A much talked about topic this week both online, and in the papers in India was about Social Media in the office. It seems like this is not just a purely Indian phenomenon. It's also much talked about in the west as well. Although questions and debates in western countries are more specific, their Indian counter parts are still trying answer, "Should we allow social networking within office premises?"
Ravishankar B, the head of HR ODE, HCL gave the best answer, "You can't ban social media any more than banning mobile phones in the office," he said, during the SHRM India webinar on "HR and Social Media in India". He recalled the time of when mobile phones started to become popular and how people wanted to ban them in the office. India is facing the same questions today.
In many offices, in India, people are not able to login to Twitter or Facebook, and certain popular blogs are blocked. Yet, folks still find a way to tweet using pseudonyms, or their own name on their smart phones. Many professionals still control access to their twitter profiles by tweeting privately.
In the west, folks are debating whether HR should be using social media monitoring tools, and services, and how HR should be using social media to recruit candidates. There are legal, and ethical questions that are being debated.
Since social networking slowly becoming part of the way we do business, it's been used differently by different departments. Liana Evans on ClickZ asks, "Who Owns Your Company's Social Media Strategy?" Different departments in a company need to handle things differently. This is why you'll need a strategic plan on how you're going to be using your company presence online. This affects not only HR. In my view, this is really where HR and Marketing needs to sit together and come up with a plan on who's doing to do what. Social media is making a flatter world, so we all need to be in tune, or else your company brand is going to suffer.
One surprising thing that was brought to the forefront during the SHRM India webinar was the use of the spoof websites by disgruntled employees. I guess it's quite common to see www.i-hate-insert-company-name-here.com. I’ve seen this happen before and thought it was a onetime event, until the guest speakers brought it up. Sadly, I've seen this happen only in India. Usually these types of sites are set up by very unprofessional people who want to take "revenge". It's something that the Indian corporate sector needs to address in the near future, or at least set up laws to protect the company brand. Internally employee relations need to improve drastically as well.
India is one of the top countries that drives traffic into sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Companies are still struggling to answer questions, and coming up with social media policies. A concrete dialogue needs to happen soon, and norms have to be in place. Things that work in western culture might not work for folks here. All of us will be looking at HR managers to implement social media policies. People should be clear on who is responsible for what online. If you don't have accountability rules in place, company brands and profiles will be hijacked – I’ve seen this happen, too, but that’s a marketing post.
In conversations with friends also I’ve find that their companies have shut out social media completely, deeming it as “a waste of time” and “you can’t trust people”, “they’re not going to work” even when the companies are in the technology sector.
What about your company? Are you thinking or talking about using social media in the work place? Or have you shut your company off all social media activities? What are your thoughts on social media in the work place? Please leave a comment below.
Graphic by: Anne Helmond