Social media is great for recruiting, employee engagement, and brand publicity—or is it?
Recently a 30-year old Miami doctor unwisely chose to attack an Uber driver in public. The incident was caught on video via smartphone by a witness, and the video went viral.
Employed by the Jackson Health System in Miami, the doctor almost immediately became a liability to her employer. While lucky that the Uber driver decided not to press criminal charges, the doctor was placed on leave by the hospital, and may ultimately face termination. Stating she did not believe the incident would be such a “big deal,” the young woman hired a lawyer, and a public relations firm, to try and salvage her reputation.
This is just one of many telling, and unfortunate, viral moments made by mistake in front of a smartphone. As the smartphone market in North America becomes saturated, it means that employers—and employees—should assume they are smiling for the camera at all times.
In a reputation economy, how does HR protect its brand—and its employees—from social media mistakes?
Protect your company (and your job) through relationship management
Reputation management is jargon, but important jargon. We talked earlier about social media as a driver for employee engagement. While the end result of a social media mistake, like the one made by the young doctor when she attacked the Uber driver, is ultimately reputational, the real damage done was relational.
HR is uniquely positioned to facilitate relationships. Your ATS is often first contact for important recruits. A positive candidate journey and onboarding process further fosters an affirmative connection. Effective utilization of social media establishes and polishes your brand and its relationship with employees and consumers—except when social media turns against you.
Inadvertent mistakes made by employees at all levels cause damage that permanently alters your reputation in the eyes of many. The relationship ultimately bears the damage when a story goes viral about poor customer service. After broad news exposure of an embarrassing action, or inappropriate statement, a reputation can be salvaged, but sometimes the relationship cannot.
The best way to mitigate social media damage is to prevent it. Consider these points:
- For job seekers and employers: A social media mistake could come to light during the recruiting process. ATS profile prospective employees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), inadvertent social media comments, pictures, and posts are common reasons job hunters do not receive a follow-up call. Similarly, if your ATS process does not acknowledge an application, offer status, or follow up with news of an interview or a pass, you could lose a good candidate or diminish your relationship with future job candidates who hear about it.
- Monitor: Marketing and HR units should monitor social media. Ignoring electronic media that appears to be going viral is an enormous reputational mistake. Use software, like Google Alerts, to ensure you are aware when your business receives positive—or negative—exposure on the internet. Reduce the impact and damage by responding quickly to online complaints and mistakes. Establish an incident management protocol, including a chain of communication, response channels, and responsible personnel to prevent serious brand damage.
- Separation: For many, the unhappy conclusion of a viral social media mistake is termination of employment. An egregious error, or a really bad attitude, may call for it. Will the Miami doctor be fired for her poor behavior? Watch social media. The Health system who employs the doctor almost immediately initiated an investigation that offers the employer time to sort out the institutional—and social media—response.
- Training: Offer training to all employees to protect your media image and your company from a serious data breach. Increasingly, social engineering is used to gain sensitive information that allows a hacker to gain network access.
Recently a hacker exposed the personal information of approximately 20,000 employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and 9,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). How? The hacker breached an email account at the Department of Justice (DOJ). The hacker then telephoned the department and told the individual who answered the phone that he was a new employee, and could not get into the network. The employee gave the hacker the code to invade the system. The unfortunate incident made internet headlines—and exposes the agencies to significant liability.
Training to prevent data breach, along with training to sensitize employees about making good choices on social media, is essential.
Social media is great for your company—except when it is not. From recruiting to responding to a social media problem, be sure you, and your employees, are trained and ready to rebuild relationships when needed.