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Workers Want Employers Out of Their SocNet Mix

Six in ten (60%) business executives feel they have a right to know how their employees portray themselves and their organizations in online social networks because of the risks such activities could present, according to the third annual Deloitte LLP Ethics & Workplace survey.

Many employees, on the other hand, disagree. Over half (53%) of workers say their social networking pages should not be their employer's concern.

This is especially true among younger workers, with 63% of 18–34-year-old respondents stating employers have no business monitoring their online activity, reports MarketingCharts.

Though employees express a desire for employers to stay out of their online social-networking business, they nonetheless appear to have a clear understanding of the risks involved in using online social networks. Nearly three-fourths (74%) of employee respondents believe social networks make it easier to damage a company's reputation.

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The study, which delves deeply into various ethical and risk-related issues associated with social networking, found that greater executive attention to social networking use is likely warranted.

Few Risk-Management Programs in Place

Despite the fact that one-third of employees report that they never consider what their boss or customers might think before they post material online, only 17% of execs have programs in place to monitor and mitigate the possible reputational risks related to social network use, Deloitte reported.

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Additionally, less than a quarter of companies have formal policies on social network use among employees, though more guidelines will not likely affect current levels of risk. Nearly half (49%) of employees indicate defined guidelines will not change their behavior online.

"This fact alone reinforces how vulnerable brands are as a result of the increased use of social networks," said Sharon Allen, chairman of the board, Deloitte LLP, who called for greater high-level oversight of social networking activities. "As business leaders, it is critical that we continue to foster solid values-based cultures that encourage employees to behave ethically regardless of the venue."

The study found that various "disconnects" exist with regard to social networking:

  • 56% of executives say using social networks helps their employees achieve a better work-life balance, but only 31% of employees agree:

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  • 58% of executives agree that reputational risk and social networking should be a boardroom issue , but only 15% say it actually is.
  • 29% of employees believe the economy is forcing them to be more conservative online for fear that their employers will use anything and everything as an excuse to fire them.
  • When asked how often they access social networking sites, 22% of employees said five or more times per week; 23% said one to four times per week.
  • 52% of employees choose not to access social networking sites during work hours.
  • 26% of employees say their company prevents them from accessing social networking sites from work.
  • 31% of employees report that their CEO is on Facebook, while 14% say their CEO has a Twitter profile.

The research also revealed that more than half (55%) of US business executives say their organization does not have an official use of social networking, while 22% say they would like to use social networking in an organizational capacity but haven’t figured out how to do so. Less than one-third of companies (30%) say social networking is part of their business operations strategy:

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"With the explosive growth of online social networks rapidly blurring the lines between professional and private lives, these virtual communities have increased the potential of reputational risk for many organizations and their brands," said Allen. "While the decision to post videos, pictures, thoughts, experiences and observations is personal, a single act can create far reaching ethical consequences for individuals as well as employers."The complete results of the 2009 Ethics & Workplace survey (pdf) reflect opinions of employees and business executives on questions on ethics, work-life balance, reputational risk and the prevalence of boardroom participation as it relates to increased employee social networking.

About the study: The findings are the result of two surveys conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) on behalf of Deloitte LLP. For the employee portion of the survey, ORC conducted telephone survey on among a national probability sample of 2,008 employed adults that included 1,000 men and 1,008 women ages 18+, living in private households in the continental US.

Interviewing for these CARAVAN® Surveys was completed during the period April 9–13 and 16–19, 2009. ORC also conducted an online survey of 500 business executives from across the US from April 10 - 17, 2009.

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