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How Social Background Checks Preserve Work Culture

Sponsored by: Fama.io

Every employer wants to provide a safe, supportive environment where people can do their best work. That’s a key reason why social background checks have become so popular. But many organizations don’t talk openly about how they make this happen.

I get it. This can be tricky to manage. But workforce wellbeing and your brand reputation are on the line. So, it’s wise to include a strong social media screening solution in your HR toolkit.

What kind of services are leading the way? And what should you consider when seeking a provider you can trust? Join me as I explore these questions on the latest #WorkTrends podcast episode.

 

Meet Our Guest:  Ben Mones

Today, I’m speaking with Ben Mones, Founder and CEO of Fama.io, the world’s largest provider of social background checks, and a leader in applying artificial intelligence technology in workforce screening services. As an expert in this process, Ben is an excellent source of advice for HR practitioners and business leaders.

Linking Culture With Social Background Checks

Ben, welcome! Let’s dive right in. How do you see social background checks tying into the employee experience?

Too often, employers don’t talk about background screening because they think it’s a “dirty” job at the front of the candidate funnel or during the onboarding process.

But that’s not what we do. We look at publicly available online records to detect behavioral patterns associated with intolerance or harassment. We look at things that, if left unchecked, could find their way into a company culture and create some damage.

Remote Work Raises the Stakes

Many of us work virtually now, so the stakes are higher. I mean, how are we getting to know people?

Agree. We often meet our coworkers by friending them on Facebook, following them on Twitter, or exchanging DMs on Instagram. So, if we’re interacting in these digital spaces, the importance of digital identity naturally follows.

Digital Screening Adoption Rate

How many companies are screening candidates or employees?

CareerBuilder and SHRM say 70% of employers perform some sort of social media or online profile check before bringing people on board. For example, they may be Googling someone before hiring them.

Risks of Social Background Checks

Compliance is a big concern with this process. What are the risks?

I think the risks of doing it yourself scare people away.

For example, you could be exposed to things you shouldn’t see. If a recruiter does this internally, they’ll see a person’s gender, ethnicity, pregnancy. You’ll see all these protected classes.

EEO says you can’t unring that bell. You can’t unsee that information. So because bias naturally occurs within all of us, you consider these sorts of things in your hiring process.

Avoiding Compliance Pitfalls

How can employers deal with these risks?

Managing the process through a third party helps squash those risks because you can configure the solution to filter only for job-relevant information.

This means you’re blind to all the protected class information you’d see if you were conducting social background checks on your own.

Key Screening Factors

What core behaviors do you look for in social screening? 

Here’s what we don’t do. We don’t do a yes/no recommendation on a person. Instead, think of flags for things like intolerance, threats, harassment, violence, crime and drugs.

 


For more advice from Ben, listen to the full podcast. And for detailed information about how your organization can benefit from social background screening, visit the Fama.io website, where you’ll find benchmarking reports and other resources for employers.

Also, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

#WorkTrends: Social Screening and the Future of Talent Acquisition

You can learn a lot about job candidates by their social media profiles and posts. But how do you accurately and fairly screen applicants, at scale? What’s legal, and what’s appropriate when it comes to social media screening?

This week on #WorkTrends, we’re talking to Bianca Lager, president of Social Intelligence, a background-screening company with a focus on social media. Social Intelligence launched in 2010 to provide employers with pre-employment screening that’s ethical and applicable. Social Intelligence is the only social media background check company that has been reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

 

What is Social Media Screening?

You may be wondering, “What is social media screening?” According to Lager, “it’s getting data from social media, understanding what people are saying online, what kind of content they’re creating and then applying that in a background-screening capacity to an employment decision.” Lager says Social Intelligence was an early pioneer in the industry.

But social screening isn’t about just Googling a job candidate’s name, which is time consuming and can results in errors. “We invest really heavily in machine learning to automate and scale social media screenings,” Lager says. Social Intelligence can identify and analyze people’s social profiles quickly, which is important to companies of any size, but especially large organizations with a lot of candidates to sort through.

But Social Intelligence isn’t interested in posts about the time you had too much to drink and took a photo with a lampshade on your head. “We’re looking for really egregious behaviors, things like racism, violence, bullying, stuff that can really affect the workplace.” Some people may wonder if it’s right or ethical to search for this type of information, but Lager says, “People are already Googling you.”

Why You Shouldn’t Do Your Own Manual Social Media Screening

While some companies believe that they can conduct their own social media background checks, Lager says there are several reasons why they shouldn’t. First, she says, your boss or the person hiring you should not be looking at your Facebook profile. “They shouldn’t know what church you go to, they shouldn’t know your sexual orientation or all sorts of other factors that could bias them against you in a hiring or employment decision.” And Social Intelligence doesn’t focus on that type of information.

She says it’s also a waste of time and resources for companies to conduct their own pre-employment checks. “When you have an intern in HR Googling someone, it’s probably not the best use of their time — and you’re exposing at least one person to a bunch of information that just shouldn’t be seen.”

Companies also run the risk of screening the wrong person. “John Smith might not be putting out real information on himself in terms of date of birth, et cetera, so how are you actually getting to the bottom of that?” Social Intelligence has worked with some of the top employment lawyers in the country to develop processes that align with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission did a full audit of the company. “We had to answer some questions from the Senate Privacy Committee, and the FTC determined that Social Intelligence was acting as a consumer reporting agency when we provide these types of reports for employment purposes.”

Why Human Input is Still Important

As great as artificial intelligence is, Lager says that human input is still important. A machine can’t detect whether someone is being sarcastic or not, so a human needs to step in and provide emotional intelligence and context. “That’s why we have a review program, very similar to Facebook, to make sure that we understand the innuendos, the sarcasm, whatever it is, at a human level.”

Say that someone uses the phrase “filthy pig.” “If you’re saying it aggressively, or in a threatening way, or as a derogatory term against police officers, that’s the type of thing that we double-check for, and our human analysis is there, too.” Because, she says, you could just be talking about your filthy pig farm — which is perfectly acceptable.

Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

This week’s #WorkTrends is sponsored by Social Intelligence. Visit http://socialintel.com/podcast to get 10 free social media hiring reports.

New Fingerprinting Tech Gives Hiring a Hand

Who are you hiring? How do you really know? Identity has become a slippery slope, with more ways to fake social security numbers and personal data than ever before. Thorough background checks — from criminal searches to drug screens to general and skill-specific assessments — certainly help uncover this kind of fraud. But there’s one mark of identity that can’t be changed: your fingerprint. Fingerprinting is the most effective method for verifying identity, and can lead employers to other information as well. And, now that it’s gone electronic, with Live Scan enabling far swifter processing, it has become an even more powerful way to verify identity during the hiring process.

Some states and industries actually require fingerprinting, some don’t. There are complex legal issues, a maze of regulatory statutes, and only about a dozen firms that are authorized to work directly with the FBI — the central repository of the country’s fingerprint database. Which means it’s critical to be as informed as possible when considering fingerprinting and evaluating providers.

This is one arena you don’t want to misjudge. So, here are some key factors to consider regarding fingerprinting; you could say we’re putting our fingerprint on the pulse of the latest best practices:

Check the requirements for your field. Depending on industry and state, you may be required to fingerprint your new hires. This includes a number of licenses, public, and private agencies.

For instance, fingerprints are required for those working with pari-mutuel betting and racing. Indian tribal governments may require fingerprinting for anyone who is going to have regular contact or control over Indian children. Private security officers, criminal transporters, adoption or foster-parent evaluators, and school employees may all be subject to fingerprinting. (Fingerprints are processed for a reduced fee for a number of organizations or firms whose employees will work with children.) Other common industries that may require fingerprinting include healthcare, insurance and financial services. Other dependencies include whether or not applicants are located in or out of state.

Don’t expect fingerprinting to do all the heavy lifting. If you think one fingerprint can magically produce everything you need to know about an applicant, think again. For example, a fingerprint may disclose an arrest record, but not a conviction. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it’s ill-advised to deny someone a position solely on the grounds of an arrest record. A summary of the EEOC’s guidance with regard to conviction record screening policies is provided in HireRight’s white paper, Checking in on Employment Background Checks: Are You in Compliance with the EEOC, FCRA, Federal and Local Requirements?

Keep in mind, the FBI database may not receive a record of all outcomes of all arrests, and in some cases, a state may have chosen not to fingerprint. Certain issues may not even appear on the database, which could cause problems later — including possible litigation.

Use fingerprinting to confirm the identity of your hire. Fingerprinting is the best way to confirm identity. It’s been called the gold standard of identity confirmation — and for a background check, this is the straight line between your potential hire and the FBI database. In terms of employee experience, there are plenty of complications involved in the hiring process already. You can eliminate one by making sure your new hires understand the purpose of fingerprinting. Now that identity confirmation is becoming a new normal, and technologies like biometrics are commonplace, you may be pleasantly surprised by younger generations who are comfortable with fingerprinting — many already protect their smartphones with their fingerprints, for example.

Make sure the service provider you use is reputable. Since employers need to be authorized by law (federal, state or local) to access the FBI database, they depend on companies that are authorized to conduct background checks. You need to make sure, however, that the data the company produces is accurate and reliable.

There are a number of questions to ask and key among them is what the turnaround time may be. A common sentiment is that background checks are notorious for holding up the hiring process which can generate unintentional ill will in the applicant. But, if the provider uses up-to-date technology, they can process and communicate electronically, speeding up the process. A clear best practice: Work with a provider who is approved and holds the required credentials, and as such, is able to work with the FBI or FINRA (for financial services). The provider should also use current systems to help deliver fast results, enabling you to communicate with your candidates quickly.

Don’t guess: depend on experts regarding regulations. There are enough opportunities for mistakes and misunderstandings throughout the hiring process as it is. There is also a wide range of regulations involving how fingerprinting is done, and who can do it. And then there are laws governing who can actually see the fingerprint data when it’s complete. Given this legal maze, you want a background check provider that has the expertise you need so you don’t overlook anything that might jeopardize the hire.

Do opt for the new industry standard. Electronic fingerprinting, or Live Scan, has changed the game, in many cases reducing the process to a matter of hours. This is a huge assist in the quest for faster onboarding — you don’t want to lose out on a premier candidate due to a drawn-out process.

Live Scan is inkless, available at multiple locations — often a postal or shipping establishment — and makes a formerly cumbersome step both quick and easy. The results are just as accurate, if not more so: if a fingerprint doesn’t scan correctly, the machine will immediately prompt a redo, a fact which nearly renders the old smudged “hard cards” obsolete. The process can also be customized to the requirements of the job, from individual prints to a whole hand impression.

Again, fingerprinting is certainly only part of the equation, and it doesn’t eliminate the need to conduct a thorough background check. While John or Jane Doe may possess a false social security number, they can’t change their fingerprint. It’s good to know there are still some things that just can’t be altered. And as far as improving the hiring experience, electronic fingerprinting offers both ease of use and transparency — an improvement for everyone involved in the hiring process.

This article was sponsored by HireRight. All opinions are that of TalentCulture and Meghan M. Biro.

Photo Credit: rulke Flickr via Compfight cc

Employers Should Share All Background Check Reports Before Revoking Job Offers

A federal judge ruled an employer did not comply with requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when it failed to send a rejected candidate a final background check report and required notices.

Lemuel Wright was offered a job as a maintenance technician at Mt. Laurel Crossing Apartments, a residential community owned by Lincoln Property Company, headquartered in Dallas. The job offer was contingent on the results of a criminal background check and drug screen.

Lincoln received an initial, in-progress report from a background screening firm showing a misdemeanor conviction for driving under the influence and two separate drug-related felony convictions. Records show that a cover letter, a copy of the report and a summary of rights under the FCRA were sent to Wright at this time. A week later, a more comprehensive, final report was provided to Lincoln, containing the same criminal history information as well as additional information such as credit history results. Lincoln then sent Wright a letter, revoking its offer. Lincoln does not dispute that it neglected to send Wright the final report.

Wright argued that Lincoln violated the FCRA “by taking adverse employment action against [him] based on a consumer report, without first providing [him] with a copy of the pertinent consumer report” and by failing to provide him with time to contest the report before an adverse decision was taken.

“The FCRA requires that an employer provide job applicants with their background report, summary of rights, and a ‘real opportunity’ to contest the contents of the background report before the employer relies on the report to take an adverse action against the applicant,” wrote U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter, the judge in the case before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

While the amount of time an employer must provide an applicant to contest a report prior to taking adverse action is not specified under the FCRA, Congress has focused on a five-day minimum and eight days as a “reasonable period,” Pratter added.

Lincoln decided to revoke Wright’s offer of employment based on his felony convictions. The company argued that there are no material differences between the criminal history included in the earlier report and the subsequent final report.

“Lincoln may have decided conclusively to revoke the offer of employment based on Mr. Wright’s felony convictions, but Mr. Wright remained unable to contest the full information upon which Lincoln relied even if he indeed received the [earlier] transmittal, given that it only included his criminal history,” Pratter wrote in the court’s opinion.

The court denied Lincoln’s motion for summary judgment and concluded that a jury should resolve the dispute.

“The court’s ruling does not equate to a blanket requirement that an employer provide all copies of background reports to rejected job applicants or terminated employees,” said Pamela Devata, a partner in the Chicago office of Seyfarth Shaw. “It is possible the jury will find that, under these facts, a second pre-adverse action notice was not required. That said, employers that receive corrected or more comprehensive reports after sending the initial report should assess the new report to determine whether to send a subsequent pre-adverse action notice.”

The fact that the two reports contained the same conviction information on which the job offer was revoked didn’t spare the employer from the expense and burden of a jury trial, she added.

This article was first published on shrm.org. 

Applicant Screening: How to Show Talent You Really Want Them

Bringing top talent into your organization is a careful dance: on the one hand, you need to know everything you can about an applicant, and on the other, you don’t want to scare them off in the process. The good news is that most job candidates understand the need for screening and background checks, and know there’s far more to their application than just having an interview or filling out an application. Even better news is that done right, screening can actually help to convey your genuine interest in job applicants, and increase their interest in working for your company.

Of course that also means there’s a flip side: done, let’s just say, less than ideally, a screening process can result in alienated candidates who would rather withdraw their application than continue the process. If there are any misunderstandings along the way, clear them up by clarifying process, timelines and expectations. If any kind of strike against an application comes up — from an old credit snafu to a lack of certifications, handle it with discretion and tact. Consideration and clarity go a long way. If it’s a problem of not being qualified but being otherwise promising, a positive approach may place them into a talent pool, where they’re ready to apply for a job they’re more suited for — and a known quantity to your firm.

It’s critical for companies to have a well-designed, thoughtful screening process. Here are five best practices to follow:

  1. Make it mobile-friendly.

Only 20% of companies are deploying their HR and employee productivity solutions on mobile apps. But if there’s a single criteria an organization should make sure it meets, it’s being mobile friendly. Mobile application systems can markedly improve candidate experience, and that certainly includes the screening process. Millennials and Generation Z’rs may well assume they’ll be able to do everything via mobile, and be turned off when they realize they can’t. It may also convey your employer brand as being not quite up to date or tech-forward — given the choice, most younger candidates will opt for a company that is more up to date.

  1. Make it efficient.

60% of potential candidates have quit a job application process because it was too lengthy. If you’re a small to medium or hungry company that is trying to stand out above the fray, there’s a golden opportunity here. Make your application process functional but merciful, if you can. Making it streamlined may not be that simple depending on the position, but as far as not losing candidates in the process, it’s worth considering.

  1. Screen relevant criteria, but leave out the rest.

You want to get a comprehensive report that addresses the concerns and questions related to working both at your company and in the position the person’s applying for. But a hospital and a software company have different criteria beyond security questions, and executive-level is altogether different from entry-level. Outsourcing a background check to a company that conducts generic, one-size-fits-all screening only adds to the candidate’s impression that they’re nothing but a number. It also may not give you all the answers you need to make the right hire.

  1. Don’t leave out contingent or gig workers.

In the latest benchmark report by the veteran screening firm HireRight, 77% of employers polled are projecting organizational growth, and 62% of employers polled are most concerned with finding qualified job candidates. It’s inevitable — and it’s also trending — that a substantial portion of hires may be contingent or temporary workers. For both security and fairness, they should be guided through the same screening and background check process as payroll and permanent employees. 86% of employers are already doing that, according to the report, but those that aren’t are overlooking a potential risk, as well as a strike against their employer brand. It’s not fair to full-time employees who did have to undergo full screenings if they’re working alongside those that didn’t — particularly if they share the same level of security clearance.

  1. Offer applicants an accessible, easy-to-navigate portal.

Candidates should not have to feel like they’re submitting to a mysterious process to do background screening. A navigable, friendly portal is the best way through the process. There should be someone available to answer questions, and if there is unfavorable information, a tactful approach to conveying it. Make sure Fair Credit Reporting Act legal requirements are followed correctly. If a candidate disputes the findings of a report, they should be able to discuss it and an investigation should be made — and resolved quickly. Resentment breeds disengagement quickly, and it may well be all over an error. Which is yet another reason to use a reputable firm with experience.

Even if a company has limited resources, accurate, well-designed screening systems are out there. The best ones help the employer present themselves in their best light — transparent not only about what they need to know to make a good hire, but also the fact that they respect and value applicant’s time and energy. Nothing will drive candidate engagement faster than a positive screening experience. In today’s talent market, it’s the edge you need to hire great talent. Want to learn more?  Watch “7 Steps to a Candidate Experience That Wins You Top Talent” a webinar on demand lead by Meghan. M. Biro.

This article is sponsored by Hireright. Opinions are my own.

Photo Credit: RollisFontenot Flickr via Compfight cc

Five Millennial Background Screening Challenges

By the end of 2015, Millennials are expected to outnumber Baby Boomers in the workplace for the first time. They’re hot commodities, but hiring them creates background screening challenges.

In particular, when screening Millennials, employers need to take into account not only what’s effective, but also what’s legal. Below are five of the chief challenges.

1. Social Media Searches

We know Millennials love their social networks. But some say Millennials share too freely. The resulting wealth of online information can be tempting for hiring managers.

Using social media to screen candidates can be risky, however. The information you find might not be legal to use in a hiring context. Information about religious affiliation, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status or health condition may all be prohibited under anti-discrimination laws. Plus, Millennials appear to have more cultural diversity than Gen X or Baby Boomers—42 percent identify with a race or ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white.

The legal risks associated with social media searches are not unique to Millennials, but because of their diverse makeup and propensity to share, employers are more likely to stumble upon protected class information. Employers shold ensure social media screening is done by those who are familiar with the legal risks.

2. Digital Natives And Age Discrimination

Millennials are not direct targets for age discrimination. But the hiring criteria you use to attract Millennials might be at the expense of people protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and similar state laws.

For example, in 2013, Facebook settled a lawsuit with California’s Fair Employment and Housing Department for posting an employment ad that stated “Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred.”

Another example is the term “digital native”—people born and raised in the digital age. It’s code for Millennials, and it’s popping up in job ads. Legal experts agree that pre-screening for digital natives is thinly veiled age discrimination. Instead of screening for digital natives, identify the job requirements. If you want someone skilled in tech and comfortable in the digital environment, use those words. Chances are, lots of Millennials will be qualified and respond.

3. Driving Records

According to AARP, Millennials drive around 25 percent less than their counterparts did just eight years ago. If a licensed driver with a clean driving record is your target, you might be eliminating prospective Millennial applicants. That might not be a big deal, but like all parts of a background check, you want to make sure the information you are seeking is relevant to the job.

Before you run a motor vehicle report (MVR) on an applicant, ask yourself why. Is a clean driving record a bona fide job requirement? Requiring a driver’s license or running a motor vehicle check would not rise to the level of discrimination, per se, but could limit your job pool in the 20-30-year-old market.

4. Credit

Millennials tend to rely less on traditional bank loans and credit cards, are more likely to use cash, and spend less than Gen X or Baby Boomers. They also tend to borrow less. As a result, many are “underbanked”—have little or no credit history. If a credit report is one of your job requirements, expect little or no information about unbanked Millennials.

Credit is already a slippery slope, with many states prohibiting use of credit for pre-employment screening. Credit information is a sensitive topic for many job candidates. It could be even touchier for Millennials.

5. Job History And Verifications

Millennials job-hop. According to Data Facts’ blog, “a whopping 91% of them don’t expect to stay at a job for longer than 3 years.” Moreover, according to a recent federal study, Millennials are less likely to have worked during school. So they are more likely to leave college without a work history.

All of this leaves a prospective employer with less to work with in terms of reference checking and verifications. As a result, screening for job history, applied skills and experience might be more challenging. One possible solution: expand the scope of inquiry to include volunteer experience and potentially personal references. However, the use of personal references and investigative reports may necessitate additional notices and further legal compliance under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

 

Image: Bigstock

Secret Santa: Background Checks & Holiday Temp Workers

Perhaps it’s because I work in the HR space? I don’t know, but I just can’t help it. I know in so many ways the holiday season is about suspending belief, even magic. Particularly if you have children, this is critical.

But the truth is, when I see Santa up on his throne at the mall, taking one child after another up onto his lap for a recital of holiday wants and wishes, I don’t just see the candy canes, the mistletoe, and the happy, excited faces. I also see a temporary worker who likely didn’t undergo a proper background check. And as I wait for my own daughter to take her turn, my mind runs away a bit on me. Not necessarily always down the darkest of roads (though sadly, you’d be shocked at how often “Santa” gets hired without a proper sex offender registry search), but simply through the facts and realities.

Why so often don’t temporary workers receive background checks? After all, they’re brand ambassadors, pure and simple. And they’re fulfilling that role at a crucial time, when brands are as on display as they’ll ever be, and emotions are running as high as they’re ever going to. Ever been in a Target the week before Christmas? Watch out!

Most importantly, we trust these individuals. Whether it’s the UPS drivers carrying our gifts to loved ones, or holiday characters delighting our children with songs and laughter, we’re in deep with these individuals, and we need assurance that they’re trustworthy.

As for the employers, their necks are way out during the holiday season, and for many, success or failure at this time of year can dictate months of results to follow. They need to know the boots they’re putting on the ground are reliable ones, and that their temporary teams will represent them with the same rigor, decency, tact, and hospitality as their core staff. So while I know it’s easy to let things slide when the holiday heat is on, I just can’t help but worry when I know those checks aren’t in place the way they ought to be.

Fortunately, executing this kind of responsible due diligence isn’t as challenging as it might seem. My friends at EmployeeScreenIQ offer everything from comprehensive policies and guidelines to simple, straightforward tips that companies can take advantage of an implement right away. Probably the most important thing they’ll tell you? Don’t go DIY. A Google search is NOT a background check!

Listen, thousands and thousands of kind, decent, hard-working employees line up to take extra work during the holiday season every year, and we are all grateful to them, and by and large, they all do a wonderful job. But there are always bad apples, and they’re always going to seek out the path of least resistance, so this holiday season, companies need to redouble their efforts to close that margin of error, so we can all get back to believing in the magic!

About the Author: Katrina Busselle is Vice President of Client Services for fisher VISTA a marketing and media relations firm that specializes in reaching the HR marketplace.

photo credit: Seattleye via photopin cc

The Social Workplace: Nowhere To Hide #TChat Recap

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”
–Dalai Lama

Excellent point. But the Dalai Lama’s quote begs a key question: In the social workplace, how much transparency is too much? Moreover, what does “privacy” really mean today, for employees as well as employers?

Obviously, there are no simple answers. And best practices only continue to shift, as social tools and conventions evolve. However, this issue affects everyone in the world of work. So that’s why TalentCulture invited a social-media-savvy HR attorney to help our community explore these issues at this week’s #TChat forums. We were thrilled to welcome Mary Wright, former General Counsel at employment litigation firm Ogletree Deakins, and founding Editor of HR Gazette, a daily online newspaper for HR professionals and employment lawyers. (For event highlights, see the links and Storify slideshow at the end of this post.)

Social Disclosure: Less Is More. Or Is It?

Ubiquitous social media channels. Smartphones with cameras. (Does anyone remember “old school” film cartridges anymore?) Circles of “friends” we’ve never even met face-to-face. It seems like nothing is truly private anymore. Most of us share photos, post comments and tell the world whatever pops into our minds throughout the day. But how does all that activity expose us professionally in unwanted ways? And what are the implications for the organizations we represent?

Here’s the kicker question: In an open social environment, how can companies encourage employees to serve as brand ambassadors, while ensuring that those same individuals use appropriate discretion?

Knowledge Is Power

As many #TChat participants noted this week, the answers start at the top. Senior executives must lead by example and encourage others to follow. Treating employees with candor and respect means that candor and respect will likely be returned. Communicating company objectives and priorities helps employees feel valued and empowered. And clarifying social policies provides a framework that makes it easier for employees to comply. Sharing more information with employees doesn’t need to put employers at risk. Instead, it can create a spirit of collaboration and strengthen employee engagement.

At the same time, employers should respect employee privacy. Again, leading by example is key. Managers should avoid gossip around the office and outside of work. This sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? And yet, I’ve overheard managers openly discussing an employee’s personal hardships, including private medical information. When managers breach that kind of trust, it leaves a memorable impression for everyone involved.

Amplify This? Think Before You Go Social

These days, social media adds another dimension. Employers can no longer afford to operate without documented social media policies. But what should the guiding principle be? Here’s a simple idea from Dave Ryan:

And what is an employee’s responsibility when interpreting social policies? Jen Olney offered sound advice:

https://twitter.com/gingerconsult/status/383017281405853696

Or perhaps for some of us, that sequence should be Stop. Think. Stop some more…and more…and more…then send.

In other words, before posting a comment or photo, consider for a moment who may see that information. How might they perceive it — for better or worse? Ask yourself, “Would I want my grandmother or daughter to see what I am about to make public?” Remember, once you post it, you won’t have control over where it may be seen, or how it will be interpreted. So perhaps the very best policy is for each of us to take responsibility for ourselves, and err on the side of caution.

To see more about this week’s conversation, see the resource links and Storify highlights slideshow below. And if you have ideas, feel free to share a comment, or post in the #TChat stream. This is just the start of an ongoing dialogue — so please weigh-in anytime!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Workplace Privacy vs. Transparency

SAT 9/21:

Mary Wright

Watch the Hangout with Mary Wright now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald framed the topic in a post that features a brief G+ Hangout video with our guest, Mary Wright. Read the Preview:
“TMI: A Fresh Take On Privacy By An HR Lawyer.”

SUN 9/22:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro outlined 5 issues for business leaders to consider about transparency in today’s social world. Read: “Private Workplace Lives In a Public Social Age.”

MON 9/23:

Related Article: Entrepreneur David Hassell talked about why and how trust is the most precious currency for any new venture. Read: “Want to Build a Business? Lead With Trust.”

TUE 9/24:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro shared compelling leadership lessons learened from a cultural clash at a software company in transition. Read: “5 Social Skills Business Leaders Must Master.”

WED 9/25:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with Mary Wright about legal issues and implications surrounding privacy in the workplace — from multiple perspectives: employers, employees and job candidates. Listen to the radio show recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, hundreds of community members gathered with Mary on the #TChat Twitter stream for an expanded discussion about this topic. For highlights from the event, see the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Transparency vs. Privacy In The Workplace

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Mary Wright for adding your insights to this week’s discussion. Your legal and HR expertise added depth and perspective to a topic that increasingly affects us all.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about information sharing in the new era of social business? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we tackle another “world of work” hot topic — The Dark Side of Workplace Effectiveness — along with two of the HR community’s best-known social commentators: John Sumser, editor-in-chief of HRExaminer; and William Tincup, CEO of HR consultancy Tincup & Co. So save the date (October 2) for another rockin #TChat double-header.

In the meantime, we’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Pixabay

TMI? Fresh Take on Privacy by an HR Lawyer #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Want to see complete highlights and resource links from this week’s #TChat events? Read the recap: “The Social Workplace: Nowhere To Hide.”)

For better or worse, much of today’s world of work now plays out on a relatively open, social stage. Many of us — employers, employees and job candidates alike — welcome this as progress. However, it also raises core legal questions about transparency and confidentiality on all sides of the employment equation.

It’s like a scene from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. How do you know if you’re openly exchanging too much information? Too little? Or just the right amount? What business practices are accepted in your organization? What does common sense tell you? And what would a lawyer do?

Fortunately for the TalentCulture community, a smart, HR-savvy attorney is in the #TChat house this week to advise us about these issues!

Our guest expert this week is Mary Wright, former General Counsel of Ogletree Deakins, a premier employment litigation firm, and founding Editor of HR Gazette, a daily online newspaper for HR professionals and employment lawyers.

To kick-off this week’s conversation, I spoke briefly with Mary in a G+ Hangout, where she explained why it’s time to recast “privacy rights” workplace issues in a more positive light:

#TChat Events: Transparency vs. Privacy in the World of Work

This promises to be an enlightening week for HR and recruiting professionals, as well as employees and job seekers everywhere. So join us with your questions, concerns, ideas and opinions!

#TChat Radio — Wed, Sep 25 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

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Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Mary Wright about legal issues and implications surrounding privacy in the workplace — from the perspective of employers as well as employees and job candidates. Tune-in to the interview LIVE online, and call-in with your comments and questions!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Sep 25 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move the discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream, for an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Anyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: What does transparency and privacy in the workplace mean to you?
Q2: Are transparency and privacy essential to orderly and efficient workplaces?
Q3: What are the most common legal mistakes employers and employees make with one another?
Q4: What can business leaders do to balance the two and avoid legal trouble?
Q5: How does technology enable and hinder transparency and privacy in the workplace?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!