Keeping a Closer Eye on Employees’ Social Networking Will Give You More Than a Headache

7 thoughts on “Keeping a Closer Eye on Employees’ Social Networking Will Give You More Than a Headache”

  1. Isn’t the key to this conundrum the distinction between ‘knowledge workers’ and everyone else?

    And doesn’t the anxiety to control kick in when access to social networking tools is made available to all and sundry.

    Maybe businesses are finding it hard to create a sensible boundary around what constitutes a knowledge worker and therefore opens access. Sensing ‘danger’, it then considers monitoring.

    Of course it’s clear that management feels it can’t trust ‘non-knowledge workers’ with this heady access to the outside (and inside) world.

    As you say, the headache is coming and this is just me taking the opportunity to make the discussion a bit more granular.

  2. Luis,

    I have a slightly different take on the product described in the NY Times. I agree with you that businesses are misguided when they try to monitor employees online activities because they see them as time-wasting.

    However, there is a real need for businesses to be sure that their people respect things like internal or client-confidential information. It is naive of us not to recognise that social media tools create the possibility of real information and compliance risk. They are a readily available channel for the commmunication (accidental or otherwise) of inside knowledge beyond the organisation’s control.

    Just as we should be careful tweeting when we are away from home so that thieves aren’t made aware of an empty house, so a business has a right (and a duty in some instances) to control the way critical information about itself and its work flows around the social web.

  3. One of the things I hope to show is the extent to which control has been an enduring management obsession throughout decades. The arrival of social technologies and the desire to monitor employees’ social networking activities is only the most recent manifestation. The potential scale and scope of online snooping scares me.

    Mark says: “There is a real need for businesses to be sure that their people respect things like internal or client-confidential information.”

    Yes, this is true. Control and compliance are obviously valid management concerns. It is how this is achieved that matters, and that has to be done within in a wider high-performance context, characterised by HR, IT and Facilities Management policies that communicate trust and transparency.

    I think I feel another blog post coming on. Thanks for a great read, Luis.

  4. Not to mention companies cannot monitor the *quality* of communications via employee’s social networks. If someone actually finds a solution to a company’s problem via asking her own communities, it would be crazy to have her penalised for spending ‘too much time’ on non-designated sites. I can see so much technological hiccups aside from the legal implications on this. Not good. Thanks for bringing it up, Luis.

  5. Woohoo Cathy. Nail on the head.

    This is why I liked JP (a couple of years ago) talking about agreeing objectives and timescales with staff and letting them find their own way to achieving them.

  6. I don’t have any problem with monitoring social networks. It is how it may be used that could cause an issue. If it is used for managing the worker then it can be a problem. If it is used to ensure security policies or understanding network bandwidth usage, then fine.

    What I would take exception to is a manager saying you have spent 20% of your time on social networks and not doing real work. It is similar to my current company which looks at overtime percentage. If I am working more deals and have higher signings than my team mates, then what does it matter if I work less overtime?

  7. Think two key things here are Trust and Responsibility from both employer and employee.

    We need to educate both the employer as well ans employee about the potential, but also the dangers of embracing social networks at work.

    In essence this is not much different than the other means of communication that we are using anyway like phone and email. Whilst it is inevitable that you have sometimes a private call or email, you shouldn’t spend 3 hours per day phoning your mom or best friend. This same thing applies to social networks as well. You can rely on your communities (Facebook, Twitter, Sap Developer Network, etc) for solving problems or getting leads, it’s a whole different thing to flirt all the time with that secretary from the 5th floor.

    Btw, one of my motivations for educating employees about the use of social networks is not necessarily to slap them on the fingers for using it for private usage, it’s rather to help them being more effective. But again, this is not something unique for social networks, also for email. I know way too many people that drown in their email inbox, mainly because they are living in corporate culture where email is the standard way of communicating. With a few simple tips and tricks they can drastically lower their email traffic and thus being more effective.

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