Social networking sites, such as Twitter
and facebook in particular, are featuring significantly in online debates at the moment, principally for two reasons it seems:
* Employers are using social networking sites to 'check out' candidates before extending job offers
* Employers are complaining about the time 'wasted' by employees who use these sites regularly at work
If you are currently in HR, and find yourself proposing policy changes to limit use of social networking sites within your organisation (As many have already) or are advocating the scanning of personal facebook profiles of potential new hires I would strongly advise you to rethink this strategy.
The fundemental problem with hiring managers and HR folk checking out facebook profiles is that, in the main, its a bunch of Gen X'ers stepping into the world of largely Gen Y'ers and making judgments about those people based on their cultural style and communication preferences, which are different from, and do not fit comfortably with, most of those decision makers and hiring managers. Ask yourself what exactly it is you are hoping to achieve by eavesdropping on someones facebook wall that has any relevance to the job at hand??
Sure, finding pictures of them snorting a couple of lines of the white stuff at their mates 25th birthday bash could be a legitimate excuse, but I would argue there are better ways to weed out those with such habits, including appropriate drug tests. And lets face it, anything they are getting up to is no different from what anyone in your office has got up to in the past or indeed is currently getting up to when they are out of your line of sight. Its just beforehand you only found this out if you were present and witnessing it (and possibly taking part yourself ) or the individual chose to tell you they "got smashed/threw up/played Halo3 all night/slept all the way to Brigton/got lucky". Delete as appropriate.
Gen Y lay it bare. They have limits obviously, but facebook is there for sharing their life experiences, good or bad. Life experiences build character and I would suggest that anyone who does not completely buy into this or feel comfortable in this medium should resist the temptation to take a peak.
The second big issue for corporations is the issue of 'time wasted' on sites like facebook during the working day. But if you think this is a new phenomenon then think again. The act of throwing sheep on facebook today is merely a reprise of throwing a paper ball across the cubicles of yesterday. Today's twitterings are yesterdays water cooler/coffee machine/fag break conversations, only these days they also take place at the desktop.
Lets be honest, people have been 'wasting time' in organisations since the dawn of time and that has nothing to do with facebook. It's just that previously they did it in silence, or out of earshot from bosses and supervisors.
This is the problem with being obsessed with how we do what we do and how others achieve their goals rather than what they are actually achieving. If goals and expectations are appropriately set then its simply a waste of leadership and management time to be tracking and monitoring the 'how' on any large scale. We seem to have become so obsessed with managing and controlling the how that we have forgotten that these people are adults and they have a responsibility to themselves and others, to manage their own output and deliver to expectations.
I expect to monitor my 6 year old's access to TV and video games because he has not yet intellectually or emotionally matured. The people who work with me, however, are adults and shouldn't need me to manage that for them. If they do, then they shouldn't be working here! As a leader if I spent the lions share of my time monitoring every bit of activity of my team members I would have no time to do what I'm supposed to do - meet my own commitments, think, coach and talk to clients to name but a few.
The bigger issue here is that if people are wasting time in your organisation, it's not a facebook or twitter problem. No. What you have there is an engagement problem. And that, my friends, is your problem, not theirs!