A Glimpse at the Hays “social media policy”

I’m going to kick things off this week with an apology to Seek and their ex-GM of NZ Annemarie Duff.  Last week the question was asked whether she had had a dig at Momentum in her speech at the recent Seek Awards, as was the rumour I had heard.  Feedback from other sources has since suggested that it was a case of mistaken identity and comments were in fact made by an entirely different dark haired lady representing another four-letter organisation.

I enjoyed the company of Seek at an ad-writing seminar they put on at the Hilton this week.  It was pretty basic stuff but a very worthwhile refresher and there were plenty of new-to-industry and internal corporate recruiters there picking up some great tips.  Cheers also to Ross from Seek who showed great generosity of spirit in inviting me to their offices for a beer sometime in the future.

Onto other things and I recently heard from an old colleague who left the employment of Hays that they had to delete their Linkedin account entirely when they resigned from the company.  If you read The Whiteboard a couple of weeks ago you’ll have heard about another recruiter, from a different organisation, who was forced to delete Linkedin connections that mirrored names in the company database.  Well it sounds like Hays have taken things even further lately.

Hays have historically been swift and decisive in their handling of social media and the way their employees and ex-employees can utilise it, which is consistent with their strict enforcement of contractual obligations under restraints of trade for exiting staff.  They were one of the first to successfully challenge an ex-employee’s Linkedin network in a (UK) court of law.

As far as I’m aware Hays only recently allowed its employees in this region to have access to Linkedin.  Having computer systems that can allow certain staff access to certain websites, and others not, enabled them to say, “OK, you can have access to Linkedin at work if you like, but if we allow it then you have to sign this policy agreeing to delete your account if you leave our employment.”

This may seem Draconian but it is quite clever from Hays.  If an employee is using a work computer to access Linkedin then the inference would have to be that they are using the site for work purposes, and thereby the content of that account including its connections, messages and groups are owned by Hays rather than the recruiter.  So can Hays employees have any complaints?  They are not forced to sign such a policy, merely told that they can’t have access to the site at work unless they do sign it.  The more technologically savvy could still build their networks through a home PC or Linkedin i-Phone app.

So there is no doubt that such a policy will protect Hays’ IP generated during working hours, which is rightfully theirs to protect.  But I do wonder how such a policy would make current employees feel about the tools at their disposal as a recruiter.  Social media is an increasingly important phenomenon in a recruiter’s toolbox, and in my mind social media policies should be a collaborative and liquid affair, constantly moving with the times.  It should encourage recruiters to communicate, externally and internally, in a more personable and authentic way.  We are fast approaching an age where clients want to do business with real people rather than faceless brands and it is essential that personality and authenticity shines through.

Some of the top recruiters in our region are heavily involved with social media across all the different applications, but most notably Linkedin.  I would imagine that recruitment firms would be quite interested in securing the services of such recruiters and having them in their team.  So how, then, would it work if a recruiter joined a new company with an existing network of 500+ relevant connections and Group memberships, and utilised this network to generate fees for the new employer?  How would a policy such as Hays’ work in this instance?  My concern would be that it would be a big deterrent to that recruiter joining such an organisation in the first place.

It is completely understandable for Hays to impose such a policy but I think it is equally important that companies realise what they might actually be losing by doing so.  Something that black and white can give you security over IP and retention of existing business.  But it could also lose you creativity, openness and collaboration amongst employees, the hallmarks of the new social networking age, and mean you could be missing out on business that you didn’t even know existed.  

Discouraging or limiting social media activity must surely be a short-term fix rather than a long-term strategy.  One would hope so anyway.

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2 responses to “A Glimpse at the Hays “social media policy”

  1. Well John that’s a somewhat restrained apology to Annemarie Duff from Seek. I would have thought that you might have commented on the dangers of circulating gossip on fast moving social media – especially when it turns out that the information is false. Good on Seek for their gracious response to you.

  2. A public apology! An admission of fault from a recruiter? This is unheard of, and well done to you John for copping it on the chin and apologising.
    Rumours and such career killers. Anyways a lesson learnt I guess.

    There’s a simple solution to all this. If you are working at Hays and you set yourself up on LinkedIn then “Hays” should be listed as part of your name. Example: Jane Smith-Hays OR John Doe (Hays). Similar to a Maiden Name. OR we could have the initial H as an option alongside Mr, Mrs, Dr etc (sarcasm)
    Sure, you can still duplicate contacts, but it would be much easier for you to delete this profile without deleting your original profile of established contacts/groups etc.

    In an age where agencies are opening up their databases to clients, social media, and advances in technology, Hays has every right to be scared. Its somewhat similar to the old video outlet BLOCKBUSTER going bust (USA). Sitting idle as technology surpases them until its too late and you have to call in the recievers.

    I agree that Hays need to protect their IP, but these types of “grey” policies need some refinement to ensure its “B&W” and IN WRITING as part of the employment contract. This applies to all agencies and organisations with “grey” social media policies.

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