Aim for a roast, not a roasting this Christmas

by 30 Nov 2011

As the December social calendar fills up with Christmas parties, leading workplace consultants have warned that the risks presented by unregulated online chatter by employees should not be underestimated.

Corporate brand damage can result from disparaging comments, photos, videos or blogs being published online by an employee, or the disclosure of confidential information or trade secrets.

Many employees are often unaware of how damaging their online interactions can be to a company brand, and the possible legal ramifications of defaming employers.

It is for this reason that JoydeepHor, managing principal, People and Culture Strategies (PCS), said organisations must implement a thorough social media policy that is regularly updated and communicated to employees.

“Employers should take a proactive approach to social media by not only implementing policies and training, but by ensuring that inappropriate use of social media by employees does not go unaddressed,” he said.

Dean Sappey, HR director, Frucor Australia told HC that at HR functions and events, “Have you got a social media policy?” is the question on everyone’s lips.

Sappey commented that while social media regulation remains an ongoing issue, Frucor has been active in setting management policies.

However, he added that they maintain a “progressive approach” towards social media and try to keep an open mind, rather than limiting and restricting employees.

Yet Kate Hodgkiss from commercial law firm DLA Piper said many businesses are failing to protect themselves against social media misuse because social networking practices are simply outpacing business policies.

“[There is a] growing need for a definitive social media policy that is regularly assessed and updated,” Hodgkiss said.

In Australia, Fair Work has received many complaints arising from social media misuse, which Allan Drake-Brockman, head of workplace relations, employment and safety, said could have been avoided with up-to-date and comprehensive social media policies.

Drake-Brockman said the online actions of employees can have significant impacts on business, particularly when aggressive anti-work sentiments are posted on social media sites.

“Employers need to effectively address social media issues in the workplace to not only protect their business reputation, but also to protect other employees from situations of online harassment and bullying,” Drake-Brockman added.

Hor offered the following tips for businesses:

  • Consider your organisation’s current online presence and the ways in which your employees use social media both in and outside of the workplace.
  • Review any social media policies currently in place and consider how far these policies extend. Ensure that any social media policy is robust and reinforces other policies, particularly in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and OH&S.
  • Ensure that the policy is explained to employees, preferably with an acknowledgement by them that they have read and understood the terms of the policy and are familiar with it.
  • Staff should also receive training regarding the policy which should include education and awareness about social media as it is a constantly evolving area.
  • Regularly update the policy so that it remains relevant and make sure employees are aware of any changes.
  • Take a proactive approach to social media by not only implementing policies and training, but by ensuring that inappropriate use of social media by employees does not go unaddressed.


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