Social media at work: are employers being clear enough?

News stories crop up every day about how unprofessional or controversial social media posts have landed people without a job – but are employers being clear enough on their social media policies?

Hands typing on a laptop


The Social Media at Work Report from Richard Nelson LLP found that 49% of employed, British adults think their employer could do more to clarify their expectations regarding social media usage. In contrast, only 28% of people think their employer is clear enough. In the ‘always on’ culture that we find ourselves immersed in in 2018, it’s time that organisations are not only transparent about what they deem as unacceptable, but encourage appropriate social media usage by employees to amplify messages about work culture.

E-word of mouth

The way that employees discuss their job, offline and online, is a direct reflection of how they perceive it. Instead of restricting employees from discussing their work online, employers should focus on improving workplace happiness and encouraging positive social media usage. Not only would this boost a company’s brand image, but could also indirectly act as recruitment promotion. After all, job seekers are more likely to apply to a company whose employees speak fondly of it rather than one with terrible or no Glassdoor reviews.

Think of employees positively posting on social media about their workplace in the same way as influencer marketing. As customers become more ethically aware, they are more likely to spend money with a company that they have a positive perception of and know that treats their employees well. Similarly, B2B businesses feel more confident investing in the services of a company whose employees inadvertently promote aspects, such as fantastic training or flexible working, as this will have a direct correlation to the quality of service they receive.

How can this be achieved?

Employers should consider whether or not they will encourage the personal use of social media. Considering that 53% of respondents talk about work on their social channels whilst 69% of them said their followers know who they work for, organisations should accept that it will happen. Once establishing this, employers must have a solid understanding of how they will regulate professional usage and what their stance on acceptable social media usage is outside of the workplace.

This can be achieved through the publication and implementation of a specific social media policy that sets clear parameters about permitted use. Alongside this, employers should consider staff training about social media and the drafted policy. To promote positive social media usage, organisations’ internal marketing teams should repost and share employees’ professional social posts to encourage their colleagues to do the same.

Lack of clarity

A lack of clarity around an employer’s expectations about how their employees conduct themselves online has the potential to cause conflict and legal headaches further down the line. It is imperative that employers proactively define what acceptable and unacceptable use of social media is in the context of the employment relationship. By setting up a pragmatic and enforceable policy, employers can minimise the risks associated with employee social media usage.

*Jayne Harrison is the head of employment law at Richard Nelson LLP.

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