September 2014 Archives
Social media is a way of life and work. It connects us to each other and to people and resources that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. But the distinction between personal and professional lives on social media is often blurred, making the enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws complex.
Should an employer have the right to request an employee’s Facebook password? Currently, 12 states ban the practice. The issues of social media in the workplace span across HR, legal and management, and involve concerns about discrimination, recruitment, screening and background checks, hiring, harassment, social media policies and discovery for legal proceedings.
“Equal employment opportunity law is increasingly touched by the advance of social media,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair at an EEOC meeting this past March. The meeting focused on the legal issues surrounding social media in the workplace and included a panel of attorneys discussing how social media complicates the enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws.
According to recent research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), only 30 percent of the organizations surveyed that use social media or online searches as part of their recruiting and selection process have used information that came from online search engines and/or social networking websites to disqualify job applicants.
It’s important to remember that regardless of where employers obtain information about a person’s race, sex, disability or other protected status, hiring decisions cannot be based on that information, even if it did come from social media.
It’s difficult in ways that aren’t always apparent to separate personal and public lives for people who use social media for work, as their profiles are linked through various platforms. This is especially true of milliennials and employees who work in the world of online media and communications.
Of course employees and job applicants should use social media responsibly because even posts that you think are private are out of your control once they are online. Of note is that the EEOC does not plan to issue any regulations or guidance on the use of social media in the workplace, rather, the purpose of their meeting was to open a discussion about the importance of social media and its impact on employment law.
Renee Jackson, an attorney with Nixon Peabody in San Francisco, shared sage advice for employers to use social media as part of a recruitment plan that also includes traditional media and referrals. Jackson further advised employers “not to ask applicants or employees for their private user names or passwords and insert language that encompasses social media into the employer’s code of conduct and harassment policies.”
Social media changes at a pace faster than most people who don’t work in the field can keep up with. It is important to ensure employees, especially supervisors and managers, understand that their friendships with subordinates on social media may encumber them with additional responsibilities under the law.
The American Psychological Association once again conducted a national public opinion poll just in time for the Labor Day holiday in the U.S. The press release and survey report both provide a variety of insightful results. For me, though, there are a few really important takeaways to which I wanted to call attention.
First, less than half of respondents indicated that their employer recognizes individual job performance. In fact, only 46 percent indicated this was the case, while only 29 percent indicated their organization recognizes team or work unit performance and only 21 percent indicated their organization recognizes its own performance. That means more than half of workers are expected to perform well strictly due to intrinsic motivation, rather than because someone – anyone – is going to formally recognize that performance. That is a troubling statistic, especially given that only 51 percent of respondents even reported feeling valued by their employer, and only 39 percent reported that their organization recognizes employees with salary increases. It’s no wonder there are some concerns about employee work engagement.
Second, we hear lots of talk about verbal or written appreciation as a low-cost form of recognition, and according to the APA survey results, approximately 28 percent of workers value that form of appreciation. However, substantially more workers value monetary forms of recognition, including salary increases (62 percent), fair monetary compensation (47 percent) and performance-based bonuses (43 percent). Hence, money may not be everything, but according to the results of this poll, money is valued by substantially more workers than are other forms of recognition.
Finally, in my view, the most profound results concerned recognition outcomes. Though we hear a lot about the importance of the supervisor in providing recognition, the results of the poll suggest that it may not be the most important predictor of recognition outcomes.
Instead, when it comes to predicting overall satisfaction with recognition practices, the feeling of being valued by the employer and motivation to work harder because of recognition received, it turns out that the strongest driver was employee perceptions that their employer’s recognition practices were fair. When it comes to predicting employee motivation to do their best and overall job satisfaction, the poll results suggest that the strongest driver is the extent to which employees value the recognition they receive.
In addition, it turns out that when workers have been recognized more recently (such as within the past year), they tend to report more positive perceptions of their supervisor’s effectiveness at providing recognition, the perceived value of the recognition they receive and the fairness of the organization’s recognition practices.
So, what can organizations take away from these latest poll results regarding recognition? Well, since you asked:
- Employ recognition practices regularly. When less than half of workers even report the presence of a particular form of recognition, that indicates a lack of consistency in the use of various types and forms of recognition. However, you should also ensure that employees do not have to go a period of years before they are recognized.
- Provide recognition that employees value. While no organization has unlimited financial resources, it is clear that financial forms of recognition are important. Rather than spending tons of money on forms of recognition that employees do not value, survey your workers, find out what types of recognition they do value and find a way to implement recognition practices consistent with those preferences.
- Ensure recognition practices are implemented fairly. Look for ways to improve the transparency of your recognition practices.