A former senior policing colleague and I recently delivered a short webinar on the above topic to HR professionals. During the seminar an immediate question raised was ‘ So is it the responsibility of HR to manage social media on behalf of their organisation?’ My answer to that question is a simple ‘no’ but with the caveat that HR along with many other departments internally facing have a key role to play. Why is that?
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request raised into policing organisations across England and Wales covering the period 2009-2014 found that there were over 800 cases of social media misuse both on and off duty committed by serving officers and staff. Of this figure almost 10% resulted in either resignation or dismissal. This is a noteworthy statistic and highlights where in many cases HR departments were left to pick up the pieces where effective social media management within policing organisations had in many cases failed.
So to avoid these damaging and preventable employee issues where and what role does HR have to play in a social media context in organisations today.
The following four short points I consider are a good place for HR practitioners to start.
- Utilise the Internet and social media to support background suitability checks into potential future candidates. Any checks must be carried legitimately and legally. This type of research is often an excellent source of obtaining information and intelligence into the individuals you may or may not be employing.
- The employee induction process is a great time to impart information about your organisation, its history, culture and expectations of employees. It’s also an excellent forum to hammer home messages about standards of employee behaviour expected both inside and outside of work.
With IT and social media misuse a primary issue of discipline and misconduct amongst employees in many organisation, devote some time during the induction process to this topic to avoid issues later down the line.
Policies and Procedures
- It is important that there are holistic published policies and procedures about social media and its organisational coverage and use. I do not consider that HR should be the authors nor primary owners of these. That said HR does need to contribute to and support these publications specifically around the HR people elements.
Learning and Development.
- Finally, don’t treat every individual social media indiscretion punitively. There has to be fairness and consistency when dealing with employees that have transgressed, but where possible appropriately use examples of social media misuse in a broader learning positive context to educate staff and to avoid future reoccurring issues.
My final word is that social media isn’t going away anytime soon so if you work in a HR capacity use it effectively!
Darren Bird (Former Metropolitan Police Service, Assistant Director, Directorate of Professional Standards & Head of Employee Relations Expert Services)