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Keep your employees off Santa’s naughty list

21 Nov 2011
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At a fundamental business level, social media is a useful tool for communicating and collaborating with customers, colleagues and new business prospects. From an HR point of view, the social web is not only useful for recruitment but also as a knowledge network. At an employee level, social media is changing the way we work: employees increasingly expect to be able to access personal technology and services in the workplace.

But social media brings risk and reward to business in equal measure. Information security is a key concern, with many organisations viewing social media channels as yet another route along which sensitive data can escape from the business, whether accidentally or maliciously. On top of this, senior management may be concerned about the amount of time employees spend on social networks.

This cultural shift raises new questions about trust in the workplace, the balance of power in the employer/employee relationship, and levels of control over people and content.

All you want for Christmas is well-behaved, happy staff, so how can you let the communications flow freely while making sure no one’s sharing the kind of content that would make any manager cringe?

Management professionals using Clearswift’s technology can manage the way their staff use email and the internet without having to resort to a default position of mistrust. With a whopping third of ANZ employers completely blocking social media access at work, there’s a real danger of throwing the benefits of collaboration out with the risks.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Clearswift has some tips for ensuring the communications flow freely without losing sight of acceptable use policies:

•Trust breeds responsibility: People underestimate the amount of company time they spend on personal browsing. Allow staff to view their own web usage and foster more responsible behaviour without undermining trust.

•Know limits: Set clear limits on personal surfing and communicate them to users. Alert them when they are approaching their limit. Help your people to play by the rules.

•Share the load: Spread responsibility for usage reporting among managers and department heads so everyone gets to see how their usage impacts on the rest of the organisation. This also gives managers greater control and visibility into usage.

•Need to know: Yes, you need reports and visibility. What you don’t need is employee data becoming common knowledge. Access control means reporting can be adjusted on a need-to-know basis.

•Keep it simple: Use reporting software that allows you to customise and automate your guidelines and policies.

•Don’t break, bend: All acceptable usage policies need the flexibility to adapt to different job functions and departments. Policy should reflect the way you do business.

•Prevent data spill: Don’t be the next news headline. Communicate data security strategy clearly to all employees, and reinforce this with regular education and updates. You can’t expect people to adhere to policies they don’t know exist.

Blocking is clearly not the answer to combat productivity issues and security vulnerabilities in relation to internet and social media usage. Effective Web 2.0 management requires a two-pronged approach: intuitive software and workforce consideration.

Good technology allows businesses to deal with specific concerns such as preventing the accidental (or malicious) distribution of confidential files via Facebook or Skype, whilst allowing moderate and appropriate use by the majority of employees. By embracing social media, and having the right tools in place to safeguard the corporate reputation, businesses will reap the benefits.

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