HR’s Social Conundrum

by Jay Deragon on 09/05/2012

Do you know what the HR personnel and their families are doing online? If you don’t should you know? Knowing may create a conundrum.

Lets say you are seeking new employment or contract positions. You go online to see what companies in your area are hiring and look for positions that match your skills and experience. Once you find one rather than applying through the “submit resume” channels you decide to seek out the Human Resource Director. You check your LinkedIn account to see if you or your friends are connected to them and get a sense for their interest by looking at their recent updates. You go over to Facebook and find their profiles and also see what they have recently posted and if you have any friends in common.  A good candidate is looking for indicators that they and the prospective company can have some kind of “connection”.

While looking for common interest, beliefs and associations the candidate discovers some concerning behavior by the spouse of the HR Director on Facebook. The spouse is posting derogatory comments about others on the “wall”.  The spouse is posting risque pictures on their, and thus their spouses Facebook “wall”.  It is less likely that such findings would appear on the HR Directors LinkedIn account but very likely to appear publicly on Facebook.

This scenario is true for anybody representing your company’s brand, your organization’s beliefs and representations to the public. It is no longer just those employed by the company but their spouses and friends that represent an affinity to beliefs, interest and acceptable or unacceptable behaviors. 

The Social Conundrum

A conundrum is an intricate and difficult problem. Your organizations reputation is largely the result of media, messages and behaviors tied one way or another to the company.  Protecting your organizations reputation is no longer an issue of simply setting policies about acceptable online behavior of employee’s and managers but now understanding  what their spouses and friends do online may matter as well.

HR’s purpose, while ostensibly to get the best people hired for the business and encourage their growth within the company, is actually to save the company from litigation and protect the company from the depredations of those it has hired. That is the first part of the HR social conundrum. The second part is to protect the company from depredations of family and friends doing stupid and foolish things online.

There is no real solution to this problem accept to maybe check out the online behavior of family and friends of those you intend on hiring.  You might also want to check out those you’ve already hired as well.  You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

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