HRM Essay Case study: How Social is your network? IntroductionIt is a clear fact that the utility of social network site has increased in the recent past. This industry has recorded enormous growth, a fact which is evidenced by figures from January, 2009 pointed to the fact that Facebook had slightly more than 175 million active users worldwide (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, p. 49). In the beginning of 2012, Facebook had 900 million users and was projected to hit the 1 billion mark of active users by the beginning of 2013. This depicts the enormous size of Facebook as a company and this number is projected to grow, with the overall global increase of internet use.
This is coupled with its increasing penetration into other segments of the population, for instance, those commonly referred to as generation X (aged between 35-44 years) who have increasing embraced this social network. On the other hand, Facebook has experienced increased utility in the HRM functions of different corporate bodies. This has raised privacy, legislative and ethical issues among different individuals and collectives, with some citing either positive or negative implications of its utility.
This issue remains contentious which forms the foundation of this essay. Against this background, this paper will explore the issue of privacy related to the use of Facebook in HRM functions in regard to the need for balance between the rights of the employees and organizational consequences. In addition, it will critically analyze whether it is alright for employers to use these sites to glean information about their employees. Lastly, it will assess how a progressive employer can turn the use of social networking sites into a win-win situation rather than an employer versus employee or win-lose situation.
Privacy issues related to the use of Facebook in HRM functionsIn a generic sense, the basic definition of privacy to be adopted in this paper is derived from the work Privacy and Freedom (1967) by Alan Westin (cited in Simmons, 2011, p. 3). The author defines privacy as ‘the claim of individuals, groups or institutions to establish and determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others.
It is imperative to note that pervasive technology has been perceived to resulting in unintended consequences in many cases. This is best epitomized by threats to privacy as well as changes in the relationship between the public and private spheres. These issues have formed the foundation of diverse literature in the internet contexts and applications, for instance, works by Cocking & Matthews (2000), Pankoke-Babatz & Jeffrey (2002), Berkman & Shumway (2003) and Iachello & Hong (2007) among others. While many privacy concerns have been common to all the people using social networking websites like Facebook, some demonstrate more privacy issues than others (Wallbridge, 2009, p.
86). Some of the particular privacy issues of using online social networking sites like Facebook include but not limited to hacking and identity theft, damaged reputation as a result of rumors and gossip, unintentional disclosure of personal information, utility of personal data by third parties, undesirable contact and harassment or stalking as well as surveillance-like structures as a result of backtracking functions (Debatin et. al, 2009, p. 83). Most of these privacy issues pose significant issues to an organization as well as the individuals and collectives therein.
In the organizational perspective, this can be explained from the stakeholders theory view. According to Pfarrer (2010, p. 86), the stakeholder theory broadens the shareholder theory in the sense that it is cognizant of the importance of wealth creation as well as the relationships of the firm with its multiple constituent groups- employees, local community, shareholders, creditors, regulators and suppliers- and the effects on the wider society (Pfarrer, 2010, p. 86). Thus, the major theme underpinning the stakeholder theory is the nature of the relationship between the firm (which is basically represented by the top managers) and the stakeholders.
The interests of these groups often exhibit significant divergence, not only from those of the firm, but also from each other (Jones et. al, 1997, p. 137). From this theoretical perspective, most of the commentators like Debatin et. al, 2009, p. 83) have cited that the use of Facebook in human resource functions poses detrimental impacts to most of these parties in the organizational set-up. This is mostly related to its privacy impacts in terms of hacking and identity theft. As a result, when the employees, creditors, suppliers and regulators surrender their personal information in Facebook, they become vulnerable to hackers who can steal their identity and potentially siphon resources from the organization.
On the other hand, when the employees like human resource managers use personal information in their Facebook profile, for instance, marital status, they expose themselves to hackers who can negatively use this information. This can be in form of blackmailing the managers into hiring them without the required merit which can detrimentally affect the organizational performance at the long run.
Similarly, profiling personal information at Facebook can also damage the reputation of the organization in case of negative gossip and rumors (Debatin et. al, 2009, p. 83). This can be related to the act of publicizing the operations of the organization to the public, for instance, environmental sensitivity which can pose impacts on the reputation of the organization. In case the reputation is negatively affected, this can affect all the stakeholders, mostly those within the organization. However, other commentators have cited the use of Facebook in the HR functions of the organization as note being entirely negative.
According to Birkman International (2009, p. 1), most of the HR professional have increasingly understood the potential of social media. 83% of these professionals have agreed that social media like Facebook can greatly enhance communication, provide a deeper insight into the interests and motivations of the people as well as bring greater efficiency in the workplace. Moreover, these professionals have also understood the imperative niche of the social media in offering enormous opportunities for learning and sharing of knowledge.
Thus, amid the privacy concerns highlighted above which are detrimental to majority of the stakeholders in an organization, the use of Facebook in the HR functions of the organization has some positive impacts. This is best epitomized in the efforts to enhance motivation and commitment among the stakeholders whereby the HR managers can have a comprehensive knowledge in regard to what motivates the all the stakeholders towards better performance. This can be understood through looking into their Facebook profiles and knowing their hobbies, like and dislikes. In regard to the rights of the employees, it is imperative to note that the employees are entitled to the right to privacy.
Nonetheless, Wallbridge (2009, p. 90) cited that balancing the right to privacy and the control of personal information becomes problematic when individuals engage in voluntary placement of personal information in the social media profiles. Majority of the commentators who have cited the use of Facebook in violation of privacy rights among the employees have cited that it facilitates surveillance-like structures as a result of backtracking functions (Debatin et.
al, 2009, p. 83). This is best epitomized in the US whereby there is no federal law which an employer might be breaking through monitoring the activities of the employees on social networking sites. In fact, employers are even ‘permitted’ to hire third-party companies to monitor the online activities of their employees for them (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Website, 2012, p. 1). From an ethical perspective, Greenwood & Freeman (2011, p. 269) determined that the development of an ethical perspective of human resource management which is both employee centered and explicitly normative, and, as such, different from dominant and critical perspectives of HRM has advanced in the recent years.
Bur perhaps the main application of ethics in HRM has been in the rights theory. Werhane (cited in Greenwood & Freeman, 2011, p. 284) detailed how this theory can be developed under the rubric of employee rights. This is whereby the employees have the basic right to liberty and safety within the workplaces. This includes the freedom of association, collective bargaining, equality of opportunity and treatment and abolition of forced labor among other rights (Greenwood & Freeman, 2011, p.
284). In this regard, the possible use of personal information in the employees’ Facebook profiles by the employers for discrimination purposes can have the overall impact of violating the rights of the employees to equality of opportunity and treatment from an ethical perspective. On the other hand, the act of monitoring the activities of the employees on social networking sites by the employers jeopardizes their right to association and collective bargaining among others. This was evident in March 2010 when a company called Teneros in the USA launched a ‘social Sentry’ service which was aimed at tracking the online activities of the employees across the social networking sites like Facebook.
The employers use this service to ensure that the employees don’t leak organizational information which is sensitive in nature in the social networks or in a greater extent, engage in any behavior which can pose damaging impacts on the reputation of the company (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Website, 2012, p. 1). These activities by the employees violate the ethical theory of rights in connection to the employees. Nonetheless, other commentators have countered this argument and pointed to the fact that in majority of the regions, there are laws which prohibit the employers from subjecting their employees to disciplinary action based on their off-duty activities on the social networking sites.
This is unless they can clearly show that such activities pose significant damage to the company in some ways. This poses the question as outlined in the case study of what happens when the information that an employee places on their Facebook pages damaging to the reputation of their organization or their fellow employees.
In addition, the anti-discrimination laws explicitly prohibit the employers from disciplining the employees based on their gender, age, race, religion, color on national origin (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Website, 2012, p. 1), aspects which are captured in the personal profiles of employees in social networking sites like Facebook. This counterargument downplays the implication of employees’ monitoring in Facebook by the employers as a threat to their rights as outlined in the rights theory. Based on the above arguments, a clear balance ought to be developed in regard to the consequences of information posted in Facebook by the employees to the organization as well as the general rights of the employees to free expression and entitlement to privacy. Gleaning information about their employeesFrom the preceding analysis, it is apparent that the employees’ personal profiles in Facebook are a robust source of information for the employers.
The general act of gathering personal information about the employees from social networking sites like Facebook has been perceived as amounting to the breach of their privacy as outlined in the rights theory. In cognition of the above reality, most states have enacted legislations aimed at regulating the use of employees’ personal information from Facebook pages.
This is evident in Australia whereby according to the case study, the use of information from social networking sites in decision making processes about candidates may be illegal in the country under the Privacy Act and also the recently amended Fair Work Act. However, this paper argues that any form of unconsented access to employees’ personal information by the employer is not right and ought to be curtailed. According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in Australia (2010, p.
23), the Privacy Act provides that an organization is obliged to provide a notice to the individuals when they glean their information, explain the purpose of the collection (among other things) and the other organizations to which they are likely to disclose the information. This also includes the identity and contact details of the latter organization. Nonetheless, not all the employers are bound to honor these provisions. Firstly, this is mostly related to the HR professionals who are engaged in the recruitment process.
The prospective employees are not bound to be aware that their personal information was gleaned and as a result, the recruiting personnel might use the gathered information to harass the applicants based on the collected information. This not only poses extensive impacts on the privacy of the prospective employees but also creates and avenue for intimidation. As a result, any gleaning of information regarding the prospective employees to be used in the recruitment process is not only unethical but also contravenes the privacy act which prohibits abuse of the collection of process in terms of harassing or intimidating and individual or an employee of an agency in regard to the access action (Information Privacy Act, 2009, p.
93). In relation to the above reality, gleaning of personal information about prospective employees opens avenues for false claims and court charges against the employers. This fact is supported by Broughton et. al (2010, p. 10) who determined that given the amount of information about a particular candidate which is available in the social network sites, the employers exposes themselves to charges of discrimination.
This is founded on the fact that the general act of conducting online vetting by the employers makes them aware of a wide alley of information about a certain candidate including religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political views, age and marital status among others. This makes it easier for the rejected candidates to lay claims that they have been discriminated against. This reality supports the assumption that it is not alright for the employers to glean information about their employees if these have to avoid these allegations.
Secondly, the general action of the employer gleaning personal information about the employees from Facebook can be perceived as contravening the constitutional rights to privacy by the employees. This goes a long way back in 1965 when the Supreme Court in the US acclaimed a constitutional right to privacy in the Griswold v. Connecticut case. According to Justice William O. Douglas, the right to privacy creates a zone of privacy surrounding issues of sexual relations and marriage (Simmons, 2011, p. 4). Therefore, based on the fact that Facebook users often post marital status and sexual relations information in their Facebook profiles, the general unconsented access and negative use of this information by employers contravenes the right to privacy of the employees.
Thirdly, the basic cognition of the fact that the employers have unlimited access to personal information of their employees makes the employees to be in constant fear in the course of their social interactions over the social networking sites. This is founded on the realization of the fact that anything that they post is being monitored and scrutinized by their employers and can be used against them in case of a litigation process.
This follows the increased importance of electronic information in lawsuits. This is bound to affect the commitment of the employees to their work, mostly the older workers. However, other commentators have pointed to the importance of gleaning the employees’ personal information in the efforts to elevate their motivation and responsibility. Firstly, it is important to note that from a human resource perspective, turnover is a dominant problem which affects many organizations (Moqbel, 2012, p.
11). Thus, based on the fact that most employees, predominantly the young people post their locations, social functions which they are attending among other facts, the employer can be in a position of gaining an insight into the validity of a reason forwarded by an employee to justify absenteeism. This can be possible through gleaning personal information about the employees from Facebook, which can in turn have the impact of minimizing the rates of ‘false’ absenteeism from the work places. Secondly, gleaning of employees’ information from social networking sites has been perceived as being central to the efforts towards increasing the commitment of the employees.
In regard to the younger employees, the employer can assess their passions, frustrations and dislikes from the personal information that they glean from their Facebook pages. As a result, they can be able to talk with the employees, either at a personal or collective level to address these issues. This is key in elevating the commitment of the young employees. In regard to the older employees, the employer has the capacity of using the social networking sites as an avenue of creating a community of this category of employees, the alumni and retirees.
This is not only imperative in leveraging talent but also in motivating them to continue working for the company or rejoin the firm (Moqbel, 2012, p. 12). This is important in creating increased responsibility and commitment among this group of workers in the organization. Turning the use of social networking into a win-win situationThe preceding analysis has exhibited the fact that the utility of social networks by the employees is often associated with marring the reputation of the company, leaking of confidential information about a certain company as well as wide myriad of privacy breach issues.
Nonetheless, a progressive employer can turn the use of social networks by the employees into a win-win situation as opposed to an employee versus employees or a win-loss situation. This can be through different ways. Firstly, Ferreira and Pressis (2009, p. 5) have pointed out that being linked with others in the workplace is often beneficial in the sense that it can result in enhanced collaboration and sharing of information, increased communication among coworkers as well as greater productivity.
This is also applicable in the relationship between the employer and employees with business partners and customers. This fact is supported by Bernoff and Li (2008, p. 42) and Barker (2008, p. 6-14) who reviewed recent studies on social networking in the workplaces and inferred that social networking allows a strong blend of the members profiles and contact information, distribution tracking, collaborative documents creation and rich presence information among other features. These are chief in ‘molding a pulse’ inside the organization.
Therefore, permitting the employees to engage in extensive networking is a robust human capital and knowledge management strategy based on the fact that it empowers the employees to share information, knowledge and ideas at the organizational level. This not only promotes creativity and innovation in the company but also ensures that the employees are exposed to constant knowledge and skills upgrading. This creates a win-win situation whereby the employer benefits from improved organizational performance while the employees benefit from enhanced skills and knowledge. Secondly, permitting social networking in the workplaces allows the development of relational psychological contracts.
This is whereby the employer understands what is expected of him or her by the employees and vice versa. As a result, both parties are able to express their views on enhancing the performance of the organization as well as expressing their expectations in certain work operations. This is imperative in the efforts towards creating opportunities for training, support and advancement which are key to relational psychological contracts between the employer and the employees. These are bound to expose both parties towards mutual benefits in their work relations. In addition, the employer can use the social networks to understand the frustrations and anticipations of the employees in the organizational set-up.
This is integral in the provision of support to these employees both in the short and in the long-term. As a result, both parties are bound to have positive relational psychological contracts which are mutually beneficial. As a result, the employees will benefit from their anticipations and frustrations being addressed, increased motivation and job satisfaction. On the other hand, the employer will benefit from heightened performance from the employees which will increase the profitability of the firm. Thirdly, social networking has been perceived as being central to the marketing and promotional efforts, mostly in the contemporary world.
According to Bolotaeva and Cata (2011, p. 2), when social networking is approached correctly, it can be integral in the efforts towards finding talents into the organization, finding new consumers, building brand awareness, assisting in conducting market research as well as brand intelligence among other aspects. This is central to the performance of a company, mostly in a highly competitive market where it can be s robust source of sustainable competitive advantage. In this regard, allowing the employees to engage in social networking is a strong HRM strategy based on the fact that it culminates to extensive benefits to both the employer and the employees.
For the employers, they are strategically niched to benefit from greater output in terms of sales, development of competitive brands in the market, getting feedback from the consumers which is fundamental in brand improvement as well as finding new talents into the organization who can pose tremendous impacts on its performance.
In this regard, social networking plays a vital role in presenting the company to the current and prospective markets. This has the cumulative impact of expanding the consumer base of the company in the increasingly competitive market. To the employees, social networking assists them in meeting their performance targets overtime. This is based on the fact that they can use the social networks to look for new consumers, taking orders, delivering information about certain products as well as notifying the consumers about new brands from their company.
They are thus able to expand their clients’ base which is key to their efforts of meeting the set performance targets. In addition, the important role of social networking in market research enables the employees to gain a comprehensive understanding of what the clients want, when and in which condition. The above phenomenon exemplifies how the correct use of social networking can be imperative in creating a win-win situation between the employer and the employees in particular organizations. Lastly, social networking sites are integral in the attainment of high commitment HRM which is beneficial to both the employees and the employer.
This is whereby the employer can be able to post the performance of the company against the current performance of the employees. As a result, the employees can use the social network to share ideas on how to maintain or improve the performance aimed at constant attainment of the targets. This is supported by Ferreira and Pressis (2009, p. 13) who cited that in a generic sense, social networking stimulates the collaboration, commitment and knowledge sharing between individual in a workplace which often results in increased productivity.
Therefore, increased utility helps in making the employees to be more committed towards the achievement of the organizational targets which is central to the high commitment HRM. The above scenario creates a win-win situation to both the employer and the employee. This is in the sense that the employees are bound to enjoy recognition and rewards based on their efforts to achieve the organizational goals and objectives. On the other hand, the employer benefits from improved performance of the firm which is also integral in the attainment of sustained competitive advantage by the firm. Nonetheless, the employer ought to be wary of the amount of time that the employees spend in social networking.
This is based on the fact that several studies have revealed that the biggest concern of social networking use in the workplaces is related to the loss of staff productivity as a result of time wasted at work (Moqbel, 2012, p. 17). Nuclear Research (cited in Moqbel, 2012, p. 17) reported that the use of Facebook at the workplaces result in a 1.5% decrease in productivity of the human resource.
This wasted productivity culminates to loss of money to economic costs and wages in forms of decreased human resource efficiency and effectiveness. However, despite this concern, the preceding analysis has shown that progressive employers can use social networking to create a win-win situation in the work place which is endowed with both short and long-term benefits. Conclusion Analysis in the previous sections has revealed that there are a myriad of privacy issues related to the use of Facebook in HRM functions. These include but not limited to hacking and identity theft, damaged reputation as a result of rumors and gossip, unintentional disclosure of personal information, utility of personal data by third parties, undesirable contact and harassment or stalking as well as surveillance-like structures as a result of backtracking functions.
These issues have diverse positive as well as negative implication to both the organization and the employees. On the other hand, gleaning information about their employees by the employer has been found not to be right based on its extensive implications. Nonetheless, it can be right and beneficial in some instances, like elevating employees’ motivation, commitment and responsibility.
Lastly, the above analysis has revealed how a progressive employer can turn the use of social networking into a win-win situation. References