2014 Resolution: Social media training for your employees

published in McAfee & Taft EmployerLINC | January 1, 2014

By Charles S. Plumb

I get tired of reading stories about employees fired by their employer for some ill-conceived tweet, blog, photo or Facebook posting. Invariably, my first reaction is, “How can people be so reckless or dumb?” As these incidents kept repeating, I gained a new perspective, with employers playing a productive and preventative role. What if employers trained their workforce about the do’s and don’ts for social media? Why not kick off the new year with just such an effort?

The starting point is a self audit of your social media policy and practices. The development of new social media options and uses has been moving fast. Look over your policy: is it up-to-date and relevant for current social media issues? Review whether and how social media has impacted your workplace. What employee problems have surfaced involving social media, and how have those problems been addressed? Do your recent experiences suggest revisions to your social media policy may be in order?

Next, turn your attention towards educating your workforce — and it begins with the fundamentals. Why is it that people communicate through social media in ways and about things they would never dream of communicating in person, by phone, etc.? Remind employees that social media communication is forever, and privacy and password protection is never bulletproof. Talk about how many social media gaffs result from inadvertence. Stress careful review and editing before firing off something. Discuss how spontaneous and unplanned outbursts through social media can reflect on both their reputation and the employer’s. Make sure your employees appreciate that the lack of context can turn something they think is humorous into an unintended, offensive comment. For this portion of your employee training, using recent examples of high-profile social media screw-ups can be very effective.

Preparing an effective policy does little good if your employees don’t understand how the policy applies and works. Conclude the training with a review of the specifics of your social media policy. Make sure to highlight:

  • The policy applies to all forms of social media and electronic communications (e.g.: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, posting sites, texts, emails, instant messaging, etc.)
  • It also covers communications made during non-work hours and/or on non-work devices.
  • You have the right to monitor social media.
  • You will take action – including discipline – for social media that is contrary to the interests of the employer.

This audit and training approach is not an absolute solution to all social media challenges. However, it will reduce the frequency and severity of workplace social media problems in your future.