Corporate America spends a lot of time trying to figure out whom to reach with what message and in what medium. But, in all the talk about how to reach the consumer, the influencer and the decision maker, the lowly employee barely gets a nod. Unless, of course, an employee drops a bombshell about a boss or project on Facebook, Twitter or a personal blog. Then there is a big meeting with the legal, communications and HR folks, along with whoever else feels threatened. The results vary, but in most cases, the opportunity for a company’s employees to be your best internal and external communicators is long gone.
The few studies currently available on how companies handle employee conduct in the social networking environment are revealing. Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing company, interviewed 1,400 CIOs of U.S. companies and found 54 percent banned social networking while on the job. A Deloitte Ethics & Workplace Survey reports that sixty percent of 500 U.S. business executives surveyed said how their employees portrayed the company online was “their business” while 53 percent of the employees said “it was none of their business”. With recent rulings by the National Labor Relations Board in favor of a fired employee, the online landscape is getting even muddier.
The companies spending time and money on harnessing the power of its employees online are still in the minority. GE and IBM are two of the largest and most focused, continually bringing employees and management together to fine tune employee guidelines on everything from a personal blog to social media platforms. Devising communications behavior guidelines may sound draconian but employees want a company to do well so they can do well. When management engages employees in the process, there is a level of trust because there is trust.