Instant messaging, also known as IM, has become prevalent at work, and is fast becoming a management and HR issue. In fact, a report issued by Radicati.com, states that in 2011 there were nearly 2.6 billion IM accounts worldwide and that number is expected to grow to over 3.8 billion by the end of 2015. According to Radicati, that’s a growth rate of 11% per year. IM isn’t necessarily bad or disruptive for businesses IF it’s used correctly and for the right purposes.
IM Workplace Benefits:
- It’s the electronic equivalent of slipping a note under the door during a meeting – it allows co-workers to discreetly multi-task
- It’s a fast means to communicate both internally and with customers
- It’s relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of electronic communication
From the HR perspective, IM is considered electronic communication just like email and other electronic communications. It carries the same responsibilities as other types of company communication.
Does your company have a policy for IM usage? Remember, IM is not email and should be specifically outlined in your electronic usage policy.
Before you put a policy in place, find out the following:
- Does your IT department have IM tracking set up?
- How often are employees using IM?
- Do certain departments or employees use it more than others?
- Are any non-company sponsored IM systems in use by employees?
- What does your electronic communication policy say about IM?
Once you get a good baseline of IM use and monitoring within your company, make sure your IM usage policy is sufficient. Use legal counsel to make sure that all your any potential liability issues are covered.
Remember, like email, IM communication logs can be discovered and used by a claimant if a lawsuit is filed against your company. Make sure your IM policy addresses the following:
- The company has the right to monitor IM
- The company has the accessibility to monitor IM
- Disciplinary procedures, including termination can and will follow if the IM usage agreement is not followed
The policy needs to be read and signed, accepted and returned by each employee.
As with any HR agreement, it needs to be reviewed and approved by legal counsel and it should be sent out to employees annually for review and signature. Also, make sure that all new hires receive, review and sign the policy.
Like all electronic communication, IM has both pros and cons and can be effective and productive for a business if used correctly and monitored, so don’t avoid it if it’s useful for your business model, but make sure that you have proper protocol and usage policies in place to protect your employees, your customers, and your company.
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