Such a contentious topic and it creates a good bit of chatter on blogs and within Twitter. I have seen many variations of this question in the last year “why do companies block social media sites?” that I started to buy into the mentality that companies are fools for not opening their systems and allowing everyone to go to those sites. I almost bought into the arguments that companies that use social media to recruit but then block their employees are hypocrites and should be called out in public.
Then I took a step back and thought this sounds way too familiar. When the CareerXroads November update report came out my feelings (and memories) were confirmed. http://www.careerxroads.com/news/updates/1109.asp
The arguments today are the same as those in the mid to late ’90’s. Do you remember IT departments stating that not everyone should have internet access because of how it opened up the company to vulnerabilities? I do and here is why I think companies are blocking social media sites today:
- Management told them to block it because everyone would be Facebooking, Twittering or MySpacing all day and not working – same fear as back in ’96-’97 with email and internet
- Spam, phishing and other activities by those that seek pleasure in mucking up company servers and obtaining personal data for identify theft reasons are real threat on these sites
- The potential of these tools for business reasons has not been realized and standardized training and understanding of how to act on these sites as a representative of the company is still being worked out
Think about it – it’s education and vulnerability of company assets. The first point is silly – I agree. Initially the sites were blocked because they were sold as play time not work related. As they have rapidly evolved the recruitment and marketing segments have found significant uses of these tools. However, what business use would a call center representative or an accountant utilizing their personal account on a social site need during the course of the day? I’ll say that again – personal account not company or business account.
My second point above is much more important to consider. IT is fighting a war on a daily basis usually on the defensive, but sometimes on the offensive. They are battling the various scams, schemes and trojans that are constantly pinging the IT firewalls. In talking to my local (I work for a very decentralized organization) IT partners, they have admitted that the company computers are “locked down” when given to employees. Yet, they are re-imaging 5 – 8 PC’s or laptops a week because employees are downloading files from “trusted” sources to conduct work. Over the course of a year they will re-image more than 5% of the workforce and this is with social media sites being blocked. Because of their actions, learning and business necessity they have figured out how to block emails and some other systems reducing the vulnerabilities significantly. I cannot remember the last time I received a spam email on my work account. However, the recent spam on Twitter, and phishing schemes on Facebook make me wonder if these sites were open what would happen to our company if a handful of employees click on those links or had their passwords hijacked.
Before utilizing social media tools I approached my VP and IT with a business plan outlining how I was going to access sites, research candidate behavior, look for trends, treat them as business or professional networking accounts and then recommend that the rest of my team have access. The IT team immediately approved and commented that they wish other departments do the same. Have a plan, research, educate and then expand with guidelines in place. They would like to see the staff trained or at least educated on how to use these sites, and what to expect similar to this telecommunication’s firm training. http://mashable.com/2009/12/16/telstra-social-media/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Mashable+%28Mashable%29
It will only be a matter of time before the sites are opened up as employees at all levels are educated and IT has the protections in place. I think it will happen far quicker than the email and internet accesses in the mid to late ’90’s. Until then, I do not think the question “why” needs to be asked but “how do we open access and when can we train our employees?” are the ones to focus on. Develop a plan and move your company forward.