This week has seen me take part in my first Tweet Chat! Last week I didn’t even know what this meant and I can’t deny I found it a strange experience – but one that I am slowly starting to realise I will have to get used to. Until recently I had always considered myself to be quite IT literate, I would even brag about it and tell my husband, kids, friends or colleagues “I’m not an IT dinosaur you know!” However I’m not sure that this is even a phrase anymore as I struggle to come to terms with the fact that being IT literate no longer means I can use spreadsheets, databases or whip up a presentation in 30 seconds. Being IT literate these days’ means that I can tweet while posting things on Instagram and updating My Story while simultaneously looking for new connections on LinkedIn. And even if I was lucky enough to know how it all worked I probably wouldn’t be able to read anything as I wouldn’t understand the abbreviations or emojis! I thought people still wrote on walls and poked each other – apparently this is sooo old hat!

It’s time to face facts. I am depressingly out of the loop when it comes to social media. Having been involved in a grievance case at work recently, I have had to resort to asking my 13 year old daughter to explain the highs and lows of Snapchat to me and I have to concede, it was all lost on me – so much effort and it’s all gone within 24 hours! That’s the point apparently, if you wanted to keep it, or if you had taken a particularly good selfie, then you’d use Instagram! Of course I would – who wouldn’t right?

So, at work how many of us have a social media policy? And within your organisations, how many of us actually use all of the social networking sites that the policies often relate to? And just to chuck a few more question into the mix, how many of our organisations encourage the use of these site to promote their business or values? As a HR professional it can become increasingly difficult to define if any misconduct has ever taken place (let alone evidence it) however I always try to stick to a few basic principles:

Apply the same standards of communication that you would expect in a face to face environment, or better still, would that be acceptable to put in a letter and post to someone?
Has anything illegal been said? Simply saying you have had a bad day at work isn’t quite the same as implying your boss has done something inappropriate or illegal when they haven’t.
Morally, has something inappropriate or unethical been said? Especially if you feel that it puts the organisation in a bad light or actually likely to cause it harm.

On a practical level can you get access and identify what has been said or “typed”.
The main piece of advice that I would give to help any organisation that feels it may potentially encounter an employee relations issue with social networking at the heart of it … make sure you have a policy! It will really help to provide you with some sensible direction and guidance as well as ensuring your employees are clear on what is accepted too.

Try not to fall into the trap of simply downloading a free template off the internet, it may be quick and tick a box but does it really reflect the needs of your organisation? And is it reflected in your other policies for example discipline, grievance and bullying & harassment?

Finally, just be clear how social media is used commercially within your business and understand where this may overlap into personal circumstances for some of your employees and ensure they are clear on what you consider to be acceptable. Personally, I have just (and only just!) reached the stage where I understand that social networking is an essential part of our personal lives and our working lives. But I’m not convinced that it won’t cause us problems in the workplace!

Call us, Tweet us or connect with us on LinkedIn if you need any help and advice – and always feel free to send us a good old fashioned letter!

Nicola Callaghan
HR Caddy
August 2018