Solutions to Mitigating Risk of Corporate Social Media

This is a two part series on corporate social media risk.  Check out Part 1:  As Social Media Adoption Grows So Does Corporate Risk.

HR’s Role in Workplace and Social Media Adoption

Organizations particularly in the human resources industry are finally taking notice with SHRM, the Society of Human Resource Management releasing findings from their Social Media in the Workplace Survey with Part 3 released in October of 2011.  Conversations are happening among HR teams, employment law attorneys as well as executives. The key to understanding social media and the potential risk for social media discrimination and harassment require business leaders to use and engage on the social networks in order to understand the fundamental communication shift.  HR Professionals need to embrace social media themselves much like an anthropologist does when studying a new culture or tribe.

Understanding Social Media to Understand the Risk Assessment

Conservative companies like The Hartford and their executives have taken a digital anthropology approach when it comes to executives using and learning about social networks with positive results.  Their reverse social media mentoring program began in 2010. It involved a group of mid level employees who mentored senior executives. The mid level employees provided valuable insights and nuances into how employees are using social networks.  From improving their golf swing to understanding how employees are using social networking for professional growth, development, networking, and learning, the results were surprising.  This lead  to the company opening access to Facebook to all employees at their locations in 2011 increasing their Facebook Fan Page from 2,700 Fans to 103,000 Fans in two and a half weeks.

HR Tools to Mitigate Risk of Social Media in the Workplace

As the popularity of social networking grows both for employers as part of their candidate recruiting process and for job seekers as part of their personal brand building and company engagement, there are a number of HR vendors that have recently launched tools to help HR and executives mitigate the risk.

Social Intelligence: No Risk Employee Background Checks

One such company is Social Intelligence.  Social Intelligence offers a social media and online background check program allowing for employers more comprehensive and consistent alternatives to googling or self-service social networking vetting methods.  Their search and vetting processes go beyond traditional social networks and avoid situations of mistaken identity.  Max Drucker, the President and CEO of Social Intelligence says, “Employers are in a tough spot – on the one hand, if they do not review applicants’ publicly available social media, they expose the organization to workplace risks and negligent hiring.  On the other hand, if they conduct the screening internally, they are exposed to a lot of information not legally allowable for hiring such as religion, sexuality orientation, and health status that may lead to a discrimination lawsuit.”

Social Intelligence provides candidates the opportunity to sign a disclosure much like the traditional background check document allowing the job seeker the opportunity to dispute information found during the social media background check process.  But many more informal social media background checks are happening behind the scenes by managers who are viewing profiles and pages during an employee’s annual review, as a screening process for their promotion or merit increase, in addition to external candidates.

Employment Law Attorney Offers Solution for Risk and Social Media as Background Check

Companies who are using an informal social media vetting process incorporate the following steps into to help mitigate the risk:

  • Have Candidates Sign a Disclosure Document.  Make the informal process more formal allowing them an opportunity to disclosure information themselves as it relates to social media but do not ask for passwords or other login information.
  • Treat Informal Checks as Formal.  Create a more formal process with a process document.  This provides guidelines and an understanding of those who are completing the process the requirements and comes in handy during employment investigations or when the EEO comes calling.
  • Separate the Process.  Limit the likelihood that hiring managers and those involved in the decision making process have access or the protected information unconsciously influences their decision, by separating it.  This could include hiring an outside party or having someone in house responsible for conducting checks.  Many large companies already separate the Internet sourcing process for the candidate interview and selection.
  • Training Your Teams.  This may seem like a no brainer but training and constant communication are important when it comes to social media. Social media and its implications for employers isn’t a one and done scenario.  Your training and team communication shouldn’t be either.

Marketplace Solutions in the HR Technology Space

Social media discrimination involves the entire employee engagement as well as hiring process.  Companies can evaluate vendor options like LinkedIn’s Recuiter Seat(s) to limit liability and remove protected information from profiles while also gathering OFCCP compliance data for companies who are government contractors.  Venture funded Startup, BranchOut offers a similar tool for Facebook recruiting called RecruiterConnect.  These are resources and tools available to recruiting teams that your employment law attorneys aren’t typically aware of.

The growing trend and widespread use and adoption of social media means that social media discrimination should be on the minds and agenda of corporate human resource professionals and executives.  Companies using social media as part of their recruiting and engagement strategies shouldn’t shy away from its use.  It is a great way to engage candidates and customers but should be aware of the risks that social media can bring.

This is a two part series on corporate social media and the risk that companies as well as HR professionals face.  Check out Part 1 to learn more.  

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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