Companies are recognizing that not only are their customers talking about them online, but their employees are as well. Subsequently when companies jump into social many establish corporate guidelines for employees use of all things social.
Companies are just realizing that the social web has new implications for communications internally and externally. Their reaction is to try to control it.
It is not as if communications are anything new rather it is the reach and related implications of messages. Every employee, within an organization, is creating impressions and related implications based on what, when, where, how, why and who they share content with, one to one to millions. Those impressions now become folded into a reflection of a company’s culture, relations, content and market sentiment, their brand.
This new dynamic has companies trying to control the dynamic through policies. The problem is you can’t control communications rather all you can do is influence them.
The Folly of Control
Fear is a motivator of control. Concerned about loosing productivity on the job from employees using social networks and fear for what impressions they are leaving there has been a flood of demand to institute social media policies in many organizations. I’ve read dozens of such policies and I always come to the same conclusion after reading any one of them. My conclusion: This will backfire.
Have you ever tried to control human behavior? If you have you know that 1) you can’t and 2) trying to exert control over behavior only makes the wrong behavior worse. Yet managers, IT professionals and HR people try to control “communications” (use of social technology) because they believe it hinders productivity and might compromise security. As companies try to enforce social media policies it only motivates employees to find sneaky ways to check out Facebook and other potentially forbidden sites during work hours. What is next, security camera’s in every cubicle?
Stupid is As Stupid Does
About three-fifths of US company’s have a social media policy, and two-fifths ban all usage of social media on the job. The bans come from security and productivity concerns.
Social media policies are knee-jerk reactions to something not understood or seen as possibly valuable. Rather the lack of knowledge creates fear and human nature is to run from fear or control that which we fear or don’t understand.
Communications will persist even where communicating is frowned upon. Now we are seeing a proliferation of software vendors offering “social spying” technology which enables organizations to spy on employee activities throughout the web. One must wonder what the people whom are hired by these firms think. Well by trying to enforce a policy or instituting spying on people it doesn’t take much to know what people think. Do you think they’d have anything nice to say about an organization that does stupid things like this?
If you want to influence and not control people the first thing you have to do is let them solve your problem for your benefit and theirs.
How would you do that? If you are concerned about security of internal information then control the information, not the people.
If you are concerned about productivity ask the people how the organizations can become more productive using social technology.
If you still want to have a formal policy here it is:
- We are concerned about your reputation and ours as it relates to use of all things social. If you want to understand and manage these concerns feel free to attend our “Maintaining yours and our reputation online and off” web cast by clicking here (offer an educational video and guidance from HR).
- Social technology makes all communications transparent (yours and ours). You are part of and an extension of our public relations. As such if you produce content online think about the image it creates to our collective relations. Any negative or derogatory remarks, cofiential information or images will only hurt you and us. No one wants either of us to be hurt by impressions, images and communications open for the world to see.
If you need more help than we now offer with either #1 or #2 may we suggest you seek a guidance counselor, a spiritual adviser or find a different place to work and play.