With the world becoming increasingly digitally focussed and us sharing more of our lives online, the gap between an employee’s work and personal life is shrinking, an article on Personnel Today reports.

This means that employers are tempted to take a peek at what their employees are sharing, liking and posting, in order to get a better impression of exactly who is working for them. Although this is not always an advisable thing to do, there are times when it is not only justifiable, but entirely necessary – the key is knowing when you need to look, and how to do it appropriately.

With 30% of employees saying they would be happy for their employer to look at their social media pages (according to global research from PwC), perhaps the idea of ‘snooping’ isn’t as frowned upon as you might think. Thankfully, the article offers some scenarios where accessing this personal information could allow leaders to monitor employee wellbeing, and improve staff communications.

Recruitment

A US poll showed that half of employers admitted to viewing a candidate’s social media pages (SMP) during the recruitment process – although this figure could arguably be more.

Certain precautions should be taken, however – the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Acas have both published a set of ‘best practice’ guidelines for employers to adhere to. For example, candidates should be informed about any SMP screenings, and given the chance to talk about any concerns the information raises with the employer.

Secondly, it’s advisable to do these checks in the later stages of the recruitment process, as an unsuccessful candidate could protest that they were discriminated against by information that was gaged solely from their SMP – such as age, religion or sexual orientation.

Monitoring

According to the ICO, regularly monitoring employees’ SMPs without their full permission is frowned upon. However, if a member of staff is suspected of doing something wrong, the occasional review is acceptable.

One example noted in the article could be for an employee who has phoned in sick. If they then write a Facebook status about being hungover, or share photos of themselves having a day out – which some people do – then the employer is at full liberty to call them up on this.

Having a solid social media policy in place would give employers more weight in any argument that relates to social media use.

Inappropriate behaviour

A key concern for bosses is the company’s reputation, which means that the content of an employee’s SMP can sometimes cause problems – particularly if they are writing negative comments about their workplace or its customers. It is advisable to train staff about appropriate social media usage.

Other concerns about inappropriateness relate to the use of these sites throughout the working day. Many employers find that sites such as Facebook can reduce productivity during work hours; therefore, they need to offer clear guidance about when it’s OK to use them – both on work devices and on mobile phones.

With social media use likely to increase, establishing a clear social media policy and outlining how often SMP’s will be monitored will become more and more important. The consequences of breaching the policy should also be highlighted to staff.

What are your views on this? Have you ever judged a candidate based on their SMP?

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