Employee Social Networking and Corporate HR

Do employers have the right, whether legally or ethically, to monitor the private social network sites of their employees?  Certainly employers may legitimately have full access to public-facing pages, such as an employee’s public profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, but what about sites that permit users to configure viewer access rights?  In these cases, to ensure full uncensored access, employers must either be “friended” by the employee (or some similar method depending on the service) or be provided with their user name and personal password.

These legal and ethical questions will be debated elsewhere, but the question here for employers is how much value is actually derived from this information, and how it is relevant to the employee’s performance or professional relationships within the organization.  Modern HR systems, such as LBi’s HR Help Desk, provide links to employee public social network pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and others.  How HR actually uses the information may vary greatly from company to company.

Positive employee relations are critical to the success of most businesses.  Logically, a deeper understanding of employees actions outside of work can only help HR effectively manage workers within the organization.  Questions such as “is the employee seeking new employment” or “is the employee bad-mouthing his/her job or the company” are fair and reasonable to ask, and answers can often be found on social networking sites.  Also concerns about unruly public behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, and other issues that can create negative workplace behavior are typically discernible on these sites as well.  Employees are entitled to their privacy, but HR operations within corporations have the fiduciary duty to ensure employees are conducting themselves professionally and responsibly within the terms of their employment.

  • Mark Keller says:

    Do you believe there should be some sort of frequency with which employees are monitored? Should it be regularly or only in the case of specific situations?