Is your business, or your employer, proactively addressing the most significant risks regarding the misuse of social media in the workplace? Results from a recent survey of more than 110 businesses from around the world confirm some widely-held beliefs about how employers are dealing with social media in the workplace. Importantly, the survey also revealed some risks that most employers seem to be ignoring, and those unattended risks can result in significant damage to any business in any industry.
On April 29, 2014, international law firm Proskauer released the results of its 2014 Social Media in the Workplace Around the World 3.0. This was the third year in a row for the survey. As Proskauer explains, the “study was conducted in collaboration with its affiliate law firms around the world. More than 110 respondents from a broad range of multinational businesses participated in the survey, detailing their social media policies and practices in jurisdictions including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
The survey results also includes a summary of the law on social media in the workplace in several countries around the world, including the Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. A link to the full survey is included below.
The Results of the Survey
First, the survey results have confirmed many assumptions about social media in the workplace. For example, according to the survey, 88.5% of businesses use social media for business purposes, and most of those businesses have been using social media for business purposes for more than 3 years. (Frankly, it is a bit surprising that the percentage isn’t higher than 88.5%). As this number continues to rise, most businesses are taking steps to prevent workplace misuse of social media. According to the survey, 78.9% of businesses have implemented social media policies and 52.9% of the employers updated such policies within the past year. (Again, frankly, it is a bit surprising that over 21% of the respondents do NOT have a workplace social media policy. As I’ve written before, employers would be wise to implement a state-of-the-art policy in order to protect the business).
And, while nearly 90% of the respondents use social media for business purposes, the majority of them have taken further steps to protect themselves from employee misuse. For example, 64% of the respondents block employee access to social media sites at work. Additionally, 58.8% monitor employee use of social media at work. Again, these numbers demonstrate that most employers are being prudent and conservative with respect to social media use in the workplace. While these employers acknowledge the use of social media in the workplace, it also appears that most employers treat it as a distraction, and something from which their employees need protection. Significantly, 81% of the respondents predict that the misuse of social media will become more of an issue in the future.
The Biggest Social Media Risk Employers Face
The survey results also reveal areas where even the most prudent employers are at risk. The first area focuses on the lack of training employers provide to their employees about the use of social media. Indeed, while having an air-tight policy, and even when monitoring employees, employers could do much better with training employees on social media issues. According to the survey, only 37.5% of the business provide employee training on the appropriate use of social media. Making the additional investment of training can greatly reduce employee misuse of social media (52.3% of the respondents said that they have faced employee misuse of social media) and can cut down the business’s need to impose discipline on employees (71.2% of the respondents have had to take disciplinary action due to employee misuse of social media).
So, employers, if you have a social media in the workplace policy – good for you. But, if you do not train your employees on the policy, or on other issues of appropriate use of social media in the workplace, you are leaving your company exposed.
The other greatest risk to employers focuses on former employees. A paltry 17.5% of businesses have provisions protecting against misuse of social media by former employees. These employers recognize that a person’s use of social media does not cease just because he or she changes jobs. To the contrary, former employees, disgruntled or not, often turn to social media to air “dirty laundry” or even to reveal confidential information that could cause significant harm to any business. More businesses would be wise to join the 17.5% and tackle the issue of having procedures and policies in place to address social media use by departing employees.
Some Suggested Best Practices For Employers
The Proskauer survey concludes with offering its top 5 tips. Longtime readers of my posts will be relieved to know that I’ve offered these best practices in the past as well:
- Conduct annual audits. This is particularly true for social media issues since the law is constantly evolving, and the technological advances bring new challenges to employers and employees.
- Establish clear policies. Employers who wish to protect the business and assets, cannot afford to remain silent on the issue of use and misuse of social media in the workplace.
- Training is key. A policy is good, but training gives life, meaning, and substance to the policy.
- Focus on the main risks. These include protection of confidential and/or proprietary information, and harassment and discrimination prevention.
- Proactively address departing employees. Before a key employee leaves the company, the business should already have in place policies and provisions preventing the departing employee’s misuse of social media.
Does your company have a social media usage policy? Do you know what restrictions, if any, are in place in the event you separate from your employer? Do you think the survey results accurately reflect the businesses in your country?