UK Companies at Risk from Inadequate Social Media Policies, Finds Study

The majority of UK employees have not been provided with clear guidance on using social media networking sites, according to a study from Protiviti, a global business consulting and internal audit firm. Of those with access in the workplace, almost 39% indicated that there is no policy in place regarding social media networking and a further 24% are unaware of any such policies.

Companies without adequate social media policies are placing themselves at risk of security breaches and reputational damage, among other issues, warns Protiviti.

Social media usage in the workplace has grown enormously in recent years with more than half (51%) of workers surveyed now claiming to engage with a social networking site while at work. Almost a third (30%) of workers use sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on a daily basis, while more than 5% do so several times an hour.

Jonathan Wyatt, managing director, Protiviti UK, said: “The global social media landscape has changed so dramatically and so quickly that many companies are struggling to keep up. We’re seeing a growing number of cases where firms have vague or out-of-date social media policies that are unenforceable if inappropriate activity takes place. It’s extremely worrying that only a quarter of workers have been provided with any real guidance regarding the use of social media sites.”

Unsurprisingly, those workers aged 18-24 years are the most regular users of social networking sites, with one in five (21%) claiming to engage with them several times an hour. This generational divide in the workplace poses a threat to firms with senior managers often unaware of whether their company’s HR and IT policies are adequate.

“Many senior managers assume that their less experienced colleagues would not post inappropriate comments online and that they would think about the risks involved, but time and time again they are proven wrong,” said Wyatt.

Although more than a third (35%) of UK employees say that social media activity is not allowed in the workplace, this is an unsustainable policy as staff are still able to access social networks from home, posing the same potential risks to the company’s brand.

Wyatt continued: “We recommend that companies have very clear policies targeted at issues specific to social networking. For instance, they should consider providing guidelines regarding the sharing on Facebook of photographs from corporate events and measures to mitigate potential accusations of favouritism resulting from a senior manager ‘linking’ to one employee but not to another. Likewise, guidance should be provided as to when a blog might be perceived to be a corporate forum. Such guidance should take into account the fact that personal blogs can also possibly damage the company’s brand.”

Protiviti experts recommend that companies develop or update not only their social media policies, but they should also review all their HR and IT policies as many have become out-dated in the era of social networking.


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