaming in.
Part of what helped us implement this initiative was the fact that so many of our employees were already using the app. If there was an issue we wanted to follow-up on, the app gave us the option of messaging the anonymous user directly for clarification or follow-up. This was something the employee could either ignore or engage in, per their preference.
Social Media is a Hot Potato for Established Brands
The anonymity that social media provides is a double-edged sword. As I mentioned above, our company experienced a number of benefits from monitoring our social media presence (leveraging anonymous platforms, like Whisper). But, there’s a fine line between constructive discussion and brand-tarnishing rants posted on a public forum.
We set very strict rules with our employees. As a condition of their employment, the agreement they sign states that they will not post negative information about our company in a public place (including social media sites that can be viewed by our potential and current customers). We also set the expectation with them that they do not have the right to speak on behalf of the company via online forums.
This measure protects us from crossing the threshold and unleashing internal corporate concerns out to the public. As I mentioned Whisper earlier, I’ll give you an example of something that occurred which resulted in an employee termination. We created a private Whisper group where employees could post and discuss issues.
But, sometimes employees (hopefully in error) post information outside of our Whisper group. One employee ranted about a fight they had with their supervisor earlier in the day. We were able to identify the employee based on the event described. We worked with her to understand more about the situation. In the end, we made the difficult decision to terminate her employment for cause.
Employee Discipline / Termination after a Breach of Social Media Policies
This wasn’t the first workplace infraction, and based on an established history, it wouldn’t be the last. We cut ties, and now she’s causing headaches at one of our competitor’s branches.
If you’re going to terminate an employee for something they share publicly on the internet, it’s important to consider the following:
- What does the documented history of this employee with your firm contain?
- Does your company have a detailed, easy to understand social media and public posting policy?
- Did the employee in question have a clear understanding of the rules surrounding the use of social media, as it related to his/her job?
- How have you handled past issues with other employees? Will the handling of this incident differ from the handling of previous incidents? Why or why not?
The most critical aspect of your disciplinary process is consistency. If you treat one employee differently from another individual in a similar circumstance, you not only undermine your trust with your team, but you open yourself up to potential legal consequences. The average out of court settlement for a wrongful termination lawsuit is $40,000. Don’t let inconsistent HR processes open your company up to unnecessary liability.
The power (good and bad) of social media is undeniable. Social media is all about sharing, but there’s always a name and a face attached to sharing things online. For employers looking for real-time feedback, anonymous social media apps like Whisper are powerful. Just make sure clear boundaries are set, and employees have a firm understand of where the lines are drawn.