The use of social media by employees continues to be an area that gets close attention by almost every organisation. Some already have success stories to share, many have valuable learnings, some are planning and piloting while others have simply decided not to allow it.
Invariably though, managers are struggling with the ‘rules of the game’:
- Should my company allow the use of internal and external social media tools from people’s desktops?
- If yes, what rules should be imposed regarding ‘proper’ usage?
- Should there be strict control, based on a formally written policy document, or are guiding principles sufficient?
Or in other words, what is the right balance between control and trust?
Social media policies: Less is more
Many discussions in recent J. Boye group meetings tells us there is a growing consensus among managers that the well-known KISS principle also applies to social media policies: keep it simple – less is more.
- Elaborate policies are counter-productive. They are just pushing people away, scaring them off from using the social tools. There is no substitute for basic trust in your employees!
- Some organizations are currently re-writing their existing policies as the first iteration was too strict.
- In international organizations, cultural differences will be important. What is acceptable in one country may not be in another. Again, any attempt to micro-manage this will be futile. It's better to provide some broad guidelines, illustrated with a handful of well-picked examples.
Social media natives are coming into the workplace
In my posting on pretty intranets, I have already highlighted the arrival of the millennials in the workforce, and the impact on culture and processes. New employees do not want to adapt to existing IT systems; they expect these systems to adapt to their needs. And if we demand flexibility of our workforce, including giving them smartphones to check e-mail in the evening and during weekends, then surely we cannot block them from using Facebook during their lunch breaks?
The boundaries between work and free time are slowly eroding for many knowledge workers, and the rules that we set in our organizations need to recognize and reflect this new reality. Once more, trust in your employees and in the self-controlling mechanisms of the social space will be key.
Inspiration for your social media policies
The good news is that more and more organisations are sharing their experiences with social media policies. Below are some inspirational examples of what companies are doing to communicate their policies to employees:
- Video from salesforce.com, giving their employees 5 simple rules to follow, each of them illustrated with a set of examples
- A somewhat 'lighter' video from the Government of Victoria, Australia, providing 10 easy points to remember and with 'common sense' as the central theme
- A more elaborate example is available from Cisco
- A list of social media policies from a large number of organizations; small and large
- And many more examples are grouped in this blog post
If you want to dig deeper and discuss face to face, why not join one of J. Boye's groups, where you can discuss your social media policy with peers from other companies, and learn directly from them what works and what doesn't. Or join the J.Boye conference in Philadelphia 3-5 May, where social media and intranet will be high on the agenda!