Earlier this week, in my post "Five HR Issues That Could Be 2012 Game-Changers for Your Company," the issue of social media was prevalent. Social media impacts corporate recruiting and corporate image, so there's no doubt that it warrants some attention from HR professionals - but does it warrant an HR policy?
On the relaxed side of the HR fence, there are those that say "NO." Social media is just one more point of client interaction. If an employee exercises bad judgment and talks inappropriately over the phone, he will be subject to disciplinary action - policy or no policy. Likewise, if he goes online and posts inappropriate comments, why doesn't the same protocol apply?
There are others, on the buttoned-down side of the HR fence, who say an HR policy is crucial. The difference between phone and social media interactions is that one primarily occurs at work, while the other could occur at any time. Furthermore, phone conversations are over in an instant and social media posts can go viral! Social media has too much inherent risk to risk not having a social media policy.
To assist (or further complicate) the question, the National Labor Relations Board issued some social media policy guidance on January 25, 2012. Among other things the report emphasizes two main points:
- Employer policies should not be so sweeping that they prohibit the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions among employees.
- An employee’s comments on social media are generally not protected if they are mere gripes not made in relation to group activity among employees.
More confused? Me too, I think this HR policy stuff is worse than COBRA administration! Fortunately, there's help available including a new webinar from Bloomberg BNA on March 21, 2012, Social Media & the NLRA: What Every Employer Needs to Know.
While your HR team is getting up to date on the latest training, don't neglect COBRA administration! Our new and very popular COBRASchool offers a variety of COBRA training courses every week for HR professionals and employers. And YES, for a limited time, they are FREE. And, for a monthly fill-up of COBRA tips, subscribe to our free e-newsletter, COBRATalk.