As we have adopted social media into our organizations, we’ve seen many instances where it has become necessary to discipline employees because of their behavior on social networking sites due to the negative light that behavior has shed on a company. It goes without saying that because of these behaviors, companies have scrambled to draft social media policies to minimize these occurrences and to manage employee performance overall. In many circumstances, actions and policies are put into place to protect the employee as much as the company.
But aside from social behavior, social feedback is another component of social media that is becoming a growing trend in its impact on performance management — using the comments and / or criticisms a company receives on social networking sites to manage performance.
Have we reached a place within social media adoption where a company can (or should) use solicited (or unsolicited) comments, remarks or feedback as a basis for disciplinary action or to affect a single employee’s performance plan. And is social feedback any different from a comment card or if someone called in and complained?
If you’re a company who manages a Facebook page, you undoubtedly have received negative as much as positive feedback on your wall. As we all well know, Twitter is often the “911 button” for disgruntled consumers. As a company, what do you do when you receive social feedback that refers to a specific employee by name? Or perhaps not by name, but with enough data mining, you can trace the situation back to a particular employee?
You are in the restaurant industry and you receive negative feedback on Yelp or Foursquare, or even an application such as OpenTable. The review speaks to poor service and to poor food quality. Is it fair to discipline the employee who served that table?
Your company receives a comment on your Facebook wall that identifies a customer service representative by first name and speaks to the bad experience they had with this employee. Is it fair to include this feedback in the employee’s performance review?
Part of becoming a social workplace means adapting your internal and external policies and processes to mitigate risk in social environments. But culture is an important, and essential, component to an effective social workplace, and it’s important to weigh the risks of using social feedback in your performance management process against the impact this could have on how employees view themselves and their performance within your company.
There’s a lot a grey in this area and companies might be tempted to approach with caution or to assess situations on a case-by-case basis. But at some point your company will have to take a definitive stand to better equip you and your employees for these situations. With this on mind, here are some considerations and suggestions.
- Why should one single employee be held accountable for a situation that could have potentially involved a collective of peers? Doesn’t this detract from the essence of team collaboration and responsibility?
- To hold an employee accountable for actions they themselves did is one thing, but is it fair to hold an employee accountable for someone’s opinion or what could be the result of consumer angst against not a particular employee, but rather, the company?
- A good social media policy protects both the employee and the company. So does integrating social feedback into your performance process truly protect both the company and the employee, or are you really just seeking to protect the company?
- This kind of change in policy should also be covered in your code of conduct and other related policies, and doing so means that you’re not only making changes in how you manage performance but that you are making changes that influence your corporate culture as well.
- Determine whether actions regarding social feedback will be on a case-by-case basis or if it will be a general policy.
- KEEP CONSISTENT. Social feedback isn’t any different from a comment card or if someone called your company directly to complain. Look at how you treat those situations and apply the same policies.
- If you’re going to use social feedback as a performance management tool, then you need to make sure that you’re collecting feedback from ALL social networking platforms where your company has a presence as opposed to one specific one.
- APPLY CONSISTENTLY. If you discipline (or reward) one employee based on feedback, then you must apply this to all your employees.
- If you use negative feedback as a means to discipline (or penalize) your employees then you should also recognize them when POSITIVE feedback is received.
- Prepare yourself to respond to employee confusion or backlash should a particular situation arise and the employee feels that they were singled out and / or they feel that the situation involved more than just themselves. How will you handle this?
- Use the negative social feedback as a learning opportunity on how to better improve your customer service or costumer management rather as an opportunity to discipline one single employee.
- Modify your social media policy to include guidelines on why social feedback is considered a valuable component to employee performance.
- If your company chooses to incorporate social feedback, make sure that you include this into your onboarding process where you review social media engagement guidelines.
- Require that all existing employees acknowledge this modification to your social media policy and have them sign the agreement again.
Has your organization considered using social feedback as part of your company’s performance management process? Do you have any other considerations or suggestions? I’m by no means a performance management expert. These are high level thoughts that I have considered myself. If you are a performance management expert, by all means, please provide your thoughts on this topic.