36 HR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
“You need a policy tailored to your specifc business.
And you don’t want to be too broad; you don’t have
to have a policy for every decision you make.”
STRIKING A BALANCE
Many businesses monitor their online presence,
receiving alerts whenever the company name appears in news coverage or is mentioned on social
media. But employers should tread lightly when
scrutinizing employees’ comments on their personal websites, blogs and social media accounts.
The risks of performing such oversight outweigh
any benefts, HR experts say. If an employee mentions a medical condition, pregnancy or disability
that she has not disclosed to HR and is then terminated or laid of, she could claim that she was
subject to discriminatory treatment as a member
of a protected class. “Are they going to come back
to me and say, ‘Hey, HR knew that I had cancer
because they were following me’? Where is that
line?” Kolasinsky asks.
The team at SnackNation, a rapidly growing
snack-delivery service based in Culver City, Calif., takes a largely hands-of approach to its employees’ social media use, says Greg Waechter,
head of people strategy. “I’d like to think we hire
adults,” he says of the company’s 155 employees, many of whom are Millennials. “We don’t
as a company have the time and bandwidth to
monitor everyone’s social media, and if you do
crack down on someone, you become the cop
and the bad guy.”
Most employers do conduct some form of screening for the online behavior of job candidates.
Last year, 70 percent of 2,380 hiring managers
and HR professionals reported that they use
online information to vet candidates, a CareerBuilder survey found. That’s up from 60 percent
in 2016 and just 11 percent in 2006.
Fifty-four percent opted not to extend a job
ofer to candidates whose social media presence
raised red fags. Those deal-breakers included
discriminatory comments about race, gender
and religion; derogatory statements about former co-workers and their previous employer;
and evidence that they supplied inaccurate
information about their qualifcations in their
resume or application materials. However, a
separate study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 39 percent of
HR professionals allow candidates to explain
information of concern before they make a fnal
decision on hiring.
Conversely, don’t think that a lack of an online presence will work in a candidate’s favor:
57 percent of hiring managers and HR professionals in the CareerBuilder survey said they
were less likely to interview someone who was
Still, not every company opts in favor of this
NE W FRONTIERS
form of screening. Reviewing a job candidate’s
social media history can bias recruiters and
screeners and short-circuit hiring decisions,
says Carol Sampson, executive director of Foun-
dations Human Resources Consulting in Lex-
ington, Ky. “My strong preference is to rely on
the validity and strength of your selection pro-
cess to weed out or select candidates.”
But that can leave HR professionals and man-
agers in the dark when a social media bomb det-
onates. So if you go that route, be sure to have a
clear strategy in place for how to respond—and
communicate your decision—should that happen.
Social media has edged what once were personal
beliefs and closely held opinions into the public realm. Retaining a bright line between the
workplace and employees’ nonwork activities
has become increasingly challenging.
“The rules governing behavior on social media
are vague … and ever-changing, just as social
media itself is changing,” Sampson says. “And
much of what occurs on social media [happens]
without our knowledge and therefore is impos-
sible to manage.”
HR, workers and managers must continue to
feel their way around in a world where their de-
sire to engage with others online must be bal-
anced against their expectations of privacy and
restraint. “It’s amazing how much of a frontier
the social space still is,” Small says.
June D. Bell is a San Francisco-based journalist who covers California labor and employment issues for SHRM.
employers use social
media sites to research
34% have found
content online that caused
them to reprimand or fire