Workplace Social Media in 2016 and Beyond

Workplace Social Media in 2016 and Beyond

As 2016 hurdles through its second half, we have seen yet another year with massive technological advances integrated into the workforce. Nearly every employee now carries a smartphone, and more and more people still are signing up for and using new and existing social media sites as a means of accessing the news and connecting with friends and colleagues.

Understandably, businesses have a level of concern about productivity issues being impacted by social media usage.  But as more millennial employees enter and remain in the workforce businesses are also realizing they need to balance their concerns with productivity with the amount of social media activity that is woven into the cultural fabric of employees, young and old.  

Recent Trends in Social Media Restriction

A recent study by a global law firm revealed that although nearly 90% of businesses use social media for business purposes, 70% of businesses also have policies restricting employee’s use of social media at work.  Although training employees on proper use of social media has proven effective, shockingly few companies have taken this pro-active approach.  However, those that have done so have seen an increase in compliance with employer policy and compliance with the law governing employer restriction on social media usage.

Although 43% of employers still block access to all social media sites (at a risk discussed below), this number has fallen by 10% over the past two years, which signals a shift in management views toward social media that is consistent with increased public usage.   In short, employees want to remain connected while at work but are willing to follow reasonable rules and restrictions as long as those rules do not infringe on their rights.

Laws Governing Social Media Policies

While there is no formal federal law governing an employer’s right to restrict employee access to social media either on company owned or “bring your own device” situations, any restrictions on social media use (and associated policies) must take into consideration the rights of employees to engage in concerted activities while on the job.  Simply stated, employees must have unfettered ability to discuss their wages, hours, and working conditions with one another as required by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).  

Most people think of the NLRA as applying to unionized settings, but in this context the law applies to all employers.  This means that policies must be carefully crafted to ensure that employers are not monitoring employee social media activity and must narrowly tailor their policies around the clearly articulated legitimate business interests they are seeking to protect.  In short, it is best to have a narrow policy that clearly states that employees are not restricted from engaging in concerted activity as provided by the NLRA yet should use reason with respect to maintaining productivity in the workplace.  

Syntrio Can Assist with Social Media Compliance

We understand that there is a fine line between maintaining your business interests and complying with your employees’ right to engage in concerted activity.  Therefore, we can help train your managers on the nuances of the law that will help formulate an effective and compliant policy.  Contact www.syntrio.com for more information and remember to follow us on Facebook,  Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez, Chief Counsel for Syntrio.

Personalization in Training: The Key to Effective Compliance Education

Personalization in Training: The Key to Effective Compliance Education

Personalization in Training: The Key to Effective Compliance Education

Today’s workforce is increasingly immersed in social media.  Years ago employers would ask how best to craft policies prohibiting their employees from using social media at work.  In just a few short years the script has flipped to 1) the NLRB cracking down on social media usage policies;  and 2) employers seeking policies mandating the use and promotion of company resources on a variety of social media sites. Indeed, if you aren’t marketing through social media you are far behind the curve.

With social media integration into business comes an increased desire for corporate employees to be trained on regulatory compliance in a manner that feels personal to them and carries some meaning toward their role with the organization. No longer is it appropriate to lock employees in a room to watch a three-hour video on bribery and the FCPA. Why? Because they will invariably be using social media to complain about their boredom with the training and the company’s disconnect with its workforce.

To effectively train employees on topics that seem foreign or silly to them such as money laundering, bribery, employment discrimination, health and safety and other related issues it is critical that employers take the pulse of their workforce to see what is going to resonate. What works in a Silicon Valley technology company might not work in a law firm for example. By leveraging the workforce’s desire to remain engaged in the company decision-making process you can best craft a compliance plan that comports with the culture you are trying to instill.

A classic example of personalized training comes from a music label that distributes music for several alternative rock bands. The label knew that it would not be able to get its employees trained on critical employment issues, so a plan was crafted to have a transgender punk rock band perform a training sequence on the evils of discrimination and gender-based harassment while an employment attorney (me) moderated the band’s unique story and allowed it to speak on its issues through the eyes of the punk rock scene the label was so eager to cultivate. The results were phenomenal.

Although the above example is the “extreme” example of the spectrum, and certainly is not possible in all companies, it is certainly possible to take advantage of the wide variety of customization options available in e-learning to make the training resonate better with a particular set of employees. Undoubtedly those employees will appreciate the effort and take away more from a training session that to targets the audience much like advertising is used to target certain segments of the population.

The critical takeaway is that simply “forcing” today’s workforce to take compliance training can do more harm than good. E-learning providers are taking notice, and providing more client-friendly interfaces because this approach is critical in today’s compliance environment where even the entry-level employee is technology and issue sensitive.

Syntrio is a leader in both the employment law and ethics and compliance field, with an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez, Syntrio Chief Counsel.

The Three C’s of Safety

The Three C’s of Safety

The Three C’s of Safety

The word safety does not contain the letter “C;” however, the results of a workplace safety initiative likely rest on three simple words not normally associated with safety programs: “Commitment, Communication, and Consistency.” After 20 years in the occupational safety industry, and having conducted thousands of consultation visits, I have concluded that companies where management: 1) demonstrate Commitment to employee safety; 2) have processes in place for effective Communication of the importance of workplace safety; and 3) maintain Consistency in their workplace safety processes find the greatest success in preventing accidents.

Commitment

Commitment is the single word that differentiates those who want success and those who have decided to achieve it.  Commitment is a relationship-defining term that is more often tied to marriage, family, and military service. However, commitment is also the basis of employer/employee partnerships that form the most common relationship in the business world.  When you consider the fact that people spend more time at work than they do at home, it is of the utmost importance to reinforce the commitment required to maintain a healthy working environment.  

Commitment to workplace safety is a two-way street.  Indeed, management must commit financial and temporal resources to protect employees from harm while employees must commit to following the procedures put in place by the employer, such as using the proper equipment and following the rules to keep co-workers and customers safe. Companies must remember that commitment starts and ends with ownership, as it is easy for employees to know if a company is truly committed to safety. When employees see damaged equipment go unrepaired, see supervisors blatantly ignore safety violations, and/or are asked to overlook safety procedures to ramp up production they know their employer does not truly care about their well-being.

Communication

Communication is the vehicle management uses to demonstrate its commitment to the safety process.  Employees at all levels must understand the importance of their safety to company leadership and that workplace safety is critical for the business to survive and to continue to provide employment opportunities.  More often than not, businesses take the wrong approach, using the metrics of injury costs to the business (such as workers’ compensation experience modification factors and loss ratios) instead of psycho/social metrics such as the disastrous post-accident consequences to an injured employee’s physical and mental well-being.  

Although it is important (and legally required) to provide communication to employees on how to do their job safely and what potential dangers exist, it is also important to educate them on how a permanent injury can change employees’ family situation, earning potential, and lifestyle.  Communication is about showing that the business cares about the employer-employee relationship.  Remember, as a business, you chose your employees through an interview process and likewise they chose your company as the vehicle for their livelihood.  Although most workplace injuries do not have a long-term effect on a business from a financial aspect (as their insurance policies mitigate the direct financial impact), a severely injured worker can be devastated for life.

Consistency

Most athletic coaches claim the number one indicator of success is consistency. In the workplace safety context, consistency is the action portion of the commitment to safety.  Having spent twenty years developing safety programs for high-injury companies,  without a doubt the most common failure is the lack of consistency.   Many companies spend a lot of time and money up front trying to get a safety process together, then after two months they abandon it because they can’t seem to find the time to schedule the next safety meeting.  Workplace safety is an integral part of the business operation.  Just like ordering products, collecting receivables, paying invoices, and holding sales meetings, safety needs to be on the calendar just like the other essential business operations.

The well being of a business and its employees depends on consistent communication of management’s commitment to safety. By following these three simple words starting with the letter “c” your business can quickly get on the fast track to workplace safety and stay there forever.

Syntrio is a leader in both the employment law and ethics and compliance field, with an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

Written by Dan Leporati, ARM, Syntrio Advisory Board.

Harambe’s Legacy: Deconstructing the PR Failure of the Cincinnati Zoo as an Example of the Need for Effective Compliance Strategy

Three months ago a Silverback Gorilla named Harambe was shot dead by an employee of the Cincinnati zoo after an unsupervised four-year-old boy fell into Harambe’s enclosure.  The months since have seen an outpouring of grief for Harambe and also an organic movement within the Internet to question the compliance practices of the Cincinnati zoo. Harambe’s death has indeed become synonymous with failure, namely the failure of the zoo to maintain an effective crisis-management strategy in place to avoid the chilling scene of committing one murder to stop the possibility of another.

Ethics leaders have long used the human reaction to prioritize the lives of  “our own” over those of the animals as a teaching point in moral philosophy. However, Harambe’s death and the subsequent Internet movement in the months that followed symbolize the need for businesses of all sizes to put an effective strategy in place for top-down compliance.  A situation such as a human falling into an animal enclosure should never have been met with the snap decision to murder a gorilla when the more logical solution was to tranquilize Harambe and have a backup shooter with live ammunition in place in case the situation escalated. This solution is easy to see to everyone except those called to action on May 28, 2016.

In the three-month long wake of Harambe’s death there has been a tongue-in-cheek movement on the Internet to punish the zoo online for its compliance failures. Indeed, the Twitter hashtag #Harambe trends daily across the country today, more than three months after Harambe died. Further, the zoo has had to shut down its Twitter feed on multiple occasions due to activists posting memes and jokes making light of the terrible tragedy as a means of expressing grief over the loss of Harambe. Indeed, just last week the zoo’s official account maliciously requested that individuals stop expressing their grief to the zoo directly, as the zoo was “not amused.”

The Harambe situation and months long fallout unquestionably demonstrate the need for a top-down compliance strategy in the event a crisis occurs. The Cincinnati zoo situation has seen failure after failure that has painted the organization in an extremely negative light, and has brought it to the brink of ruin. How many leaders need to fail and cause PR disasters before organizations begin taking compliance seriously? It is sad enough that Harambe tragically died, but the constant failures from zoo leadership to properly address the situation at a minimum can be used as a model to other businesses as to what not to do.

The aura of compliance surrounds day-to-day activity at your business. You may feel as though following the law and having a basic code of conduct in place at your organization is enough. Those strategies are just the tip of the compliance iceberg. All employees need to be educated on how to properly handle ethical issues, from C-suite executives to low-level employees. After all, you never know when a situation can arise. If Harambe can teach us more about compliance perhaps his death was not in vein.

Syntrio is a leader in both the employment law and ethics and compliance field, with an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez, Senior Counsel for Syntrio, Inc.