Sixty percent of companies will monitor employee social media use by 2015

Employee use of social media is becoming a real area of concern for CEOs. This is because the informal nature of social media means employees do, on occasion, post inadvertent remarks that can cause far-reaching damage to a company’s brand.

In response, HR departments are starting to develop company social media policies that clearly define employees’ responsibilities to their employers and vice versa. Some companies are even beginning to introduce monitoring clauses to employment contracts, a practice which is on the increase according to a recent report from Gartner.

Gartner estimates that 60 percent of companies will be monitoring employees’ social media use by 2015. Whilst this figure may surprise some readers, the practice of monitoring employee communications is not new. Companies have used network-filtering solutions to monitor online workplace communications for years.

Until recently, however, these filters have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available online and this afforded employees a measure of privacy when it came to social media use outside of the office. The advent of specialised and automated social media monitoring programmes is changing that. Automating the process has made it much simpler for companies to monitor employee social media use and this has led to an increase in the adoption of the practice.

There are situations in which it is possible to argue the case for monitoring employees’ conversations on social media, such as when a company is handling price sensitive information, although some people may still feel that such practices represent an infringement of employee privacy.

If monitoring is introduced without employee consent then it should be deemed as an infringement of privacy. If consent is gained, however, and clear guidance is given on why monitoring is necessary and what it means for employees in practical terms, then it is more likely to be received positively.

Of course, it is important to note that under the terms of the European freedom act, information relating to ethnicity, gender, political allegiance, etc. must always be protected, and rightly so. Monitoring of employees should be limited to remarks that are offensive or damaging to the company, or to others, and to those which are outside of the law.

In order to avoid potential monitoring abuses, it is important to establish limits and to enshrine them in company policy. At Paperhat Consorcio we try to help companies and employees navigate such challenges and arrive at a mutual understanding on social media monitoring. Generally speaking, both employers and employees become actively engaged in this process because, ultimately, they realise that protecting their company brand is in everyone’s interest.

Ian Sullivan, CEO, Paperhat Consorcio.

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