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Sunday January 22, 2012

Have clear policy on FB for workers

I WOULD like to share my opinion in relation to “Bosses face problem with workers wasting time on FB” (The Star, Jan 20). The use of social networking websites and its easy accessibility has posed a lot more challenges and problems to the employer than has been pointed out.

Social network, depending on the nature of the work, can be good or bad for productivity. For some it’s one of the most cost and time effective way to promote and achieve sales targets.

Some government agencies and NGOs use it in their work to reach more people and to better know their stakeholders.

For those who work long hours or are on the graveyard shift and are detached from family and friends, it may help reduce stress.

Social networking can be a recruitment tool. Some employers and recruitment agents use it to do background checks on employees.

On the converse, it can severely affect productivity as employees waste countless hours on social networking. When done in the office, it increases unwarranted Internet traffic and slows down office network speed.

A major issue which has got a lot of attention globally is employees making statements about their employers that are considered negative by the employer.

While statements which tend to lower the reputation of the employer in public can be considered libel, it is more complicated when it comes to employment relationships. There are two schools of thought.

In the UK, the employment tribunal upheld a decision by Apple to sack an employee for posting on Facebook his displeasure about his iPhone and various aspects of his company even though his remarks only reached certain people due to the privacy settings.

In the US, the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) came to an opposite conclusion and found illegal a company’s decision to fire an employee based on disparaging remarks about her employer and on a work place incident she sent from her home computer .

I feel the UK approach is better. A negative statement by an employee can severely affect the employer. The company’s reputation is at stake, and it may affect the employer’s business goodwill and profits. Some job seekers might shun the company purely based on hearsay.

And, in a more sinister way, social networking can be used to disrupt industrial harmony by organising illegal strikes to cripple an entire industry and bring down the economy.

I don’t feel that a strict policy on social networking may discourage young ones from joining a particular company.

The main concern for the working young, or everyone for that matter, is the pay and benefits, and of course job satisfaction.

An employee frequently using social network at work should face disciplinary action to serve as a reminder to the perpetrator and to show others how serious the employer views such complacency.

And of course for the company to take disciplinary action it has to have rules to begin with. As long as there are no sanctions, employees will continually flout company rules and slack.

But again some might argue that it may not always be practical in real life as the world and society are addicted to social networking.

Some young employees, fresh to the working world, have no clue on responsible working etiquette and may think that employers don’t mind them engaging in social networking during work hours.

It is important that a clear policy is drawn up by the employers and brought to the attention of employees on how the company feels about it and how it affects them.

The responsibility of discipline at work does not start with the HR/IR practitioners. Our education system should have an active role in educating and shaping young ones who will be joining the work force one day.

Not only institutes of higher education like colleges and universities but schools as well should inculcate responsible work etiquette which includes being on the social network during work hours, among other things. Sadly, this is lacking.

While it is almost impossible to prevent employees from accessing social network sites, as it can be easily accessed through their smart phones, both employers and capable HR/IR practitioners have to come up with proper solutions to deal with whatever challenges advancement of technology throws at them.

JOHN MARK,

Segamat.

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