Social media as part of background checking (Part 4)

Finally part four!

In case you missed the reason we are here have a look at the last few posts. In the first post we looked at laying a foundation for the discussion and about how social media allows you access to a unique view on a candidate’s character. In part two I discussed the issue of cultural fit and it’s important and how social media can help assess the cultural fit of a person. In part three I looked at some of the possible legal issues with using the information found online as part of the selection process.

In the final part of this series I want to bring it all together. A statement between the time I write this and when it is published others may have joined in on the discussion, I know Recruiter Daily will, I may have missed some critically posts in the story, sorry.

The Social Contract

Last week I was chatting with Jared Woods and Kelly O’Shaughnessy and it would be fair to say we probably have slightly differing opinions on the subject, or we did last week :-). One of the out comes during our chat was that more agencies need to disclose what they are doing when it comes to social media content. If you are going to use data you find online, is your Privacy Policy and Collection Statement up to date to cover these activities? Secondly if you are an agency have you spoken with your consultants to ensure that they understand their responsibilities? A really good example comes from SKM’s Graduate Recruitment Blog, which given their target market actually makes sense not sure the same could be said if they were hiring CFO’s.

Continue reading “Social media as part of background checking (Part 4)”

Social networking and reputational risk in the workplace

Over 6 months ago Deloitte released their 2009 report on ethics and the workplace this time focusing on impact social computing is having on reputation risk for organisations. The results are very interesting, and given the recent background checking and social media discussions, they also impact individuals and their online reputation.

reputation

Let’s review the result:

  • 74% of employees said it’s easy to damage a company’s reputation on social media
  • 58% of executives agree that reputational risk & social networking should be a board room issue, but only 15% say it actually is
  • 53% of employees think employers should stay out of their social networking pages
  • 40% of executives disagree with employees and 30% informally monitor sites
  • 61% of employees said even if employers did monitor they would not change their online behavior, because they know it’s not private, and have already made significant adjustments to their online profiles
  • Almost 50% of employees said they would not change their online behavior if their company had a policy
  • 27% of employees do not consider the ethical consequences

These figures worry me because to quote James Lovell; “Houston, we have a problem”. (Yes I know he did not actually say that but the real quote won’t work.)

74% of employees agree it’s easy to damage a company’s reputation on social media but only 27% actually think about it.

So let’s break this down

For me this calls for more education of people about their activities online so let’s re-look at 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.

(Image: Flickr)

Social media as part of background checking (Part 3)

This is part three in my four part series on social media and background checking.

In the first post we looked at laying a foundation for the discussion and about how social media allows you access to a unique view on a candidate’s character. In part two I discussed the issue of cultural fit and it’s important and how social media can help assess the cultural fit of a person.

In part three I want to look at some of the possible legal issues* with using the information found online as part of the selection process.

Discrimination

The first potential issue is that of discrimination.
Discrimination

I would suggest if you want to learn more about discrimination in Australia head over to the Australian Human Right Commission website and review the information for employers. One thing to remember is there are five primary federal laws that cover this area and each state has their own discrimination Acts. While the overall content of the different laws cover essentially the same areas there are discrepancies at both a Commonwealth and state level and even between the states. Add to this sometimes Commonwealth law applies where at other times both Commonwealth and state  laws apply and finally times when only state laws apply. This is a fairly complex area and a legal minefield.

If employers are to use social media as part of the recruitment process to comply with Commonwealth law they need to ensure that the selection process is not influenced by information around race, colour, national or ethnic origin; sex, pregnancy or marital status; age; disability; religion; sexual preference; trade union activity; or some other characteristic specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation.

Continue reading “Social media as part of background checking (Part 3)”

Social media as part of background checking (Part 2)

This is part two in my four part series on social media and background checking.

In the first post we looked at laying a foundation for the discussion and about how social media allows you access to a unique view on a candidate’s character.

Now another method of assessing character is through a process HR calls cultural fit.

Cultural Fit
Cultural Fit
To start let’s look at the DDI Australia Research Report on Recruiting for Culture Fit. DDI use the terms motivational fit from two distinct perspectives; job and organisation. Let me quote their report:

Job Fit Motivation refers to the degree to which the activities and responsibilities of a particular job are consistent with the activities and responsibilities that an individual finds personally satisfying. In short will somebody want to do the job?

Organisation Fit Motivation is defined as an individual’s compatibility with an organisation’s values and mode of operation. While organisational fit covers a range of organisational attributes the most common and frequently cited element centres on the congruence between individual and organisational values. This is often referred to as Culture Fit.

The DDI study found that 90% of respondents rated recruiting as very important to essential, they also reference several other studies that have found the same thing. However only 36% said they always recruiter for cultural and it went down from there.

Continue reading “Social media as part of background checking (Part 2)”

Social media as part of background checking (Part 1)

Right now the Australian online recruitment community have started some very health debate/discussion about the concept of using the content from social media as part of background checking. All started by Riges Younan from Peerlo*.

Most of the discussion from the agency perspective is focusing around the ethics of using what is in the public domain to access candidates. There is a sub-discussion on disclosure and relevance.

In my recent post on social recruiting I highlighted social background checking as one of the 18 use cases. So I thought I would chime in on the discussion, not to mention I have a comment to answer on that post as well. But I am going to try and bring some facts into the discussion as well, because so far everyone is talking opinion, which for me is not enough.

Also before I get going most of the posts and comments have been from the point of view of agencies using the information, not employers, again something I want to expand upon.

A final note this post begins to lay out a foundation, part two looks at the cultural fit, part three legal issues and part four will pull it all together. I split this up as a single post would have been huge.

On with the main program.

Social media provides hiring managers a unique insight into candidates before they join the organisation. Now I agree last Saturday night’s drunken party photos have no place in the recruitment process, well maybe they do let’s see where this goes.

Social Media

Let us start with a definition on what is social media.

From Wikipedia social:

The term Social refers to a characteristic of living organisms (humans in particular, though biologists also apply the term to populations of other animals). It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary

From Wikipedia media:

In communication, media (singular medium) are the storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data

In today’s context social media is about using internet technologies so living organisms, humans in our case, can interact in a manner to create channels for the storage and delivery of information or data.

It is more than just Facebook, or Twitter it defines everything we do online where our interactions create and store data that is either in the public domain or being shared privately amongst a closed group.

Continue reading “Social media as part of background checking (Part 1)”

The Facebook Five

During my presentation yesterday on social media in the workplace at RecruitTech I spoke briefly about the “Facebook Five” and felt I would expand on my comments here.

In summary six (it was five) NSW prison officers are being threatened with being fired over comments they made on a Facebook page “Suggestion to help Big Ron save a few clams”. This was at a time when the NSW was looking to sell of prisons to save some money.

The case went before the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) this week where the Public Service Association (PSA) filed an application asking the corrective services workers have the treats revoked. The workers are claiming that the comments were private and outside of work.

The PSA has also stated to the IRC that it intends to seek changes to the award to exclude out-of-work hours activities from being dismissible offences. The claim says:

“An employee shall not be the subject of any disciplinary action by reason of conduct that occurs outside working hours and which is intended by the employee to be private in nature”

However QUT Senior Lecturer Peter Black has commented, quite rightly, that can anything online be considered private:

There is certainly, I think an argument that it is a private conversation, however I think that probably ignores the reality of how these sorts of websites operate,

However because there is always a record kept of these sorts of conversations in an online environment, even where it is private, it is very easy for that information to get out beyond the wall.

Another interesting fact to consider is let’s define the work hours. If I answer work emails on a BlackBerry at home and then use the same device to post something on Facebook, was the post outside of work hours or not?

This case looks like it could be one begin to shape our employment laws around social media and the workplace.

Social Media Policy (Again)

Just a quick comment. I have been reading some of the feedback to Telstra’s Social Media Policy on other blogs and news sites. One comment that keeps coming is that Telstra is essentailly applying old school thinking to a new world policy.

Well of course they are.

When you create policies they need to match the culture of your organisation. Just because it is a social media policy does not automatically mean it needs to be all hip and new.

Telstra is a large old corporate with government roots, hence their culture is still like that. Should the culture of Telstra change, well yes and then the policies will be updated to reflect that. I do know that there are many inside Telstra who are working very hard to change the culture and this policy is just one step in that process.

Telstra’s social media policy

Yesterday Telstra was the first major Australian corporation to publicly release it’s social media policy. Called guardrails to help employees navigate the world of social media the policy is defined around three concepts, the 3 R’s; Representing, Responsibility, and Respect.

After the last few weeks I think both employees, management and stakeholders at Telstra will be pleased to have a few boundaries. However as Stephen Collins said where are the boundaries in the policy? That said it is good to see companies coming forward with policies allowing others to learn.

As a bit of a review, let me compare the Telstra policy to my recommended best practices:

5 key areas:

  1. Provide rights for the participants and define their equitable treatment – Yes
  2. Protect the interests of all stakeholders, external and internal -Yes
  3. Define roles and responsibilities for implementation and operation – Yes it is covered but I would like more information on how the implementation will take place. 
  4. Define integrity and ethical behaviours of participants – Yes
  5. Cover disclosure and transparency – Yes

5 main messages:

  1. Stop & Think – Implied but not explicit
  2. Use your loaf – Yes
  3. You can always disclaim, but you cannot hide – Yes
  4. Keep it real – Yes
  5. Respect the channels – Yes

So all in all a good first release.

It might also be good for Telstra to reference some of the relevant legislation:

  • Copyright Act, 1968 (Cth)
  • Spam Act, 2003 (Cth)
  • Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act, 1998

It should be noted that Telstra is in no way the first Australian entity to release their policies online, The Powerhouse Museum did so in April 2007!

Unlock the social graph of candidates

First you need to know what a social graph is, simple put by Brad Fitzpatrick the “social graph” is “the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related”, therefore your social graph is a mapping of everyone and how they are related to you.

So what does this have to do with candidates? Well I am glad you asked.

Two things:

  1. Helps you find them
  2. Helps you research them

Simple really.

Now the fun bit. Fire up your copy of Firefox, you have Firefox right? Head over and grab a copy of the new Firefox extension Identify. Head to a page that has a rel=”me” tag in the HTML, press Control i and bingo you find all sorts of useful information about the person.

Example Identify Image

This is the first tool to really open up the social graph for visual analysis. The plugin uses the Google Social Graph API to bring together all sorts of data about the person.

Now lots of discussions need to be had on privacy, data protection etc but I can see potential.

More social media and workplace firings

It seems that social media is creating an environment where “firings will continue until moralw picks up”, or it just could be that Asher Moses knows he on to a good thing so his editors keep him writing about it…

So far in April Asher has written five different articles around social media sites and losing your job, that is one every four days! This comes after the flood Conroygate in March. Having said that this all makes great content for this blog so I hope Asher and his editor keep it up.

April 2: Facebook comments by prison guards had them being threatened with disciplinary actions according to one of the guards:

the comments on the Facebook group were largely suggestions of ways Corrective Services could save money without having to privatise prisons. Some disparaging comments were made against senior officials but these were largely “tongue-in-cheek”.

“I personally have no idea who I’ve supposed to have bullied and what comments I’ve made that are defamatory,” the officer said.

“It’s a big waste of taxpayers money to investigate us for having an opinion, the irony of it being that some of the cost saving suggestions we’ve made have actually been implemented.”

April 3: Facebook discipline may be illegal has workplace lawyer Steven Penning saying:

He said employment contracts are unlikely to cover staff use of social networking sites.

“What employers are doing is they’re scrambling and trying to make out that present policies can be stretched to cover these new areas, and in many respects they can’t,” Penning said.

April 8: Facebook snitches cost jobs we have more and more examples of people losing their jobs, although in this article Asher starts to reuse comments by Steven Penning to keep the story moving. Here we have a 20 year old losing her jobs for saying “saying no to working for shitty Government departments” on her Facebook status and then Jane Morgan who said her job sucked so she was sacked.

April 16: Has our dirty Domino crew from the US who were fouling up customers’ food. They were caughtby their YouTube vidoes and have been arrested.

April 17: Finishes the list with accusations that companies are now hiring firms like SR7 to track down dirt on employees so employers can discipline them.

I think things have got a bit out of control, on both sides of the fence. Let’s break this down a bit. 

  • Not wanting to work for shitty Government departments, fair call and most people I talk too tend to say that all Government departments are shitty. I know a heap of people working in the Government who have spoken negatively about their workplaces both online and offline, shall we sack them all? Eventually we might just run out of workers.
  • The prison guards, again my personal view is they seem to want to help, maybe the Department of Corrective Services should sit down with them and listen to their ideas. Usually people only lash out after they have backed into a corner. I have also found most workers actually have great ideas about how to improve the workplace.
  • A workplace with snitches “telling on you” over your Facebook status is a bit like primary school, and I tend to like a place where people get along. Unless of course you are blatantly causing harm to the reputation of your employer. But even then will one small remark from a low level employee really damage the reputation of a large company? The potential PR storm you could have as took place in the UK is a bigger issue I would think. Take this further I know a public officer of a multinational who was alleged involved in a road rage incident, all covered by the press. That guy kept his job, so a Facebook status is not that harmful, really is it?
  • SR7, there are always people out there trying to profit on things that might be considered border line ethically.
  • The Domino’s example, yep sack them but this is not a social media issue.

This is really just setting the scene more later, 

A final note, I will be speaking about these issues in early May in Sydney and Melbourne for FCB Workplace Lawyers, details soon.

(This post has been updated following editorial feedback.)