An employee’s personal LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter accounts may very well contain some of your company’s most valuable relationships. These relationships may be jeopardized if that employee quits or is terminated.
A fascinating article by Ed Fraumenheim in the June edition of Workforce Management highlights the risk inherent in the increasing professional use of social media: employees who quit and take the Rolodex – in the form of personal social media accounts –with them.
In area of social media, there are not many precedent-setting legal cases. . . yet.
According to Fraumenheim, in regards to the issues of the “online rolodex”, our current Intellectual Property standards and non-competing agreements are not enough to provide concrete answers.
My friends, this is a new frontier; and, unfortunately, companies find themselves reacting to situations rather than crafting prevention-focused policies.
If your company is looking into these issues, my kudos to you. You are on the cutting edge.
Here are some questions to facilitate your discussion:
1) What are our internal policies and procedures about storing the
contact information of donors, clients, customers, etc.? At a very
minimum, it is important this information be stored in a database housed by the
organization rather than solely on an employee’s social media account or even
their Outlook account. If you already have this policy in place – and most
companies will – when was the last time you reminded staff, reinforced the
procedures around this policy, and/or conducted an audit?
2) Are our company’s social media accounts dependent upon a single employee? A company’s official pages should be set up
so as to be maintained easily by anyone within the company. Information about
passwords, branding, and maintaining your company’s “social media personality” should be shared amongst key staff. This is crucial. If this valuable
information lives with only one person, there may be trouble down the road.
Similarly, if the company’s social media accounts largely reflect an individual
– even a star employee considered an authority in the field –there is cause for
3) If employees are encouraged to have individual social media
accounts for your company, what kinds of policies would ensure the company maintains influence? For example, a company might ask employees to set up a professional Twitter account or a Blog in order to position themselves as authorities in the field or to answer customers’ questions. Are those accounts required to include the company name? Include company branding? Be connected to the company’s account? Answers to these questions may determine whether or not an employee can legally walk away with information stored in that account.
4) What are the rules guiding employees’ conversations online? Keep in mind that what is said online is public and forever. It can be viewed by your competitors. If the data is valuable to your company and/or your clients, it would behoove you to think through how to best protect it online. Both nonprofits and small businesses can lose the competitive edge if they aren’t careful. However, too much caution will hamper the success of online marketing campaigns. It’s a double-edged sword.
As was mentioned earlier, there are no definite answers to these questions and no court decisions we can look to for guidance. We proceed with caution in hopes that our company is not the legal precedent setter. As with most HR issues, transparency, planning, communication, and consistency are key.
If you have suggestions for other discussion questions, please comment below.