Some rules can be fairly liberal, like when social media can be used during working hours. Some are more stringent- like how employees use their accounts on their own time.
Social media has certainly become more pervasive: 67% of Americans have at least one profile on a social media/networking site, Facebook being the most common. So now that the majority of American workers are using social media, it makes sense that businesses are becoming more focused on monitoring and use of employee’s online activity.
So what does your social media policy say about your culture?
We’re in an age where people are routinely fired for “abusing” social media: an increase in lawsuits serving as proof. But what’s worth noting with the rise of social media policies in the office is that different generations have different views on the use of social media.
Social media policies impact employee productivity and performance differently across the generations. So how can businesses figure out how to develop social media policies?
Millennials: Yup…the “youngins”, the fastest growing segment of the workforce, the ones born with technology at their fingertips. Social media is a way of life for this generation. The 24 hour news cycle, information sharing in real-time; it’s not changing. Yes, you can be concerned about how their use of social media impacts your brand - but you can’t censor them. They’re going to talk about their boss, their business, and their views. They’re going to share this information with friends, family, peers and it’s going to be public. They don’t necessarily mind if you see it but don’t think you have the right to request it as part of their job. The best policy – let them talk or they may walk - and then create not so nice talk.
Gen X: The squashed generation. Gen X has a comfort with technology and social media. This cohort is also very active on social media. They have a bit more private view of information sharing than Millennials. Though they believe in sharing, and they believe in collaboration, they are more inclined to accept policies that place some boundaries around the use of social media to express personal views related to business. They have mixed views on strict social media policies. This generation understands it’s a balance. They can survive without using social media to express their views and without using it at work or to get work done.
Baby Boomers: These folks may be the fastest growing demographic on Facebook, but they really tend to use it much more for personal use (unless they’re entrepreneurs.) Boomers lean toward using social media for socializing with children, grandchildren, peers, and old friends. They are a much more private generation when it comes to publicly expressing views of both a personal and business nature. Boomers also have much less of an issue with following policies and procedures set forth by management. They can live without using social media to get work done or vent about business. If you really want to know what they think – listen to them having a face to face chat with peers.
So as you may have heard over and over again: your social media is usually just that- social. Social as in personal. Do it on your own time. Keep it personal. Don’t use it to discuss anything you don’t want to display publicly. But let’s face it: most employees have almost constant access to the internet in some way or another. Sure, you can block social media websites at work; you can attempt to track social media usage, but mobile phones? Tablets? It’s impossible.
Yes, social media use can help increase performance and engagement. So the best thing to do is to develop an all inclusive cross generational social media policy, one that bridges the generation gap.
When creating a social media policy, here is a quick guide of things to consider:
- Know the culture of your organization
- Evaluate the pros and cons of a conservative, moderate or liberal policy
- Create a balance of employee vs. management needs
- Focus on improving work productivity and engagement
- Determine the comfort level with transparent communication
- Implement policies that increase innovation
- Use social media to recruit the right talent (skills and culture fit)
- Create policies that build accountability and personal responsibility
If you hear or see your employees talking about your business on social media, if you have the ability, engage them in discussion via social media. If friends and peers see that their employer is trying to work with them, instead of against them, it only serves to create a win-win situation.
If you use social media for recruitment, then understand those you recruit will expect that using it for or to discuss work is also acceptable. Don’t create a culture of hypocrisy. Sure, some organizations and some industries must regulate social media use, and rightfully so in some instances. A big difference exists between regulation and oppression. Besides – not all talk is bad talk!
About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions - an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm. He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing people --> performance --> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.
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