Recently, the team at eCornell asked the Ethics Resource Center President, Pat Harned, for her insights on social media in the workplace. Dr. Harned has also appeared in eCornell’s Ask the Expert segments for our newest certificate Social Media in HR: From Policy to Practice.
1. How does your organization, The Ethics Resource Center, use social media to interact with people online?
I think we’re like most organizations. Social networking is sort of the Wild Wild West and we, like everyone else, are trying to figure out how can we make use of social networks to reach the audiences that we want to try to reach with our message. So we have a Facebook page, and we make use of Twitter, LinkedIn, and other pages as they seem to be emerging and growing in popularity.
So far, what we’ve been doing is trying to post announcements about reports or new initiatives by our center. But I think for us the big challenge has been to try to figure out how we reach business leaders and other target audiences using social networks. It’s not always easy to figure out how to reach them.
2. You have recently completed a study of social media use in the workplace. Can you share any insights that you have learned from that study?
Our center recently did a survey of U.S. workers on their use of social networks from the workplace. We were interested in that topic because we wondered how much social networks are actually changing the way employees think about ethical conduct and how it changes their relationships to their supervisors. And we learned a couple of important things.
First, business leaders who think that having a policy that prohibits social networking are only confusing are lying to themselves about how much employees are actually online during the workday. The vast majority of employees are using social networks from the office whether or not their company actually prohibits it.
The second thing we learned is that the workplace is becoming a public square. Employees are willing to talk about both their supervisors and events in the news that involved their companies. More and more employees’ attitudes about what’s considered to be confidential is changing and social networks have a big role in that.
3. Younger employees are often social media-aware. Are older workers becoming active in this area?
I think it’s true that we all have the perception that social networking is something that has been a part of the millennial generation. What we just realized when we conducted a survey of employees across the country is that 73% of people who were using social networks from the workplace are over the age of thirty, and in fact, 71% of people who were using social networks from the workplace are in management positions. It’s not just a younger worker phenomenon anymore.
Patricia Harned is the 6th president of the Ethics Resource Center. As president, Dr. Harned oversees ERC’s research agenda and leads its survey and benchmarking work for clients. She also directs ERC’s outreach efforts to policymakers and federal enforcement agencies in Washington, DC and advises CEOs and directors on effective ways to build an ethical culture and promote integrity in business activities.