Key Considerations: Using Social Media to Promote Ethical Practices

by NAVEX Global

NAVEX Global and PwC recently sponsored a groundbreaking study from the Ethics Resource Center around Social Networking in the workplace.  There was a lot covered in the study, so we’ve put the results in context for ethics and compliance officers.  How can you act on the report findings – and utilize social media – to advance organizational goals?

The study gives employers some clear guidance on what works. One of the best conclusions from this report, in my mind, is that employers have some concrete numbers to back up the value of some common and practical compliance steps. Both having a policy and conducting training on social media change employee behaviors. These efforts improve compliance and reduce risk. It's not often that the compliance community gets data like this that can provide ROI and justify the investments they are making.

Yet, employers are not taking advantage of these simple tools. The actual percentage of employers with a policy or who conduct social media training is quite low. My advice? Organizations need to focus on social media policies and training in the coming year. 

I was very surprised to see the retaliation number as high as it was for active social networkers (ASNs), or those who spend 30 percent or more of their day online.  (Yes, 30 percent.) ASNs are more likely to see and to report misconduct (77 percent) than other U.S. workers (66 percent).

Unfortunately, they report being subjected to retaliation at a staggering rate as well. Fifty-six percent of ASNs who reported misconduct said they experienced retaliation – compared to only 18 percent of U.S. workers. Retaliation is a very significant legal risk area for employers of all sizes, meaning employers must be training employees and managers about this risk. The difference in those retaliation figures is so vast that it begs for additional research.

I also found it startling that ASNs were so willing to engage in behaviors that are clearly risk-creating for an organization.  Fifty percent of ASNs would keep copies of confidential work documents for possible use in a next job, for example. And this group is also the most likely to change job within five years (72 percent of them). We know – from the report – that a large percentage of the ASNs are managers and senior managers, so they have access to a lot of confidential business information.

Despite some of those findings – or perhaps, because of them – when looking at your own social media efforts, there are areas where organizations can harness the power of social media to advance organizational culture. Consider some of these different engagement methods to utilize with your stakeholders:

  1. Host a moderated conversation group (think LinkedIn style). These groups allow compliance professionals to post content, questions, and stories – and then employees can respond. 
  2. Invite employees to submit videos regarding ethics and compliance topics. For example ask employees (and even business partners) to submit nominations for people they work with whose behaviors/actions demonstrate high levels of integrity.  Share the submissions on a company intranet.
  3. Create compliance videos (or use short form training videos like NAVEX Global’s Bursts) that employees can share with each other. Let them help spread the word.
  4. Start a company blog dedicated to ethics and compliance. Use this site to communicate values, explain what is meant by ethical performance, and share examples that are directly relevant to employees and managers. Best Buy has done a really great job with a public-facing blog run by their chief ethics officer, Kathleen Edmund. Consider allowing employees to submit stories and thoughts to the blog as well. 
  5. Create a compliance department intranet where employees and managers can share ethics and compliance resources (articles, websites, blogs, books, etc.) and where managers can add/download materials for team meetings or to facilitate further discussion.
  6. Create a moderated wiki page; allow managers and employees to help create content. 
  7. Use social media tools (such as Facebook and YouTube) to publically share your organization's good deeds. Many large companies now communicate with the general public about their commitment to ethics and compliance.  
  8. Host internal webinars that allow employees to answer poll questions anonymously, and ask questions of senior leaders about ethics and compliance.

And, as we’ve discussed, social media outreach also comes with considerations for organizations to make before embarking.  Some key factors to contemplate:

  1. Think broadly: engaging employees through social media is about more than a full-blown experience like Facebook or LinkedIn. It can be an internal network or information sharing system that is fairly simplistic. It’s about using technology to help start the dialog and encourage interaction.
  2. Make it interactive: social media, by definition, is not one-way communication. It’s participatory, collaborative and interactive.
  3. Educate employees about proper use: teach employees how to use your tools properly and how to be brand ambassadors for your organization. EMC does a great job of this in the video they produced on social media policy for their global employee base.
  4. Start with a focused approach: try one type of tool or method and really tend to it carefully.
  5. Enlist content creators: if you want the experience to be successful you need to create content often; enlist the help of people who are dedicated or responsible for regularly generating content or discussions.
  6. Post content on a very regular basis: you have to keep it interesting and refreshed if you want people to engage in a dialog.
  7. Make it relevant: make the content interesting and relevant, and allow employees to comment or submit questions/information.
  8. Tell good stories: find a way to share stories about managers and employees in your organization that are doing the right thing; you will set a good example and help build a more ethical culture.

Written by:

NAVEX Global

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