This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.
Enterprise social collaboration platforms, such as Microsoft’s Yammer and Teams, allow users to interact and collaborate in wholly new ways, empowering them to quickly share ideas, experiences and views with a wide audience. When implemented correctly, these platforms can improve productivity because teams of co-workers can collaborate on projects seamlessly. Meanwhile important communications – such as product recalls or event announcements – can be disseminated instantly.
However, these platforms do pose risks. Social collaboration can quickly turn private venting of a personal grievance into something that harms a company’s reputation or cost an employee their job. Other risks include the misuse of confidential information, disparaging remarks about the business or employees, cyber bullying and inappropriate non-business use.
The wider misuse of the internet and social collaboration by corporate workers costs the economy billions of dollars annually. Employees are increasingly using working hours to check personal social networking sites and employers are also grappling with issues of defamation, cyber bullying, freedom of speech and the invasion of privacy.
To overcome these issues, companies are establishing social collaboration policies that encompass employee usage, content, safety, monitoring and legal considerations and adding them to their contractual terms with employees.
A company’s social collaboration policy should make a clear distinction between business and personal use of social tools and it must give well-defined guidelines for what employees can and cannot say about the organisation. The employer, staff and unions or staff representatives should agree on guidelines that give the company confidence that its reputation will be protected.
Employers should apply the same standards of conduct for online matters as they would for offline matters, giving examples of what might be classified as defamation or a breach of confidentiality and listing the possible penalties for a breach. Similarly, employers should set rules outlining what information employees may disclose, and the opinions they may express, when writing blogs and social media posts. It can be beneficial to share relevant legislation on copyright and public interest disclosure. By giving employees these guidelines, the company has grounds for challenging anyone who violates company messaging or standards.
The policy must also ensure that employees feel protected, rather than gagged, in relation to cyber bullying on enterprise social collaboration platforms. The organisation’s cyber bullying policy should be incorporated into its overall policy on corporate conduct.
Legal considerations must be factored into the policy. Case law suggests that employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace and European Union citizens now have more control of their personal data owing to the new General Data Protection Regulation. Laws also limit how organisations can use covert surveillance. Consequently, if an employer plans to monitor social collaboration activity in the workplace, employees should be informed during the onboarding process and subsequent meetings.
An effective social collaboration strategy encompasses not only policy, but also tools and training so employees know which tool will best communicate their message. There are several collaboration tools for corporations, including those that can broadcast general information to a wide group of people, rather than direct recipients. This is known as outer loop collaboration. In addition, there are platforms and applications that can deliver a focused message to an individual or small group that the sender collaborates with regularly – known as inner loop collaboration.
Companies should provide employees with social collaboration training to ensure that these tools are used properly and that everyone understands and follows social collaboration guidelines. For example, companies can encourage employees to frequently check the privacy settings on their social networking sites.
Changing the way we work will always be a challenge, but collaborating in the workplace using enterprise versions of consumer social collaboration tools is happening and companies must adapt to facilitate it. Social collaboration represents a significant shift in the way people work as individuals and in teams, cutting across hierarchies and geographical boundaries and enabling spontaneous connections with previously unknown colleagues.
To implement social collaboration successfully, organisations must understand their business objectives and determine which social collaboration tools fit best. They can then craft an effective social collaboration policy, communicate it to employees and manage change as employees adapt to the new tools. Let the collaboration begin.
Rich Owen is the lead for EMEA Messaging Collaboration and Unified Communications Services for Workplace and Mobility at DXC Technology
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