Employment Law Attorneys & Death by Social Media

by Jason Falls |

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR (@blogging4jobs), who is an HR consultant, new media strategist, and author who writes at Blogging4Jobs.com.

Social media is changing the way we live and work.  Technologies like smartphones, tablets, and wifi make it possible to work almost anywhere.  Organizations are beginning to add more telework strategies, social media technologies, and corporate employee engagement programs integrating these new technologies into an organization’s external as well as internal communication and engagement strategies.

Yes, the world of work is changing and for the better and yet an organization’s senior leaders and human resource professionals struggle with understanding these technologies.  They remain conflicted, and I’m not surprised.

Employment law attorneys who specialize in advising and protecting companies by mitigating risk are misinforming curious corporate leaders about the damages and the negative effect social media can have on organizations.  These legal eagles are advising their clients on the risks of social media without fully understanding how the platforms can be leveraged to protect the organizations they can potential serve.

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 14: The 'do not enter'...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

And it really pisses me off.

Flash back to 2007, when attorneys advise that all social media sites be blocked by corporate servers, completely ignoring a much bigger issue.  And that issue continues to grow in popularity, the Internet equalizer — the smart phone.

It’s time to take a stand.  And that means you becoming a partner, a resource, a champion working directly with your corporate HR teams.  That means you, Joe Employee working with HR to make the case for social media.

I spent the better part of the last week of June at the 2011 Annual Society for Human Resource Management Conference where corporate human resource professionals came together to learn, network, and discuss trends in hiring, employee retention and engagement, and HR development.  Think of it as the SXSW of HR.  Nearly 17,000 HR professionals invaded Las Vegas with the purpose of improving the industry, furthering their professional development, and discussing ways to better align their departments with the company’s organizational goals.

Most outside of the industry are surprised to know that the human resources and recruiting technology industries are extremely advanced in their use of social media and mobile technologies.  Companies like Rypple use social media to increase employee appreciation working with organizations like Facebook.  Or companies like find.ly are developing new technologies based on cloud computing and social media preferences to plot an employee’s future career trajectory.  Thus allowing for companies and recruiters to customize and target their message making the employee engagement experience truly one of a kind.

Technologies like these are the sexy side of human resources leveraging the latest and greatest social media and engagement tools to improve efficiency in hiring and engagement within where work or would like to work.

I sat and listened in frustration, anger, and dismay as attorney after attorney advised human resource leaders to continue to avoid social media because of its perceived risk.  This perceived risk by attorneys is based on their lack of adoption or understanding of how social media can be used to the organization’s advantage and technologies that can be leveraged.

Blatant ignorance by the majority of attorneys is more than disappointing.  In one session, I listened to an attorney advice HR pros to discourage corporate leaders from “friending” their employees on Facebook.  The attorney opened her session by announcing to the group that she had just joined Twitter.  She failed to understand the tools, particularly Facebook because otherwise, she would known that by creating lists organizational leaders can friend their employees continuing to create a culture of conversation without fear.  By restricting and customizing the level of access employees have to a manager’s personal profile. Clearly she did not.

And it didn’t stop there.  I had to physically restrain myself from leaping out of my chair and defending the tools and explaining the intricacies making the case for instead of against social media to my peers.  Social media is user driven.  It’s founded on collaboration and conversation and that’s likely something that a 5-page social media policy won’t start, stop, or discontinue.  It’s up to us to stop the advisement of avoidance and death by social media.

Are you with me?

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR (@blogging4jobs) is an HR consultant, new media strategist, and author who writes at Blogging4Jobs.com.  Her company, Xceptional HR offers social media strategies, human resources, and recruiting consulting with an eye on digital media.  Jessica is the author of “Tweet This!  Twitter for Business,” a how-to business guide for Twitter.


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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).