Developing a successful relationship between social media and HR

Is it the responsibility of human resources (HR) to manage social media on behalf of their organisation? That was the question posed to the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) former assistant director, Directorate of Professional Standards, during a recent webinar on developing a successful relationship between social media and HR.

Sep 21, 2016
By Paul Jacques

Is it the responsibility of human resources (HR) to manage social media on behalf of their organisation? That was the question posed to the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) former assistant director, Directorate of Professional Standards, during a recent webinar on developing a successful relationship between social media and HR.

“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,” said Darren Bird.

“A Freedom of Information (FoI) request raised into policing organisations across England and Wales covering the period 2009/14 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 ten per cent 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.”

Mr Bird – who delivered the webinar alongside MPS head of professional standards Alaric Bonthron on behalf of the social media risk management and compliance platform CrowdControlHQ – said there are four areas that HR practitioners should pay particular attention to avoid damaging and preventable employee issues in a social media context.

First recruitment. Mr Bird, now operations director at IT consultancy Abavus, said the internet and social media should be utilised 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,” he added.

Secondly, Mr Bird said the employee induction process was 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 among employees in many organisations, devote some time during the induction process to this topic to avoid issues later down the line,” said Mr Bird.

Thirdly, he said it was 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,” explained Mr Bird.

Finally, in respect of learning and development, Mr Bird said it was “important not to 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,” he added.

“Social media isn’t going away anytime soon, so if you work in a HR capacity use it effectively.”

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