Firms struggle to keep up with social media at work

Research released by law firm DLA Piper indicates that employers are failing to keep pace with the use of social media in the workplace.

The report, Knowing your tweet from your trend: keeping pace with social media in the workplace, addresses the problems that social media poses to employers and the procedures that can be put in to place to mitigate the potential risk of employees engaging with these online platforms.

More than three quarters of businesses that responded to the study have a corporate social media presence. Most are present on Facebook (86%), LinkedIn (78%) and Twitter (62%) and reasons for use are varied; brand awareness (80%), marketing (60%), recruitment (42%), employee communication (39%), employee engagement (37%) and team working (28%).

Many employers actively encourage the use of social media for work-related activities (65%). However 21% of employers have taken disciplinary proceedings because of information an employee has displayed on a social media site about another individual, and 31% because of information posted about their organisation. Despite this only a small proportion (25%) of businesses had a stand-alone, dedicated social media policy, and less than half (43%) had a social media policy which existed alongside another, such as an IT or HR policy.

Additionally, 28% of employers do not have restrictive covenants in senior employees’ contracts governing the post termination use of business contacts on social media sites and 34% of employers say they are exposed to risk because confidential information may be posted on social media sites.

Alan Chalmers, head of DLA Piper’s Employment practice in Sheffield said: “The use of social media is undoubtedly an ongoing challenge for employers. Whilst it provides businesses with a number of new platforms from which to interact with customers, it also presents significant risks if not handled properly internally.

“The results of our survey reflect this - almost a third of respondents have taken action against employees because of the misuse of company information on social networking sites, whilst a fifth have also had to take steps to disciplines staff for posting information about other individuals.

“Given that the use of social media is increasingly becoming embedded in commercial operations, what is more surprising is that relatively few businesses are protecting themselves from the legal ramifications that can arise as a result of social networking sites.

“Our research highlights a clear need for the employers to implement comprehensive social media policies which are then regularly reviewed and enforced.”