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How should HR govern an enterprise social network?

Jane Hendricks explains HR's role in enterprise social network governance, from crafting a code of conduct to deciding how to address violations.

How should HR govern an enterprise social network?

Jane HendricksJane Hendricks

HR needs to take a proactive, iterative approach to internal enterprise social network governance, often well in advance of an official implementation announcement. Social networks facilitate learning, promote collaboration and can help build a sense of community within an increasingly dispersed workforce. But they can also drain productivity and increase liability from privacy and confidentiality breaches and inappropriate content.   

Some enterprise social networks are implemented at a corporate level, but in reality there may be multiple social systems in use at an organization. These systems may have emerged as grassroots efforts created and adopted by a few, spread to many and embraced by IT last of all. Unless the organization is closed from an IT perspective, human resources (HR) may not be aware that there is an active enterprise social network until there is a breach that requires intervention.  

In an ideal world, HR would have the ability to step in and quarantine and/or remove objectionable content. While that may be possible with a network owned by IT, the capability may not extend to the informal networks already in place. 

Governance begins with the codes of conduct. Most organizations have already extended their codes of conduct to address use of public social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) with guidance on what is and is not acceptable when using social media as a representative of the company. Most of the established guidelines will likely still apply, though some may need to be extended to cover the internal nature of the enterprise system(s). Guidelines should be developed independent of the system and should be reinforced with training, ideally delivered through the very social networks that are being used.  

Also, HR needs to work with management and IT to ensure that social networks are used to support corporate objectives. Often, social networks emerge before ground rules are set. Before determining the rules, the organizations should document the purpose, the objectives, and the desired outcomes of an enterprise social network. Armed with this understanding, HR can craft guidelines and, working with management, determine how to identify and correct violations. Because social media networks are hard (if not impossible) to fully monitor, self-policing strategies should be addressed and channels opened for employees to voice their concerns. 

HR needs to play an active role in setting, evaluating effectiveness of and modifying as needed the rules of engagement across any channel of communication. This is true no matter what new channel technology opens.

Jane Hendricks is principal analyst at Nucleus Research Inc., overseeing primary investigative research on technologies that transform human capital practices at every stage of the employee lifecycle. Follow her on Twitter @jane_hendricks and read her research at www.nucleusresearch.com.

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