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Social Media in the Workplace: Mixed Results

Original content from United Benefit Advisors (UBA)

While social media accounts used unwisely may prevent job seekers from landing a coveted position, online networks also can present advantages in the workplace.

According to a CareerBuilder study, more than one-third (37 percent) of employers are now logging on and using social media sites to check out applicants. Of those that use social media, 65 percent said they do so to see if the candidate presents himself or herself professionally. More than half say they’re looking to see if the candidate would be a good fit within the company’s culture.

While a casual browsing of social profiles may serve as a useful first layer in the candidate filtering process, digging too deeply into an applicant’s Facebook or Twitter could result in a sticky situation for employers – often, people reveal information online that can’t legally be considered in the hiring process, like religious affiliation or a disability. Laura Friedel, an attorney with Levenfeld Pearlstein, said in a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management that even if an employer is committed to ignoring that information, the fact that they have accessed it could leave them in a tough spot if the candidate levels a discrimination lawsuit against them. A slew of laws, including the American with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the National Labor Relations Act, could come into play if employers misuse information from candidates’ social media accounts, she added.

Not all companies take an early peek at potential employees, however: Fifteen percent of respondents to the CareerBuilder survey prohibit the use of social media when researching candidates.

Rather than funneling their social media efforts into their recruiting process, new research suggests human resource departments may be better served by using social media to support and improve their current workforce.

A poll of attendees at this year’s Managed Care Executive Group found that 94 percent see social media technology as a vital tool to promote wellness and smart health choices among consumers. While the enthusiasm for social media in wellness programs clearly exists, only 22 percent have actually tied their social media efforts to their health initiatives, the survey found.

Employers may be able to boost productivity simply by encouraging workers to check their personal accounts occasionally at work. A CNBC report explored data posted by Keas.com, a corporate wellness website, which cited an Academy of Management study that found that employees who were allowed to use Facebook were more productive than those who were barred from logging on.

“Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf on the Internet, enables the mind to reset itself, leading to a higher net total concentration for a day’s work, and as a result, increased productivity,” said Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne in Australia on Keas.com.