A blog post on Friday from eConsultancy ‘s Graham Charlton, One in five employees uses social media to criticise the boss, caught my attention.
It quoted research by MyJobGroup who surveyed 1,000 UK employees, revealing that one in five would “take a pop at their boss”. It seems that most employees (70%) were unaware of whether their organisation had any policies or guidelines governing the use of social media (16% said their companies had laid down guidelines in this area).
The theme appeared to be that HR departments should be clearer about their policies on employees’ use of social media (something I’ve long favoured – post). An employment law specialist warned employees to be careful (“Abuse of social media can be grounds for discipline, up to and including termination of contract, depending on the level of abuse, and the policies in place at the company”). The blog post also references the DSGi Facebook fiasco (post) where staff insulted customers.
However, the focus on the apparent dangers of “criticising the boss” rankled with me a bit. I found myself wondering about employees who might be voicing legitimate concerns or revealing uncomfortable truths, not just about the management, but about the organisation’s activities, products or services. What about constructive criticisms: perhaps blogs or tweets that draw attention to areas for potential improvement? Creating open channels for communication and building internal communities of committed employees can be an effective way for organisations to identify issues, overcome bottle-necks, develop best practices, earn loyalty, etc.
Social media allows greater transparency than almost ever before into an organisation’s activities. For me, this underlines two needs:
- to properly audit the organisation, its activities and its online profile so that any possible “skeletons in the closet” can be addressed before social media tools and techniques are added to the official communications mix (as distinct from existing unofficial channels).
- to have appropriate guidelines in place to encourage responsible production of user-generated content by employees.
However, as I’ve said before, it’s not just an online issue. It extends into wider issues of recruitment and retention. For instance, at today’s Dell B2B social media huddle (which I followed online), I heard Benjamin Ellis stress that social media now extends beyond online tools and techniques. To paraphrase him (I hope correctly), he argued that because employees will talk about your business whether you like it or not, “Who you hire” is now part of your social media strategy.