Social media sacked employees and The Mother Test

First let me say this is not new people have been losing their jobs for years based on what they publish online, it is now the services being used are changing slightly.

Last month Virgin Atlantic sacked 13 cabin crew for criticizing the airline and its passenger on Facebook.

The action follows an investigation into the remarks posted on Facebook, which concerned planes flying from London’s Gatwick airport and insulted passengers, as well as reportedly saying the planes were full of cockroaches.

“Virgin Atlantic can confirm that 13 members of its cabin crew will be leaving the company after breaking staff policies due to totally inappropriate behaviour,” the airline said in a statement.

This week Australia forklift driver, Matthew Garry Ward, was convicted of breaching safety laws by conducting burn outs and two-wheeled stunts on his company provided forklift. How did he get caught? A video on YouTube, which unfortunately is not longer available, was found by a fellow employee and reported to management. Matthew had filmed the stunts using his mobile phone and posted it on YouTube. Before being convicted he had previously been sacked by his employer, Australasian Pipeline & Pre-Cast Pty Ltd.  The WorkSafe media release indicated that forklifts were one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment in use at workplaces.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director (Health and Safety) John Merritt, said forklifts were among the most dangerous pieces of equipment in Victorian workplaces accounting for 56 lives since 1985.  Of these 19 were forklift drivers. 

Once again while companies need to be careful of what is published on social media sites so do employees. It is going to be a long time before anyone using search engines to background check Matthew Garry Ward before his activities do not appear, not to mention any basic police check will reveal the conviction.

This comes as US President elect Barack Obama requires all applicants for senior positions in his government to disclose online activity and complete a seven page, 63 question job application process which includes:

“If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an e-mail, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-elect if it were made public, please describe.”


“Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any post or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authored, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or “handles” you have used to communicate on the Internet.”

My 5 tips for managing your brand online is called The Mother Test:

  1. Make sure you have a consistent profile you are willing to show your mother. It is very hard if not impossible to remain completely anonymous online, even if you never use your real name. For example I know of several bloggers who blog under anonymous names, but I also know who they really are. 
  2. Make sure you don’t do/say anything you would not be proud to show your mother. You might not want your mother to see what you have done, but if you had to show her and example yourself would you be proud of what you had done?
  3. Make sure you don’t post pictures/videos you would not be willing to show your mother. Like doing or saying things online, if you had to explain yourself could you and would you be proud of what you have done?
  4. Is your reputation online one your mother would be proud of? You might not specifically say or post anything that is suspect but we all have a reputation, even on sites that are password protected. 
  5. Would your activities online make your mother trust you? Trust is the ultimate test of what you are doing and defines your integrity, ability, or character. 

If you don’t have that sort of relationship with your mother, substitute with your father, children or grandparents.

Career websites and your brand

Wanting your employees to feel proud of working for your brand is one key part of retention, there are many others but today I am only talking about brand. You also need the best candidates to want to join your organisation, not just anyone who needs a job. The term “best candidate” does not only refer to the best skill fit it is also the best cultural fit between the candidate and your organisation. This is why employment branding is such a hot topic in attracting and retaining staff, even in tough economic times. Let’s not forget the employee value proposition and the organisation culture are important drivers of employee engagement. Which we know without organisations struggle to deliver customer value due to the strong relationship between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. 

Best in class practice indicates that during the recruitment process organisations should target, engage, inform and respect candidates (borrowed from CareerXRoads). In addition it is very unusual for a candidate not to spend a bit of time reviewing a company before attending an interview. 

It is through the career’s website, and it’s links, that candidates answer the above questions and gain an insight into how an organisation will treat them if they were employed.

So what should be included in a best in class career website?

  • Does the site match the overall brand of the organisation? Most marketing executives would never let a print media be in non-compliance with the corporate brand so why should the career’s website be any different?
  • Can candidates determine if you have the right type of roles for them?
  • Do you explain the recruitment process so they know what to expect?
  • Do you promote the benefits of working for your organisation?
  • Do real employees provide testimonials of what it is like to work for the organisation?
  • Does it match the culture of your workforce? No point having a hip web site to appeal to Generation Y, only for them to start work and find a old school organisation focused more on command and control than free expression.
  • Is the site easy to find from the main corporate web page?

I want to pick on AMP for a minute. For my international readers AMP is a funds management company employing just over 4,000 people looking after around A$117 billion of assets under management. While the content about careers on their main web site is nicely integrated into the overall brand, the same cannot be said for the job search and application process on

By clicking the links below you will see what I mean.

Main Careers Site

Main AMP Careers Site

Jobs Site

Jobs Site

This is worse than just a bad or few missing images and a bad stylesheet. Most of the links back to the main corporate site do not work following a recent re-launch of the main site! If someone’s first entry point to AMP is via this site they are going to have a VERY poor experience. Does it show AMP is engaging, informing or respecting candidates, not at all.

So what message does this send to a candidate, maybe something like “Our marketing machine is really good, but our administrative processes are badly designed and maintained”? What about internal employees? Even more so what about the marketing team, are they aware of such a bad image?

Some potential costs to AMP of this poor integration:

  • What the abandonment rate is from the front page site? How many people get to the site and go “Oh my what a mess” or “Am I in the right spot”? 
  • I’m not a legal eagle but are there not regulatory issues some of those broken links?
  • Some of the images on seem to be referencing previous corporate branding approaches, does that not de-value the new approach?
  • Does the lack of integration reflect on AMP care with their investors money, I doubt it but you never know.
  • Missing out on the great candidate who abandons the application process part way through due to the branding mistake.
Any others?

Brands and Social Media

I am pulling together a bit of research into which brands are doing what with social media in Australia during the process I uncovered some interesting statistics which I will share. The list of companies I started with was the BRW Top 200 and added a couple of well known brands for the companies when required (eg Big Pond for Telstra).

  • Lots of people a squatting on accounts using the names of the top 15 companies in Australia across a wide range of social media sites.
  • The sites with the highest number (17 occurrences) of accounts (real or squatting):
    • Blogger
    • eBay
    • GMail
    • Live Journal
    • Yahoo
    • You Tube
  • The sites with the next highest number (16 occurrences) of accounts (real or squatting):
    • Twitter
    • MySpace
  • Most of the companies seem to have their brand being hijacked on at least one site, some have higher rates than others due to their brand also being general name, eg Shell.
  • The companies with the non general brands with the highest number of accounts (real or squatting):
    • AMP (33 times)
    • NAB (29 times)
    • Coles (29 times)
    • Qantas (19 times)

This work is completely unscientific at this stage but still enlightening, might do some further work on it.

Update: I’m calling this practice “social media squatting”

Oracle Social CRM

Today I had the pleasure of meeting with a couple of the Oracle CRM team to talk about Oracle’s new social applications in the CRM On Demand product. The meeting was setup Polly Johnson from Oracle’s PR agency Kinetics, Polly was referred to my by Gareth Llewellyn from Oracle a switched on PR guy. While my main interest is HR related, I am also very interested in everything social media so I accepted.

During the meeting we discussed how Oracle is moving it’s whole product line towards becoming more focused on the social aspect fo business. From a CRM point of view how they can make the applications work better for the individual sales person. One of the key themes was to allow sales people to use their social networks and social media to help enable the sales process. While Oracle is making great steps into this area the products are still limited in their functionality, I will get back to this in a bit.

Now I am not a customer of Oracle, nor a CRM consultant, not even likely to use their CRM products myself. But I do blog, and interact with people who might be these things. Therefore anything I say might be useful for Oracle in the future sales process, ok maybe my reach isn’t that great but you never know. Let me explain this process. I left the meeting about an hour ago and have already blog, and exchanged several Tweets about the meeting. This content is now all out there for anyone to see, use, remix and learn from. Basically I was a digirati solider.

I have to head off to a meeting with Big Red Sky BigRedSky so I will finish the run down on the product later.

Glassdoor expands internationally

Over the last few weeks Glassdoor has been expanding its reach into international locations, to the point that over 40% of their traffic now comes from outside of the US. The top 10 countries are:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. India
  5. Australia
  6. France
  7. Germany
  8. Ireland
  9. China
  10. Japan

Australia is ranked 5th on the list with more Australian organisation being listed every day. I took a run through the top 10 BRW organisations to see who was listed, all were but not all have reviews.

If you work for an Australian company join up and add your thoughts.

As part of the global expansion you can now review salaries by country and in local currency making Glassdoor a great research tool for job seekers. For example looking to work at Telstra, Google in AustraliaIBM in Australia, or Deloitte’s?

I wonder how long it will take for Australian job boards to provide links directly to the company reviews? Certainly for referral tools such as 2Vouch and Hoojano it would be an important feature to help referrers understand the reputation of the company they are referring people to.

eRecruitment systems and your employer brand

Today while conducting some research I found what looks on the surface as a bug within PageUp’s PageUp People application, but turns out is not. (For international readers PageUp is the leading eRecruitment vendor in Australia.)

I was reviewing the Optus careers web site and went to review a listing of jobs and I opened the third job listed within the IT group, one for a Business Intelligence Architect.

To my great surprise this is what I saw, begin reading the text:

On the surface this is very strange, what is a role for Virgin Mobile doing on the Optus careers site. Now after a bit more digging I found out the Virgin Mobile is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Optus, which sort of explains things. But then again it does not.

Both companies have very strong brands so to me this seems to mix up the employer brand and will possibly confuse candidates and reduce both organisations employee value proposition (EVP).  Earlier this year Virgin Mobile’s director of HR Angela Foskett was interviewed by Human Capital Magazine and was quoted:

Human Capital: Virgin has such a successful consumer brand – has this translated to your employer brand?

Angela Foskett: Absolutely. The consumer and employer brand are directly linked. People’s perceptions are very much the reality when they come in so there isn’t a massive culture shock. In most cases it’s better than people expected.

Basically the two mirror each other and the culture and environment are the key focus to retaining that connection. We’re fortunate in that any brand research that we do can be used from a people perspective and from an internal brand perspective as well. It’s about the external brand and how that feeds back into organisational behaviour and how that feeds into individual behaviour.

A bit further on she said

HC: What benefits have you seen from a strong brand? Does it help with attraction of candidates?
AF: We recognise we’re not for everybody – that’s fine. The strength of the brand means we do get a lot of expressions of interest whether it’s ad-hoc or tied to an actual ad. People are really engaged in the ads we do write and they’re motivated by that. We’ve got a very successful referral program as well, and I guess our challenge is to ensure the cultural fit continues alongside our recruitment philosophy. When we have technical roles where we require a certain skills set they can be hard to fill because we don’t compromise on that cultural fit. It’s 60% about cultural fit and 40% about technical ability with the belief that we can upskill people.

To me it is a very strange method of keeping a strong brand, not confusing candidates and making sure you are attracting the right cultural fit.

Jobs on the go

Over the last couple of weeks I have been pondering the impact of the mobile web on recruitment. As such I have been thinking through several possible use cases but at this stage I have not found the killer app.

We have already seen several companies trying to use SMS notifications for job adverts and shift notifications but let’s take it a step further.

Using your mobile phone to search the average job board for a new offering is probably not going to be the killer app in this area. Other areas:

  • Branding, branding, branding
  • Mobile friendly pages
  • SMS notifications of new jobs posted that match your requirements, this would allow you to be first to view the job
  • SMS notifications from your ATS reminding candidates of job interview times and maps, might even include links to transport sites etc anything to help the candidate get to the interview on time
  • SMS notifications from your ATS reminding recruiters and/or managers of interviews or if a hard to fill position has an application (doubtful application but you never know)
  • Using QR Codes to provide additional content at job fairs
  • Placing QR Code stickers around job fairs or University campus’s to generate a buzz for your brand, of course you will have a mobile friendly landing page, maybe even use a .mobi domain

In case you don’t know what a QR Code is, from Wikipeidia:

QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards or just about any object that a user might need information about. A user having a camera phone equipped with the correct reader software can scan the image of the QR Code causing the phone’s browser to launch and redirect to the programmed URL. This act of linking from physical world objects is known as a hardlink or physical world hyperlinks.

Here is one that directs you to Inspecht:


Update: There has been a bit of a further uptake in Australia on QR Codes with an article in the IT Australian today.

Innovating to Reboot

Over last several months I have gone through several changes in my life which has resulted in me reviewing many things.

I have been struggling with how to conduct this process, but I figured it is a bit like a reboot but I can’t really turn myself off and on again like a computer now can I. Then I remembered the 10 areas for innovation from Doblin, while designed for product and organisational innovation I figured it might also work for me to complete my “reboot” process, which in some part is a review of my personal brand.

The 10 areas for innovation are split into 4 main categories; Finance, Process, Offerings & Delivery, below I have outlines some of my initial thoughts on how they can be applied to a personal reboot.


The finance has two components your business model and you networks/alliances.

The first part business model, covers how you make money. Can you change this? Supplement it? Begin consulting or take a full time role in a company. If you are a consultant, could you create a “product” out of your knowledge and sell that on top of your billable hours, this sort of decision allows you to make money while not actually out working. Remember that this decision will either influence or be influenced by the rest of the innovation areas. For example it is not very good if you want to be a consultant but are not involved in a professional network.

The second covers your social/professional networks and alliances and what new arranges you could make for mutual benefits. Are there new or different groups you could get involved with? Could you take a more active role in an existing network? Involvement in networks and alliances increases your visibility and this will in time translate to additional work and income.


The process section covers both enabling and core processes. Enabling process look at how you support core processes, for example time management, exercise, and social activities. Review these processes; can you modify or update to help support your new direction, will an update open the doors to a new direction? Remember if your enabling processes are not supportive of your overall requirements then you quite possibly will fail or not operate at 100% efficiency.

Following your enabling processes you now need to review your core processes. Your core processes are the things that make you and your offering function, for innovation here look at ways you can create new value, do you need to update your education, or if you are a consultant/product provider how about some aggressive volume/pricing/delivery contracts?


The offerings area starts to get a little more complex, this area covers your performance, your systems or services. How can you innovate these fundamental items so as to modify what you deliver? Examples are can you adjust your product or service offerings and maybe package as a series of deals, example IT consultants could provide proactive system health check services instead of after the even reactive services. Think outside the box here, the more ideas the better.


Having relooked at your revenue streams, processes and offerings, it is now time to look at how you deliver these offerings to the marketplace, in marketing speak this is your “Go To Market” strategy. Essentially you are looking at how you take your offerings to market. Examples if you physically visit clients can you do more virtual or remote work to allow more freedom? How to you communicate your offerings? Have you updated your resume, your web sites, brochures, blog etc. Do you need to update your wardrobe to reflect your new offerings? Do you need to market yourself as a brand? If you are now a brand make sure you pass the 15 words or less contest challenge to describe yourself & your brand. In fact if you follow Tom Peter’s advice on creating Brand You, you will most likely have rebooted yourself.

While I have looked at using the 10 areas for personal innovation, managers and leaders could do the same to reboot their teams or departments.

When your social graph breaks

There is a lot of talk these days about social graphs, a newish term used to describe our online social relationships across the myriad of web sites these days. If you are unsure what a social graph is read this description from Jeremiah Owyang.

Another common discussion at the moment is the cross over of all these different social networks and pain they cause. USA Today had a story last week about this with several examples of where people’s different networks collided and too much information was shared across the boundaries.

If you are online you need to manage your social graph and decide up front how you want to manage your different identities. Will you let them merge, do they have to kept separate and what happens if they do merge? Are you concerned about what your online identity will do for your personal brand?

These are all question the think about. Especially given that it is fairly common practice for potential employers to use the internet for background searching on candidates.

Today I read a report that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission “upheld Telstra’s appeal against an earlier ruling that Carlie Streeter be reinstated and paid compensation for being unjustly sacked following the romp last February”. What happened after a Christmas party a few employees stayed in a hotel and she had sex with another male employee while other employees were in the same room. The other employees claimed sexual harassment. It’s more complex than that but I hope you get the picture. This got me thinking where do the boundaries lie online?

It is fairly common for executives to be sacked if they do something that not in the best interests of the company, mainly because they are the public face of an organisation and should be a role model.

But with everyone possibly having a public identity and if public identity is associated with their employers could they also be will also be sacked. We all know of bloggers who have lost their jobs for posting confidential information or lying this is not what I am talking about. I’m talking about the person who posts, clearly outside of work hours, on their Facebook, MySpace or other account that they might of “hooked up” with someone, got drunk on the weekend, or discussed religion or sexuality and loses their jobs. I know that an investigation would be held and it might be found that they were using company time to interact online or some other “excuse” to justify the sacking.

But where will the boundaries lie? Will we all have to become politically correct just to stay employed? Who decides what is appropriate? Will what’s appropriate for a 25 year old entry level employee be the same as a 45 year old mid-level manager?

I don’t have any examples of this so if they are out there I would really like to read them.

Twitter influence and follower growth

There are several classic cliché’s such as “money makes money” and “success breeds success” that basically mean the more you have of something the more you get. Normally I would dispute these concepts but I am starting to question my personal perspectives.

Two things have happened to make this happen. Firstly I spent an hour or so finding as many active Twitters from Melbourne to find out more about what is happening locally and secondly the launch of TwitterPoster Australia. Key here is TwitterPoster rates people with more followers as having a greater influence.

Why are these things important? A proportion of the Melbourne Twitters I “friended” also friended me and this in turn increased my so called influence on TwitterPoster, which drove more friends and the spiral began.

It took almost 6 months to get the first 100, but in 3 weeks my followers have grown from around 180 to over 330. Ok for some with 1,000’s of followers this is nothing but for an average shmuck like me it is very cool.

But really what has changed? Not a lot, other than another 150 people listening to my Twitter dribble.

The next trick is to work out what to do, if anything, with all this influence :-). Actually that starts to move into personal branding which is a whole other post.