Our founder, Robby Slaughter, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal about productivity and social media. The message: Social media is powerful stuff, especially for small business.
In a story titled Facebook, Twitter Updates Spell Trouble in Small Workplace, Sarah Needleman writes:
These days, bad employee behavior is no longer confined to cubicle walls. Some workers are now sharing disparaging opinions and even proprietary information about their employers on social media – Web forums that in many cases can accessed by anyone, including a company’s clients, investors and competitors. Business experts say that kind of exposure could be particularly troublesome for small enterprises, though there are ways owners can cope and even turn the tables to their advantage.
“It’s much easier for a large company to distance themselves from the actions of one employee than it is for a small firm,” says Robby Slaughter, owner of Slaughter Development LLC, an Indianapolis consulting firm that specializes in workplace productivity.
And just one person can make a big impact on an organization.
Needleman’s article mostly covers the negative aspects of social media use. One particular quote in the piece identifies the reason that many small businesses experience so much trouble with this new technology:
Business owners may be able to protect themselves from similar employee snafus by instituting a written policy outlining what kind of content is and isn’t acceptable to post on social media, says Christina Stovall, a director for Odyssey OneSource, a human-resources outsourcing firm in Euless, Texas.
Ms. Stovall recommends discussing the policy with employees in person, and having them sign an acknowledgement form. That way, “You’re laying the groundwork for expectations,” she says.
To nab violators, some business owners frequently conduct Web searches of their companies’ names. Others make a habit of checking employees’ social-media profiles if they’re open to the public or they’ve been granted access. They say such strategies can be helpful for quickly doing damage control, as well as for digging up digital dirt on employees and prospective recruits.
Let’s be clear: A written policy is the among the worst decisions a company can make about social media. Such regulations have a tendency to backfire. Attempting to censor employees is more likely to sow discord and contempt than it is to successfully protect the company.
Obviously, no organization wants their employees to freely reveal trade secrets or make embarrassing details public. But what do these actions have to do with social media? People have always griped about their boss to their friends, complained about inane workplace procedures to their spouse, or casually mentioned top secret ideas to people in confidence. The problem is not that employees exercise this freedom. Nor is it an issue that modern technology helps these idle comments spread a little faster. Rather, social media merely illustrates the sad state of honest communication in the workplace.
Strongly-worded policies usually limit productivity and satisfaction. We’re opposed to most of them, from social media usage requirements to worker productivity on snow days. We love Netflix’s idea to improve employee satisfaction, which suggests that growth should create more employee freedom. This is a challenging philosophy, but one that appears in successful companies everywhere. James F. Nordstrom, late co-chairman of the famous Nordstrom department store chain, eloquently explained the real problem:
The minute you come up with a rule, you give an employee a reason to say no to a customer. That’s the reason we hate rules.
Improve your company by questioning the value of policy and refocusing on the value of people. Employees get the most work done when they have freedom and a free flow of communication. To learn more, contact our small business consulting firm today!