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To Tweet Or Not to Tweet – Handling Employee Use of Social Technologies

Submitted by on September 14, 2009 – 2:31 pm3 Comments

This is the second installment of my new series on Forbes focusing on Social Media Guidelines and Etiquette.

Here is a rough transcript of this segment:
How should I deal with employees using tools like Twitter for personal use during work hours?
To Tweet or not to Tweet – that is your question. Actually the real question here seems to be about productivity and how to maintain a healthy balance in the workplace. Modern work has plenty of outside distractions during work hours without needing help from social media; mobile phones, text messaging, instant message, dating sites and the ubiquitous, never ending “cigarette break.” To mention just a few. So in this regard, social technologies like Twitter don’t really present a new problem – they simply resurface an old productivity concern.
Let me suggest a few things I think every company should be doing specific to social technologies.

  1. No matter what you decide – publish clear guidelines so that employees know where you stand. It is never good to answer these questions one at a time and retroactively – get ahead of this question now.
  2. To do this – study others who have gone before you. My favorite guidelines right now are from IBM, Intel and The BBC – but there are literally dozens out there.
  3. Consider getting your employees in on the act. You can do this by creating a small guidelines committee and setting up a collaborative wiki where your employees can help you refine the document. You will be killing two birds with one stone – establishing clear guidelines with employee buy-in baked in and getting some experience with collaboration.

Whatever you do – Build your guidelines around job performance, not vague concerns about productivity. Get clear on how you measure successful job performance. Then measure it. If your sales team is nailing their numbers then why should you care if they are on Facebook? If you are in the call center and you are handling the expected number of daily calls and have high quality of service – why should I care if you are on Twitter? Most companies that think they have a social media “distraction” problem actually have a measurement problem – that is – they aren’t clear on what defines a productive employee.
Employers that set meaningless rules like “no Facebook at work” or put employees under surveillance risk losing authority, respect, and control in the workplace.

Finally – having social media literate employees is a good thing – you may need them when the time comes.


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