Employers Shouldn’t Request Facebook Access –Instead Provide Governance and Training

Companies should empower their employees to safely use social networks by first guiding, training, and rewarding

While love struck teens are quick to share their Facebook passwords with each other, now a rash of corporations, colleges, and even government employers have been requesting that current employees and future candidates share their personal information by exposing their social networking accounts. Why do companies require access to this information? They seek to find out exactly how the individual behaves, or represents the company or previous company. Imagine being an interview and getting to the final stages then the recruiter offers a job offer with the only requirement access to personal social networking sites, “If you’ve nothing to hide, then its not an issue, right?”

Facebook made statements on how individual privacy was important, and released a statement on how they would: “We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action”.  They then followed up that they would not take legal action by clarifying that: “While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users”.   No clear solutions were provided, other than a shaking finger.

Companies Should Examine How Advanced Corporations Prepare for Social Business
Facebook didn’t clear up the solution, so here’s how I would approach the situation if these were clients I was working with, instead I would reference Altimeter’s recent research on How Advanced Corporations Prepare for Social Business (Report) and highlight how companies like Intel, Dell, Adobe, HRBlock have prepared their companies through a series of programs including governance, policies, training, and beyond. Companies should follow the social business hierarchy of needs, and should:

  • Start with Governance via Policies that are Easy to Understand. Provide Clear Policies on what’s expected in employee behavior on social networking, and what’s not expected. A clear FAQ, like Cisco’s social media program guidelines, should be offered free of legalese.
  • Offer an Internal Training Program for Existing and New Hires. Secondly, offer training programs, both like Intel’s Digital IQ online course for employees, supplemented with an online quiz in order to be a certified Social Media Professional (SMP. As well as offer ongoing training programs, and in person peer based learning sessions like Dell’s social media and communities (SMaC) university.
  • Reward Good Behavior and Foster a Culture Of Safe Enablement. Finally, rather than penalize employees for bad behavior, instead reward them like Salesforce has rewarded internal employees, dubbed the “Chateratti” for helping each other, and the top 25 were invited to a leadership offsite event.

A knee jerk reaction of companies is to either ban access to social networks (an ineffective strategy due to proliferation of mobile devices) or to break down trust by not empowering employees to do what’s right by demanding access to social networks.

Update: Augie Ray has similar thoughts, broken out by viewpoints for Employer and Employee