The Foolishness of Fencing in Facebook

courtesy of

courtesy of

The topic of corporate “fencing” of social media sites has been circulating around many of the community groups I’ve recently engaged.  While there are always two perspectives to consider for every action, I think this article from Marketing Profs sums it up well:

In a post at the Acidlabs blog, Stephen Collins points to the results of a recent survey that found a whopping 55 percent of Australian employers blocked workplace access to social networks like Facebook; the proportion is smaller elsewhere—20 percent in Britain, 12 percent in France and 10 percent in Germany—but still represents a huge number of companies.

“I’m firmly of the view that this is a foolish approach by business,” says Collins, explaining that the policy insults employees by assuming they’ll behave like irresponsible children. Instead, he proposes the implementation of sensible guidelines. “I’d suggest that it’s very okay to use Facebook to stay in contact with industry peer groups at work,” he notes as an example, “but demonstrably not okay to use Facebook to play zombie games or Scrabble at work.”

Here are some of his recommendations:

> Use employee feedback to write a policy that sets clear parameters and consequences.
> Teach employees how social networks operate, and how to make the most of their business potential.
> Encourage them to engage in ways that will enhance innovation at your company.

The Po!nt: According to Collins, sites like Facebook are not inherently anti-productive. “Social networks are just another tool that have incredible potential to help your business if used in the right way,” he says.

So my question to you is:  Is fencing social media sites the most responsible way to manage employee communications?  Should corporations fence these channels for employees?  Or is there another way that might be better for both the employee and company that is productive, yet secure?

3 Responses to “The Foolishness of Fencing in Facebook”

  1. DowntownMakeoverDude Says:

    I think this falls under the general misconception that Facebook is purely stuff in the ‘OMG did you see Vivian’s hair today?’ type gossip.
    Being an IT person, I can understand/appreciate larger corporations with 100+ employees wanting workers to refrain from social media web sites.

    However as more and more people switch to smartphones, which work on their own networks and can’t be blocked (except maybe on company phones), employees will find it increasingly hard to control this, as most social networking sites don’t regular a computer anymore, simply a cell phone that is somewhat advanced.
    So I agree with you, it would benefit companies more to develop policies that address ALL access of social media sites. Social media sites aren’t like online shopping sites; people don’t generally sit there for 20 minutes on a social networking site…it’s get on, get off, and be done with it.
    I did a brief stint as HR assistant, and can’t imagine trying to write the policy though, allowing employees access to social networking sites without affecting their job performance.

  2. joel Says:

    Using IT to block social networks is demeaning, counter-productive and harmful to morale. Managing use of social networks in the workplace should be done through policy and procedure, and by maintaining a culture of ethics, performance and merit.

    We don’t use technology to encourage appropriate conduct in other areas, for example, to keep people from taking two hour lunch breaks. We could attach sensors to their chairs and not pay them unless they were seated at their workstations. It sounds ludicrous, but blocking social networks is analogous. It treats people like machines.

    Every company of size has an employee handbook and a set of rules about working in good faith in the company’s best interests. When employees fail to do this, we have procedures to correct the behavior and ultimately, we can dismiss those who don’t toe the line.

    We are much better off evaluating employee performance on the basis of outcomes, productivity, contribution, and not whether they have Twitter or Facebook open on their desktop.

    • Larry DeVincenzi Says:

      Totally agree Joel. Thanks for weighing-in with that perspective.

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