The news of a service released by Teneros in the US last week has driven new demand into the need to manage one’s online reputation rigorously.
The service makes it easier for companies to keep an eye on their employees’ social media activities on Facebook and Twitter (soon be rolled out to many more social networking sites) at a fee of between $2 and $8 per employee according to the NY Times – http://nyti.ms/coe28T
We already knew that 45% of hiring managers looked through Facebook or Linked-in profiles of applicants and that 75% of them had made the decision not to hire that person based on something they had seen in the applicant’s profile. I know in previous roles as a hiring manager, I have done this myself. We also know that 85% of hiring managers have been influenced positively by social networking profiles – again guilty as charged.
But now that you have that job, you are still not out of harms way, and I think this is a great shame. Although ultimately this was an inevitable outcome, we all must now be on the offensive to ensure that our professional lives are not compromised.
So how far do we go? Do we hide our religious, sexual orientation, age and marital status information? We don’t include these things on a CV, and it’s illegal to be asked those questions in an interview. Yet companies have the legal right to monitor what someone does in their private lives online without asking or disclosing their policy.
Privacy died long ago, and we all knew that when we signed up for these services. What started off as a good and positive service, however, can now be used for evil.
For example a picture of an employee shooting a Tequila Slammer may be OK to you or me, but to a reformed alcoholic or non drinker this picture may be unacceptable and create prejudice.
At this stage there is no way or precedent an employee can be fired for online photos or other content unless of course it slanderous to their employer (though I will bet a pretty penny that we see a case like this in front of the courts before year’s end); however these incidents may seriously impact someone’s progress, pay and happiness at work and eventually force the employee to leave.
It’s not just what you may write, but a picture you may be tagged in, or an article you’ve posted being shared, or something someone else posts on your wall.
In the social landscape, very little is private and therefore there must be a duty of disclosure for organisations that employee these services.
So what are the some of the potential ramifications of this service?
On one extreme, companies that employ this service may start to suffer from depleted talent pools – some of the most talented, original, creative, intelligent, spirited, gifted, inspirational people are on Facebook, and they may even be skulling a beer on a late night dance floor. If this or anything else social that’s deemed anti-social is used against an employee, these companies will start to see a wave of potential and current employees flood away. In addition these companies will become instant enemies of the very social communities they monitor.
On the other extreme, Facebook and other social networking sites may start to lose relevance, as users make the decision to focus on career and put less content out for public and therefore professional scrutiny.
Companies within a competitive set may be defined by their social monitoring policy; the only difference between working at Nike and Reebok as an example may be how they monitor social activities of their employees, taking away from the point of difference in employment atmospheres that these same executives have worked so hard to create.
My vote is option 1 is far more likely than option 2, the masses are there and will speak with their feet. A company that wants to know everything they can about their employees needs to be careful about they wish for. I urge all companies to think very carefully about using these services and investors to consider where they put their money, as without people, you have no product – nor profit.
Managing your online profile and reputation is key and will only gain more importance if this service does gain momentum. As will branding to current and future employees, which ever side of the monitoring fence you sit you will need to define your position.