Category Archives: social media

Recruiting Beyond Traditional Social Networks

An interesting little recruiting story came out of a late-afternoon session at the HR Technology® Conference in Las Vegas Thursday. 178915467--social mediaSlugged “How Red Hat Approaches Hiring Beyond Traditional Social Networks,” the session featured Brad Warga, senior vice president of customer and employee success for Gild Inc., a San Francisco-based technology-talent search firm, and Don Farr, director of global-talent acquisition for Red Hat, a global open-source provider.

“We found [traditional candidate sources such as] LinkedIn just weren’t providing the recruiting results we needed,” Farr told conference attendees. Long story short, he knew Warga, but not much about Gild, so decided to try him out with an assignment: Find him 200 top technology developers in a city abroad where Red Hat does business. Warga turned it around in record time “and more than half of the developers on his list were already employees of Red Hat,” said Farr.

Pretty convincing. So Farr decided to use Gild’s sourcing and reporting tool, based on far-more specific tech-developer social-media data — including code information and technical questions and answers, indicating levels of focus and expertise — to complement the recruiting system he already had in place.

Not only has it enriched Red Hat’s recruiting, with vastly improved and far enhanced returns on the right kinds of candidates for the growing company, it’s even provided some surprises.

Key among them was proof it needed to enhance its employee-referral service as well. Using Gild’s tools and services, Red Hat was able to determine that 70 percent of its developers who came in outside the referral program were actually connected in some way to current employees through social media.

“In other words,” said Farr, “we could have hired them ourselves if we had just sourced them through more social [streams]. The connections were out there.”

Long story short, Farr convinced his CEO to invest more in employee referrals and the savings are already being realized.

“We now have an employee-referral portal tracked through our applicant-tracking system,” Farr said. “We’ve effectively built a process where referrals aren’t going into a black box anymore.”

Lesson learned here? “Take advantage of the opportunity to embrace social media in multiple ways,” particularly when you’re looking for something as specific and hard to find as tech developers, he said.

“This is really the story of the old guard and the new guard,” Farr added. “You have to adapt or die.”

A Hospital Employee’s Offensive Tweets

We’ve written before about the “bring your own device to work” trend, commonly referred to as BYOD. Experts have cautioned about the potential risks employers face when allowing employees to bring devices that can be easily used to share and disseminate potentially confidential information. Now comes news of a Philadelphia-area hospital employee whose Twitter postings will no doubt cause more sleepless nights for medical-center HR and legal staffers.

Kathryn Knott, an emergency room technician at Lansdale Hospital in Lansdale, Pa., apparently liked to write about the patients and their medical conditions she encountered — and her personal opinion of their conditions — during the course of her work. Her Twitter posts include these gems (as reported by the Philadelphia Daily News):

“Babysitting a 36 yo 30pillxanax overdose and holding the urinal for him is definitely what I wanted to do today #winninglikeVegas.”
Knott’s June 10, 2013, photo of an X-ray of a busted pelvis is captioned, “why would you clean your gutters in the rain? #ouch.”
Another, on Feb. 20, 2013, shows a clear bag containing something lumpish. Its caption reads, “A patient gave me a bag of ice with his two fingers in it!” Yet another, posted on New Year’s Day 2013, shows a small spring – X-rayed in what appears to be an abdomen – captioned, “Kid had way too much fun at lacosta last night. Swallowed a pen spring. #rage.”
Knott’s Twitter postings came to light during the course of a police investigation of a brutal event involving her and a large group of friends, who were captured on video allegedly beating and verbally abusing a gay male couple in downtown Philadelphia recently. Knott, whose Twitter posts also included ones denigrating homosexuals, has been suspended from her job by Abington Health, which owns Lansdale Hospital:

 We can confirm that Kathryn Knott has been employed at Lansdale Hospital since May 2011. Because of the nature of the charges against her, she has been suspended from her job as an Emergency Room tech.”

Abington Health is also investigating her Twitter account.The tweets could violate the hospital’s patient-privacy and social-media policies, according to the statement from Abington Health

Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky interviewed a nurse who’s also a lawyer, who told her that while Knott’s tweets may be deeply unprofessional, they don’t appear to violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act because “patients’ names and other identifiable was not shared.” However, medical ethicist Art Caplan told Polaneczky that he disagrees. If there’s information in the tweets for others to deduce who’s being discussed, he said, then it’s a clear HIPAA violation and a legal liability.
Now is probably a good time for HR leaders in the healthcare industry to review their BYOD and social-media policies, and perhaps schedule some refresher training.

Dangers of Social-Media Discipline

judge's gaveEmployers should be concerned by the National Labor Relations Board’s latest decision pertaining to social media and work. If not concerned, then taking very special note of, at the very least.

This ruling, as detailed thoroughly in this posting from Littler Publications, centers around employees’ off-duty social-media posts about work, and what employers can and can’t mandate about that.

In the ruling, as the posting puts it, the board came down hard on the employer — Triple Play (a.k.a., Triple D) Sports Bar and Grille in Watertown, Conn. — in that it “set a high bar for employers before they can terminate employees based on speech otherwise protected by Section 7 [of the National Labor Relations Act], determined that [a Facebook] ‘Like’ in that case was protected, reversed the employee’s firing and found a key provision in the employer’s social-media policy to be unlawfully overbroad.” I’d say that’s coming down hard.

The case has to do with several employees who were complaining in a Facebook discussion about a mistake they suspected the bar’s owners of making when calculating their state tax withholding. Some in the discussion were simply following the lines of the conversation. Here is Littler’s rendition of what transpired:

The owners organized a staff meeting with the payroll provider to discuss the issue. Before this meeting, Jamie LaFrance, a former employee who had recently left [her job] started a Facebook conversation by posting the following status update:

“Maybe someone should do the owners of Triple Play a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly!!! Now I OWE money…Wtf!!!!”

Several comments followed in which a customer and a current employee sympathized.

LaFrance continued by accusing the owners of making a mistake in calculating tax withholdings, and she expressed her intention to report the mistake to the state’s “labor board.” At that point, a current employee, Vincent Spinella, selected the “Like” option under LaFrance’s initial status update.

As the Facebook exchange continued, LaFrance verbally attacked one of the owners:

“Hahahaha he’s such a shady little man. He prolly [sic] pocketed it all from all our paychecks.”

Another current employee, Jillian Sanzone, followed this statement by posting: “I owe too. Such an asshole.”  More comments followed, including a statement by another current employee that she planned to discuss the tax issue at a staff meeting.

After learning about the Facebook exchange from one of LaFrance’s Facebook friends, a current employee who happened to be the sister of one of the owners, the owners questioned Spinella about his “Like.”  They told Spinella that it was “apparent” he wanted to work somewhere else because he had “liked the disparaging and defamatory comments” and terminated his employment.

Spinella accused Triple D of illegal actions under the NLRA and the case came before the NLRB. Triple D argued that the disparaging comments and Spinella’s “Like” took the case outside the realm of the NLRA’s Section 7 protection as a concerted activity. The board, however, ruled otherwise because: Spinella did not specifically “like” any of LaFrance’s allegedly defamatory comments in and of themselves, the comments weren’t intended for public consumption on a private Facebook page and no one mentioned anything disparaging about the employer, per se, but related everything to an ongoing labor — i.e., tax withholding — dispute.

The NLRB also ruled this portion of Triple D’s social-media policy was too broad:

“[W]hen Internet blogging, chat room discussions … or other forms of communication extend to employees … engaging in inappropriate discussions about the company, management, and/or co-workers, the employee may be violating the law and is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.  … In the event state or federal law precludes this policy, then it is of no force or effect.”

So what should you be concerned about exactly? Littler attorneys Philip Gordon and Zoe Argento offer these six takeaways in their post:

  1. Because a “Like” standing alone can be protected, employers should consider consulting with counsel before disciplining employees based on their selection of the “Like” button.
  2. When analyzing whether a “Like” is protected speech, employers should refer to the specific post or comment to which the “Like” relates.
  3. When analyzing whether otherwise protected social-media posts have crossed the line and lost their protection, the NLRB will apply different standards to disparagement of the employer’s products and services and defamation of the employer or members of its workforce.
  4. The actual malice standard applicable to defamatory statements imposes a heavy burden on the employer to prove that the employee posted content knowing it was false or it was made with reckless disregard for the truth.
  5. Employers should consult with counsel before firing an employee for allegedly defamatory or disparaging speech when that speech takes place in the context of a group discussion in social media.
  6. The NLRB continues to closely scrutinize social-media policies. Employers should recognize that language which is general or establishes subjective standards, such as “inappropriate discussion,” will raise a red flag for the board unless accompanied by examples that make it clear to a reasonable employee that the general language is not intended to encompass protected speech.  Relatedly, employers should expect the board to closely scrutinize any disclaimer before relying on it to “save” policy language from invalidation.  Such disclaimers have not been very helpful overall in terms of avoiding NLRB problems.

For your additional reading pleasure, and pointers, here are numerous blog posts we’ve written about social media in the workplace and social-media policies employers are drafting, should be drafting and shouldn’t be drafting in their attempts to control its impact.

Zappos Finds a New Way to Recruit

ZapposJob postings? They’re so old-school! Las Vegas-based Zappos, the online shoe retailer, has decided to do away with posting jobs on career sites such as Monster and LinkedIn in favor of a new social network designed specifically to help the company create a new “talent community” that it hopes will serve as a constant supply of top talent.

The talent community, called Zappos Insiders, will replace a hiring process that was losing its effectiveness, Michael Bailen, who oversees talent acquisition for the company, told the Wall Street Journal. “We spam them, they spam us back” was how he described for the WSJ the normal hiring process, in which companies post job descriptions, candidates flood the companies with resumes and recruiters spend only a few seconds reading each one before moving on to the next. Last year, the company was inundated with 31,000 applicants and ended up hiring about 1.5 percent of them, according to the WSJ.

With Zappos Insiders, people interested in the company can sign up and network with Zappos employees, participate in contests and chat with recruiters, who will have more time to suss out whether potential candidates are a good fit with the company, Bailen said. The recruiters will use software to help them sort Insiders members based on skill sets or personal interests into pipelines for areas such as merchandising or engineering, according to the Journal.

Bailen said he’s surprised that Zappos appears to be the first company to do this. “We’re hoping a lot of other companies jump on board,” he told the Journal.


Curbing Social Media Misuse

online repMany organizations—some maybe more begrudgingly than others—have accepted that employees are going to spend company time using social media for non-work purposes.

New York-based law firm Proskauer’s “Social Media in the Workplace Around the World 3.0” study just offers further confirmation of that fact.

The firm’s global survey recently polled more than 110 multinational businesses from countries including Argentina, Canada, China, India, Japan and the United States, with 43 percent of organizations reporting they allow all employees to use social media for non-business activities. Another 26 percent said they permit some workers to use social media for personal purposes.

The survey also found, however, that 71 percent of those employers have had to take disciplinary action against employees for misuse of social media. That figure stood at 35 percent when Proskauer conducted a similar survey in 2012.

What sort of infractions are employees being chastised for? A Proskauer press release summarizing key survey findings highlights some of the most common ways workers abuse social media, such as:

• Misuse of confidential information (80 percent),

• Misrepresenting the views of the business (71 percent),

• Inappropriate non-business use (67 percent),

• Disparaging remarks about the business or employees (64 percent), and

• Harassment (64 percent).

“We think the spike [in such behavior] correlates with the growth in social media use for business purposes,” says Daniel Ornstein, the London-based co-head of Proskauer’s international labor and employment law group, and lead author of the 2014 study.

“This has two consequences,” he says. “Most obviously, the more people use social media for business, the more likely it is that there will be inappropriate conduct. In addition, the [more] social media [is used] at work, the more the boundaries between work and personal blur. This blurring puts people off their guard, and increases the chances of inappropriate conduct at work.”

Employers seem to be taking greater notice of the increasingly fuzzy line between work and play. The number of companies reporting they have policies governing social media use jumped from 60 percent in 2012 to 79 percent this year, and more than half of the organizations with policies said they have updated them within the last year.

In its survey report, Proskauer offers suggestions for guarding against inappropriate use of social media, such as conducting annual audits, providing thorough employee training, identifying specific risks, and implementing clear guidelines that include provisions designed to prevent social media misuse by ex-employees as well as current ones.

For HR professionals, “the most important action is to get business buy-in for rolling out such policies and training that address the matter,” says Ornstein, “both generally and with regard to the specific risks their business faces.”

Silent Majority Speaks Out

We’ve all experienced it, many of us probably more times than we’d like. There we are, sitting in a meeting, when all of a sudden we hear an annoying ringtone. It could be Beethoven’s 5th or something far worse. A second or two passes before one of your colleagues pulls out his or her iPhone or Android to take a call, scurrying to the door with an excuse-me look on his or her face. Not a good moment for that person or for his or her colleagues.

Worse yet, that person might be us.

158344061Uncivil behavior in the workplace can take many forms, but a case could easily be made that the misuse of smartphones and other mobile devices ranks somewhere near the top of the list of most repeated workplace annoyances.

It’s therefore no surprise to find more and more researchers studying these behaviors, with the latest coming from Peter W. Cardon of the Marshall School of Business (at the University of Southern California) and colleagues at Howard University. Their research, published yesterday in the Business Communications Quarterly, is reportedly one of the first studies (if not the first) to look at how attitudes toward these behaviors break down across things such as gender, age and region.

As might be expected, the findings confirm that most people consider such behaviors unacceptable, with 76 percent saying checking texts or emails is a no-no at business meetings and 87 percent of people saying that answering a call is rarely or never acceptable in such a setting.

Even at more informal business lunches, most (66 percent) consider writing or sending text messages rude.

If you notice more women shaking their heads in disgust than men, there’s probably good reason. The researchers — who questioned 550 full-time working professionals earning $30,000 a year or more — found men were nearly twice as likely as women to consider mobile-phone use at a business lunch acceptable. (More than 59 percent of men said it was OK to check text messages at a power lunch, compared to 34 percent of women who thought checking texts was appropriate.)

Before you reach for your silence button, though, it’s also worth mentioning that the findings offer a  glimmer of hope to those who think these behaviors aren’t all that bad.

Younger professionals were nearly three times as likely as older professionals to think tapping out a message over a business lunch is appropriate—66 percent of people under 30 said texting or emailing was OK, compared to just 20 percent of those aged 51 to 65.”

Which raises the troubling (at least to me) question: How different might things look 20 years from now?

Do Wellness Programs Work?

It certainly depends on whom you ask.

Nearly half (47 percent) of Fortune 1000 chief HR officers believe their wellness programs are not effective, according to a new survey by Consero Group.

According to Paul Mandell, founder and CEO of Consero:

“Chief HR Officers seem to believe that employee health deserves a prominent place on their list of priorities. Given the time and effort put into educating staff about healthy living, it is surprising that such a significant number indicated they do not believe their wellness programs are effective.”

The results, reported as part of the 2013 Chief HR Officer Data Survey, compiled by Consero Group, also found 47 percent of Fortune 1000 Chief HR officers surprisingly reported that their organizations do not have a social-media policy.

Said Mandell:

The increasing proliferation of social media has given rise to an array of challenges for corporate HR departments, such as identifying what kinds of social media postings are punishable at work to the extent to which social media use is permitted in the office. The fact that nearly half of survey respondents said they do not have social media policies is not merely an area of concern, but a sign of significant potential liability.

For more findings, click here.

High-Flying LinkedIn Attracts Praise & Criticism

Life must be good these days for LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman and CEO Jeff Weiner, not to mention those who bought stock in the company way back when: the Mountain View, Calif.-based company just reported its biggest quarterly profit ever — $364 million — and its stock has doubled in price-per-share since LinkedIn’s 2011 IPO. Then there’s the recent poll by Right Management that found close to 100 percent of the HR professionals, hiring managers and jobseekers use LinkedIn as their No. 1 social-media site for job hunting, and that hiring managers prefer it to other sites by two to one.

LinkedIn continues to roll out new innovations, including mobile applications, “Influencer” posts from well-known business luminaries like Bill Gates and Jack Welch and opportunities for employers to post “sponsored content” in hopes of getting sought-after talent to check them out.

LinkedIn also has its critics. One of them, executive recruiter Nick Corcodilos, recently posted a diatribe against the company on the PBS NewsHour’s “Ask the Headhunter” blog recently in which he questioned LinkedIn’s Featured Applicant service, which lets users pay a premium to have their job application appear at the top of the list of applicants for a posted position — regardless of whether others on the list may actually be more qualified for the position, Corcodilos writes. He accuses the company of doing a disservice to both jobseekers and employers:

You’re a jobseeker. You pay LinkedIn $29.95 per month for a “Job Seeker Premium” membership so that, when you apply for jobs, you can artificially “move your job applications to the top of the list as a Featured Applicant.” But the employer sees a “badge” beside your name and knows you paid for the position. Do you feel a little slimy for doing it, or wonder what the employer thinks of you now? More to the point, did that 30 bucks pay off?

You’re an employer and you’re hiring. You pay LinkedIn $3,950 for 10 job postings to help you find the best, most qualified hires. When LinkedIn delivers job applicants, do you care that those at the very top of the list paid LinkedIn for their positions — while possibly better, more qualified candidates who didn’t pay are pushed to the bottom? Do you care that you can’t even turn this “feature” off?

A LinkedIn spokesman tells me that Corcodilos’ original post contained an assertion that was flat-out wrong — that premium jobseekers do not appear at the top of lists generated when a recruiter queries LinkedIn for the “most qualified candidates” for a particular position. Premium subscribers do appear at the top of lists for jobs they specifically apply for, says the spokesman, but their names are highlighted with a gold badge, which clearly lets recruiters know the person is a premium subscriber who is paying for top placement. “We’re totally transparent with recruiters — if they don’t wish to consider the premium subscriber, all they have to do is scroll down,” says the spokesman.

A Mixed Social Media Bag

online repBy now, hiring managers know the potential perils of turning to social networking sites to research job candidates.

A recent survey, however, not only finds more companies using social media to help inform hiring decisions, but suggests some job seekers have yet to figure out their social media profiles can hinder as well as help their employment chances.

In an online poll of more than 2,100 hiring managers and HR professionals, conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder, 39 percent of respondents reported using social networking sites to research job candidates, up from 37 percent in 2012.

A small increase, to be sure, but consider that only 19 percent of hiring managers said their social media searches turned up information that made candidates more attractive or helped them earn job offers. Among these respondents, the most common positive nuggets they have uncovered include:

• Candidate conveyed a professional image (57 percent);

• Got a good feel for candidate’s personality (50 percent);

• Candidate was well-rounded and showed a wide range of interests (50 percent); and

• Background information supported candidate’s professional qualifications (49 percent).

Still, many employers found their share of social media content that helped take an applicant out of contention, such as:

• Provocative or inappropriate photos or information (50 percent);

• Information about a candidate drinking or using drugs (48 percent);

• Negative comments directed toward a former employer (33 percent); and

• Content that indicated poor communication skills (30 percent).

On one hand, “employers are using all the tools available to them to assure they make the correct hiring decision, and the use of social media continues to grow,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, in a statement.

“At the same time,” she cautioned, “hiring managers and human resource departments must carefully consider how to use information obtained from social media and whether it is relevant to a candidate’s qualifications.”

The Elevator Speech, Social-Media Style

online repSucceeding in the social-media space requires an ability to communicate in short, fast and succinct bursts.

If you want to be a digital media manager at Pizza Hut, you’d better be able to adopt this straight-to-the-point, social-media mindset right out of the gate.

Representatives from the Plano, Texas-based restaurant chain descended on Austin’s annual South by Southwest music festival this past weekend, to seek out and interview job candidates for the aforementioned position.

Lots of candidates, apparently: Each interviewee was to be given just 140 seconds (an homage to Twitter’s 140-character limit) to sum up their social-media bona fides, and convince the organization he or she has the goods.

One of the people they’ll need to convince is Caroline Masullo, Pizza Hut’s director of digital and social media. Masullo, who conducted interviews at the SXSW site for four hours on Sunday, explained the rationale behind the 140-second interview to Bloomberg Businessweek:

We need this person to be super-knowledgeable in the social space. They need to be able to communicate with our consumers in fun, quick, concise ways. … We need someone who knows who they are, what they are looking for, someone who’s super-passionate, quick on their feet, able to communicate clearly in a short amount of time.”

Candidates were also asked to bring only their IDs and smartphones, the latter of which would be used for a quick review of the applicant’s LinkedIn profile during the interview.

Ultimately, the 140-second interview is “like an elevator [pitch],” Masullo told Businessweek. “Tell me in 140 seconds why you think you should be the next manager of … . ”

Pizza Hut, which will conduct another lightning round of interviews via Google+ on March 14, is already being lauded for its unique strategy in finding sharp, quick-witted candidates; a tactic that Masullo hopes will net the company someone “on the cutting edge of the social space” that will “keep us at the forefront” of said space.

Time will tell if they find that someone, but you have to give Pizza Hut some credit for taking a novel approach. Just do it quickly.