LAWFUEL – The Facebook phenomenon has introduced all the fears employers ever had with electronic communications – from email to MySpace. For employers it throws up a range of challenges – How to deal with it? How to ‘manage’ it? What to do?
The Facebook phenomenon, which now reaches 20 million Americans (6.6 per cent of the population and growing, fast) is something that has taken many employers unaware, notwithstanding the ‘social media’ revolution ushered in by the popularity of sites like MySpace, DIGG, LinkedIn and others.
As people network online, “shouting”, “superpokes” and other devices, the ‘Facebook threat’ looms for employers as something that can slow productivity, threaten confidentiality, risk business relationships even.
Can it, really?
Probably not. At least, not if employers work with the phenomenon instead of attempting to swim against the tsunami.
Here are six reasons why Facebook should be embraced by employers.
Reason #1 – You can’t stop it. This may sound defeatist and unhelpful, but it’s also pragmatic and opportunistic. Employees may be prevented from using the site, but they may also resent you for it and find ways to circumvent business ‘rules’ that stop the Facebook use. Instead, your ability to embrace the concept will be seen as decent, helpful and even visionary.
Reason #2 – It can be a powerful business tool. The use of Facebook is very “Web2.0” in the sense that it finesses the characteristics of social networking developed by the earlier, cruder and more commercial MySpace. Facebook relies on the membership of those who prefer something more sophisticated and often more career-focused than other networking sites. As a result, you’re dealing with tools and people who can actually help build your business, particularly if you partner the use with a good policy or understanding of what is acceptable within your company.
Reason #3 – Demographics. Facebook users are college-educated – that’s where it all began. Why turn your back on well educated, upwardly mobile people who want to network? Sure, some may be flirting, gaming and playing around in an entirely unproductive manner, but if your work’s not fun anyway they won’t be hanging around. Using Facebook can (a) make your workplace a more ‘fun’ place, which could and should lead to greater productivity, and (b) it can be used to develop a better image and relationships for your business through your networking employees.
Reason #4 – Team-building. Networking internationally, or with the guy across the street, can also be used to build teams within your own business, particularly for businesses that operate from different offices, nationally or internationally. Facebook can be a tool that is used to help build your own team. The applications of the sophisticated site with its thousands of tools and points that can connect, motivate and stimulate workers are vast. There will be people in your business who are Facebook experts. Learn from them. Let them help set the guidelines. Empower them to let you, in turn, use the power that is Facebook to take your company to the Facebook community. Use them for the benefit of your own people and – ipso facto – your own business.
Reason #5 – Risk-management. Many employers see the risk in these sites through loss of confidential information and similar. Maybe. But why push those risks out of the workplace, instead of controlling them within? After all, employees don’t ‘lose’ confidential information when they go home at night. They can still breach company policy and company rules. If they are permitted to use Facebook within the office under appropriate guidelines, then why not permit them to do so? What you do need is an appropriate risk-management framework just as you do with email usage and similar. Work out a policy and ensure its understood and enforced.
Reason #6 – Recruitment. Recruiting top talent is a major issue for most businesses these days. Facebook can be used to spread the word about your own business. You can set up your own group for alumni, for your far-flung workforce in a manner that can help you develop smart recruitment strategies, focused on your core recruitment market. In the digital age, employers are readily using online information to background check potential (or present) employees. This includes Facebook. (The need for users to appropriately employ the site’s privacy settings becomes important for this reason.) But not only will sites like Facebook be subject to checking (notwithstanding ethical issues that may arise), so too can the site be used to promote the attractiveness of your own business – not only in terms of what you sell, but also as a place to work.
*(Reason Seven, if you consider being a ‘hip’ employer important then Facebook it is.)
John Bowie is publisher of LawFuel.com and LawJobsPipeline.com, the legal news and legal jobs websites. See: www.Lawfuel.com and www.LawJobsPipeline.com