Stop Employees from Oversharing Private Information

Stop OversharingHave you had business sensitive information publicly hit Facebook? If so, you are not the only one.

How do you stop it from happening?

A recent article What Happens When Water Cooler Talk Hits the Web? written by  the Director of Communications at XONEX takes a deeper look at dangers involved with communication technology and social networking providing an easy platform for “oversharing” information that should remain private.

This is an important issue that is relatively a new problem for organizations to address with the meteoric rise in popularity of social networks. It is worthwhile to dive a little deeper and see if internal networks, like social learning management systems, may provide a solution.

I discuss the points made by Paige in more detail below.  I have taken only a small portion of the full content she provides, so I highly recommend reading the full article at Wall Street Journal

All of the points are numbered and titled from the original article.

1. Be Aware of What’s Going On

“The first step to managing social media behavior is to know that Pandora’s box has been opened. Conversations that used to happen at the water cooler are absolutely happening online today,” says Paige.

Social networks have become a natural extension of our culture of communication. Facebook, twitter and others are all great tools that allow us to be connected like never before in human history. With all tools, it comes down to how they are used or abused. The same easy of connection we have becomes a detriment when private information (either about a person or an organization) becomes public.  And, that happens very easily.

“We all have friends who share too much about their political or religious views, their dating experiences or even the food they’re eating,” says Michael Brenner, author of the B2B Marketing Insider blog and senior director of global marketing at SAP.  “While social media has made some people think harder about what information they filter, others are actually thinking less about it.”

It is a form of becoming desensitized. Most employees do not intentionally go out to the public interwebs and spill the beans about their company’s secret weapon or secret failures. People just are used to sharing content without providing thought to just who may get to the information and how long that information will be around.

2. Have Departments Work Together to Monitor the Conversation

“Foraging into social media without proper experience or knowledge is a bad idea. If companies want to have a larger and more influential presence on the web, departments should collaborate for optimal results,” Page states on the nature of how companies need to look before they leap into social media.

Social media as a method for a company to stay in contact with their audience and employees using social media to share business sensitive stories are two completely separate issues.

In today’s competitive environment, many companies use social media successfully to communicate their brand messaging and reach an audience inexpensively, if done correctly.  This needs to be researched and planned, just like any other marketing and communication initiative. Some companies are more successful at this than other, but it is a significant and fruitful battleground to address appropriately.

“Digital makes it harder to control information sharing, but not to monitor it,” says Ahava Leibtag, president of AHA Media Group and author of the Online it ALL Matters blog.  There are many tools available to keep tabs on your digital reputation.  If you are not monitoring, you have no idea what is going on out there.

3. Look for Patterns and Address Issues Accordingly

Paige continues with her third point, “Negative conversations, for example, happen on a spectrum that ranges from simple griping to serious resentment. Having a broad view of the conversation can also help HR managers identify trouble spots in the company and give management teams real-time feedback on workforce issues, which is a great tool for tweaking policies and mitigating any discontent.”

To break this down a bit, I believe Paige is getting to the point that if your have a known, negative issue brewing, address it in-house quickly.  Employees going out to the public social networks to vent and air a whole lot of dirty laundry can stick with a company for a long time.

4. Develop and Implement a Social Media Policy

It is always good to define expectations.  Paide comments on this in her fourth point, “A good social media policy will remove any guesswork when it comes to what should and shouldn’t be shared on social media, and remind employees why certain things should remain private. I’m all for these policies for two main reasons:

  • They protect proprietary information, and;
  • They give companies a reason to discuss with employees the impact that social media can have on both the company’s reputation and their own professional reputation.”

Just starting the conversation with employees is a good place to begin. Work with your teams to best communicate social media procedures and monitoring to establish a clear understanding that the company is on top of it.

5. Create Layers of Transparency

“The million dollar question highlighted in the Wall Street Journal article is whether or not social media and oversharing will push companies to be more transparent. The answer is yes—both internally and externally. Internally, as employees share more information with one another, companies will be pressured to review privacy policies and reconsider what can be made public,” states Paige.

She concludes with, “As we continue to move forward into the digital age with employees who demand open lines of communication, HR managers will have to take a good, hard look at corporate culture. Is it shifting? Are employees’ needs changing? Most importantly, is HR changing with them?”

The demand of employees are shifting. So if the technology driving rapid changes in how we interact as a culture.  Businesses must respond with equal speed and attention to stay on top of it.

Creating layers of transparency is a great point that Paige makes, but I challenge you to take it one step further: Build a private social network. If you create an avenue for employees to easily communicate and share information that can monitored easily and NOT accessible to the public, you can create a positive culture of sharing without the risk of exposing mission critical information.

An engaging internal network can address the five points above. There are many tools to easily and affordably make this a reality for any organization.  One such software solution is TOPYX® social learning management system (LMS).  TOPYX is known for the social learning tools it proves and can act as your learning management center, all in one place, to keep users involved.

There are no user fees or storage fees with TOPYX and it is a completely hosted solution so there is no additional burden to your IT department.

See for yourself how it can help create a secure network of sharing for your organization to deter public ‘oversharing’ of information with a free social LMS demo of TOPYX.

As social networks become more popular and people get used to sharing information, it is time for businesses to step up and make internal networks more readily available. It is easy to do so and can save a lot of cleanup down the road.

Jeffrey A. Roth
Vice President, Marketing and Communications
[email protected]

Interactyx Limited

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