Millennials are the digital generation. They've grown up surrounded by and depending on technology, social media being no exception. Their habits are formed long before they enter the workforce, and it's unlikely that they’ll abandon these habits in the workplace. Generation Y is also the most likely to use technology for work-specific purposes.
According to CompTIA's recent study, "Generational Research on Technology and its Impact in the Workplace," nearly two-thirds of Gen Y workers use a personal device or application for work purposes, while only one-third of baby boomers do the same.
Perhaps more surprisingly, 90 percent of 20-something employees use Facebook for both personal and work purposes. It is possible that millennials are skirting any policy your company put in place, but it is more likely that they aren't aware of the seriousness of the matter -- or perhaps even that a specific policy exists.
Common policy mistakes
Companies can make a host of mistakes when crafting and enforcing social media policy. Here are the three that we've found to be the most prevalent.
- Focusing on lost productivity, instead of noting the benefits: Sixty-four percent of employees in our study agreed that using social media at work for personal purposes was a threat to productivity, yet ignoring the benefits of social media can stall your company's overall growth. A whitepaper from Harvard Business Review found that nearly 80 percent of organizations are using or plan to use social platforms as business tools. That number is only set to increase.
- Establishing one policy for everyone: Each employee has a different role or function and probably has unique access to confidential business information. Yet many companies craft only one social media policy. Ideally, organizations should have separate social stipulations for employees based on their credentials, access to important information, and responsibilities.
- Ignoring the IT implications: Social media policy, like most IT policies, must protect your organization's corporate data. Social media are inherently consumer tools, so behavior on them can be much more informal than email and other online work tasks. Employees can become much more lax in their monitoring and use, putting both your corporate data and your brand reputation at risk.
To promote better social media behavior, establish a training program that accompanies a well-crafted policy. The goal of the policy should be to prevent the mistakes outlined above. We like to recommend a two-pronged approach. Begin with a hand-crafted policy based on job responsibility and access to sensitive data. This means segmenting employees into groups and developing a policy that accurately reflects their needs. Then, to protect your company's data, make sure your employees know exactly what is expected of them and how to use social platforms in accordance with the policy.
When companies fail to put any social media use guidelines into practice, employees -- out of accident, not spite -- could end up abusing the technology. This could result in productivity issues, security gaps, and even brand reputation problems.
Whoever is in charge of social media policy should step back and understand how each platform is used within the company and the security controls inherent in each. For instance, if your CFO is on LinkedIn, it will be important to have guidelines or even an approval process to make sure that no proprietary information is released before it is public. Conversely, the marketing department's use of Pinterest for internal PR or recruitment purposes might not need as much regulation.
If you tweak your social media policy too frequently, it will become too difficult to educate employees about the shifting procedures. But waiting too long between policy evaluations can put your business at risk of missing a new trend, use, or vulnerability within the fast-paced social media world.
A balanced approach is to revisit social media policy every six months to a year. You might not make sweeping changes (or any at all) at each checkpoint. Nevertheless, it's smart to make regular assessments a habit.
— Todd Thibodeaux is the president and chief executive officer of CompTIA, the leading trade association representing the business interests of the global information technology (IT) industry. He is responsible for leading strategy, development, and growth efforts for the association.