As Alistair mentioned in his opening blog, the main focus of our blogging and LinkedIn activities is to encourage debate. Real debate about any industry today, takes place online so this is where we want to be.
With reach though, comes risks!
Many corporate chiefs have been afraid of blogging for as long as it has been around, with censored comments and content strictly controlled by the same editors who review press releases and other external communications. This all seems a little quaint today when many organisations do all of their hiring on LinkedIn. We are in a different age.
But the openness of social networks and the viral way information can flow makes it just as easy to distribute negative comments as well as positive. Julia mentioned recently that many consumers now complain on social networks rather than ringing a call centre. The same applies for people complaining about their job.
How many times have you seen a friend talk about the day from hell on their Facebook status? And it goes further, with some companies having to cope with entire blogs and Facebook groups specifically created for people to complain about the company they work for – often using their own names with no consideration for how that might affect their career (the boss is probably on Facebook too!)
In a world where communication is easy and usually free, this is a problem for any company, and HR professionals need to learn how to work within this new environment.
Clearly there must be contractual clauses about gross misconduct applying to damaging statements which might affect the Company’s reputation online, rather than just in the workplace alone, but the real issue is that employers cannot prevent communication on social networks – every boss in every firm has to accept this.
There will always be individual complaints in every company, no matter how wonderful the environment. Someone will always have a grievance about their pay, or being passed over for a promotion, or their working hours. Individual complaints, such as this, need to be managed by offering an unbiased route for each complaint to be heard.
The challenge today is to offer employees an open environment to communicate about the good and the bad of their job. Ideally those discussions take place privately with the HR team. If complaints are made on public forums and are not libellous or otherwise illegal, then the best thing for a management team to do these days is to respond using the same tools.
Remember how the boss of Domino’s pizza responded after the scandal of a YouTube video showing some pretty gross things being put into their pizza? He recorded a YouTube video and it went just as viral as the original.