Business and Operations
Marketing Insights: July-August 2016
Cyber human resources
By Michelle Brisebois
I have a confession to make. I can’t be separated from my iPhone and there’s even a word for it: nomophobia. I’m apparently in good company because the research shows 70 per cent of women and 61 per cent of men worry about losing their mobile devices.
Nomophobia is one affliction that decreases with age because the research also shows 77 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds are uncomfortable after being separated from their phones for just minutes. If you run a business with a workforce made up mainly of younger employees, nomophobia is a problem because the need to constantly check in with the device gets in the way of work. Then there’s the issue of how employees represent the company on social media outside of work. This is new territory for human resource policy, raising a question: just how far into cyberspace does the employment contract go?
The use of company time to have personal conversations is as old as the phone itself, but it’s grown bigger now that most people have a mobile phone and can quickly text. Some companies insist phones be left in lockers or purses. Others ask employees to use good judgment and text only if necessary and then only in a secluded area. Given the angst likely to arise from separation from the device, having a designated location and even break time where texting is allowed is probably the wisest path to take. Texting distracts your employee from the customer and while you’re paying that employee to take care of the customer, anything that gets in the way of that should be eliminated. Have a policy in writing and be diligent about enforcing it. My Apple Watch allows me to tap the pre-typed response “can’t talk right now” so
I can answer texts during meetings without being distracted while hunched over a phone typing a response. As these types of devices become more prevalent, responding will become more discreet and faster. As much as you may loathe the fact employees are glued to their devices, a phone comes in handy when you have to call someone in at the last minute because you’re short-staffed. In years gone by, one would have prayed an employee was home or left a message on an answering machine. Now you can connect with ease.
While use of technology on the job is an obvious area needing guidelines, you should also clarify your policy regarding cyberspace and its impact on your business. For those who’ve never known a world without the Internet, letting it all hang out on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can seem like a human right and not an area of concern. Labour law has been very clear in determining that businesses can take issue with any activity carried out by an employee on social media that is seen to damage their brand or contribute to a toxic workplace. If any employee posts to Facebook confidential information or derogatory comments pertaining to an employer or co-worker, the company has grounds to discipline that employee. While one may consider their Facebook page to be private, the law deems these sites public enough that employees need to be discreet. Even if the employee is expressing a personal opinion about a topic not related to work, if they identify their employer on their page, it can have big repercussions on their employment. A recent high-profile example of this involved an employee of Mr. Big & Tall Menswear. The male employee posted comments on a Facebook memorial wall for 15-year-old Amanda Todd following her suicide. His comments indicated he was glad she had taken her life. His Facebook account clearly indicated he worked for Mr. Big & Tall Menswear and so he was terminated from his employment.
Another area of cyberspace employers need to defend is LinkedIn. The social networking site specializes in employment networking; therefore, companies have a vested interest in how they are portrayed on the site. Employers should ensure employees don’t post sensitive information about sales data or cast the employer in a negative light. An employee’s resumé that says “Took over failing restaurant operations and grew sales from $200K to $250K” reveals way more than you would want to reveal about your business. If employees are to endorse one another, it would be wise to ensure their activities don’t put you in a compromising position. If a manager dismisses an employee and then proceeds to give them a very positive endorsement on LinkedIn, their act of generosity could give the dismissed employee grounds for challenging the decision. You should also state in your policy that employees who’ve left your employment must change their LinkedIn profile to reflect the fact they no longer work for you. It could be a problem if someone still claims to be your restaurant manager two years after you’ve dismissed them for bad behaviour.
Technology is here to stay and will continue to be a factor in the employment contract. Assess what issues you may have, create formal policy, communicate it to your team and manage the risk – but embrace reality and work with it. It’s a brave new world out there and it will continue to evolve at warp speed ahead.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies.