By Jen Hine, HR Advisor at staff management software provider, RotaCloud (www.rotacloud.com)
We’ve all read horror stories about misjudged or offensive social media posts and the fallout they receive in the media.With almost 80% of the UK population having an active social media account, people don’t always realise the implications a social post can have – not just for themselves, but for their place of work, too. An errant social post has the potential to damage a business’s reputation and employers need to mitigate the risk social media presents by having a clear policy for their staff to refer to.
In the last year alone, hospitality workers have been dismissed for things ranging from posting complaints about work on TikTok, to tweeting about customers.These are two very different types of actions, but both could have breached their respective workplace social media policies.To be clear, a social media policy is not about stifling your staff’s social media usage in their spare time, it’s about making them aware of the possible consequences and that their posts on personal social media channels, even outside of work hours and in their spare time, can potentially breach a social media policy, just as they would if the same thing occurred during work hours.You might think an entire policy dedicated to social media is a bit excessive, but from a business perspective it’s key for a number of reasons. It helps to maintain your business’ online reputation, it makes sure that your staff know their rights and responsibilities, and it helps to mitigate claims of unfair dismissal.
But what is a social media policy and what should you include?
A social media policy is a document that offers guidance to employees who use social media platforms, either as part of their job, or in their personal life. It should be part of your staff handbook or corporate guidelines and it should outline the things staff should be aware of, and behaviours they should uphold when using social media channels. For instance, this could be anything from ensuring staff follow a code of conduct, to making sure that customers’ and colleagues’ confidentiality is respected at all times.
Just like other corporate guidelines, there’s no set rule about what should and shouldn’t be included in your policy, but there are a few things that should be considered as a general rule of thumb.
1. Start with a clear explanation of why you’re putting a policy in place, clarifying that you’re not trying to control or police what employees do outside of work hours
2. Make clear that they are responsible for the things they post and share, and include specific guidance that gives them a better understanding on what they should and shouldn’t post
3. Include any confidentiality agreements and data protection policies, and make clear that these also apply to social media
4. Make clear your stance on self-identification. In general, staff should not be instructed to represent or advocate for the company they work for online, unless it is mentioned in their job description.
For those who are posting on behalf of their company as part of their role, they need to follow company brand guidelines, follow the law, and refrain from making defamatory or offensive remarks —all of which should be highlighted in your social media policy.
We live in an increasingly connected world where individuals’ details, including their places of work, are often very visible, so it’s important for employers to have clear social media policies.While an employer can’t, and shouldn’t, limit their staff’s social media use in their free time, or prohibit them from expressing themselves online, they are able to put measures in place to ensure the business’s reputation isn’t negatively impacted by an employee’s activity on social media. By creating a comprehensive social media policy, you make staff aware of the risks, and their responsibilities, keeping both you, and them safe.
If you want to read more about creating a staff social media policy, you can at https://blog.rotacloud.com/how-to-write-a-social-media-policy/