I have been getting involved in discussions in my council about the legitimate use of social networking sites for business purposes, the pilot project with our Youth Service is one example of what we are trying to do around exploring the possibilities, but what this has done is raised the issue about staff access to sites during work time and whether or not staff should or should have access.
I am pleased to say that the current thinking in my authority is not to “ban” access altogether, although we did get close to doing that, but to better understand how it can be used and to also provide a policy which protects the council and all of the staff, should something go wrong as well as raise awareness of digital footprint and guidelines for online participation, very much like the one the UK civil service have got.
My personal views are very much of the opinion that we need to start thinking very seriously about how we move this forward because with the increasing take-up of free social media tools, our brand will be talked about even more and unless we understand how this happens and how we can engage we will face an increasingly up hill battle to regain reputation and positive customer feedback
I have now started working with a colleague on researching and pulling together a framework for us to start writing a policy and guidance for staff. What has been interesting is that it has close links with existing work around our current “employee code of conduct” which does not refer to any online participation or engagement activity and is written in such a classic and traditional policy way that is it very hard to read and understand.
It is also in my humble opinion and important part of developing our employer brand for staff. What has complicated this whole area is the push and drives to increase mobile and flexible working patterns and ensure that we are offering a good work/life balance for staff. What this is doing is blurring the lines even more between work and home and this is where online participation in social networking sites becomes a tricky area to manage.
This morning i spoke to Jeremy Gould from the Ministry of Justice, others may know him as “whitehallwebby” about this very subject and he signposted me to some excellent links which the BBC have published on their website. He also signposted the Digital People – Communitities in Practice Group, which also has some good stuff in there around this subject.
What i am starting to realise is that what we really need to do is focus away from the technology and look at how we can better equip our staff to make appropriate decisions in different channels of communications, participation and engagement. This is where the code of conduct comes in and links to employer brand. But this also links with work that Emma Mulqueeny has highlighted around a social media toolkit.
For now i continue the research and i will be developing my understanding further in order to ensure that my council and all the staff have a clear framework and policy which reflects a modern forward thinking council.