HR practitioners around the country are facing an acute legal headache over the new corporate practice known as ‘Social Media Dunking’. Line managers nationwide have reportedly been taking whole teams to rivers, lakes and ponds and hurling terrified staff into Britain’s murky waters.
If employees float, the only possible conclusion is that they have been wasting time on sites such as Twitter and Facebook, justifying a hand out of the water followed by instant dismissal. Conversely, if staff sink, this signifies that they have never misused Social Media at work, which clears their name, but creates an extra parking space in the office due to death by drowning.
This example is, of course, fictitious (one would hope…), yet many companies vilify users of Social Media as if they were in fact mediaeval witches. But why? Of course, spending three hours in the office creating a photo album entitled ‘Magaluf Mayhem – Boys Weekend 2010’, and tagging all of your mates in compromising photographs that will irk potential employees is NOT conducive to productive use of the medium. But, contrary to widespread belief amongst management functions, this does not comprise the sole use of Social Media.
One of the most frequently cited criticisms of Social Media in the workplace is that people ‘waste time on it.’ But what about employees who slink off to office kitchens and spend a good 10 minutes gossiping to colleagues about the previous Friday’s leaving do? Surely, by default, an employee who spends 5 minutes chatting on Facebook is wasting less time than the office gossips?
And what about those who actually harness the power of Social Media for productive work use? Multi-faceted, Twitter is a powerful communications tool that allows real networking to take place – simply look at the results of #ConnectingHR for a tangible example of Twitter’s ability to connect professionals. Want to build a professional network that will benefit your business or brand? 5 minutes of tweeting a day could easily serve this purpose – while others discuss Sheila’s new toy boy over a slowly boiling kettle.
Sure, HR as a function has to ensure that Social Media is, like anything else, not misused. Naturally, there will always exist a faction of disgruntled workers who do try and waste time on, amongst other things, Social Media sites. But the trap HR practitioners desperately need to avoid falling into is demonizing Social Media and believing that it is inherently a ‘time-wasting’ exercise.
Proactive use of Social Media can greatly enhance the professional reputation of your staff as brand advocates and professional thought-leaders, which naturally leads into a debate surrounding the merging functions of marketing and HR. But Social Media, like many online tools, can greatly enhance the productivity of your people – and it’s crucial that HR functions don’t lose sight of this – proven – fact.