There was life before social media, though it might seem strange to some of those entering the world of work today, says Lee McQueen, from Raw Talent Academy. It’s been a hell of a ride to this point. About 15 years ago, I worked for a company in central London where we had to book 20-minute slots to use the only computer in the building that had internet access. Today, of course, digital communication is a way of life for millions of people.

But as an employer, have you kept up with the pace of this progress? What is your social media policy? Is it something that everyone in your business knows and embraces? Do you even have one? A few years ago, a lot of businesses viewed social media as time wasting, and simply as an excuse for people to spend time chatting with their mates.

Nowadays, it’s quite normal to walk into an office and see a Facebook page open on a computer screen for work reasons. Abuse of social media by your employees is very hard to police. After all, if someone is using Facebook in your office for work purposes, but a private message pops up, that message is going to be read and will probably be replied to. There’s no point in you trying to stop that – it would be a losing battle, but that doesn’t

mean your employees always have the freedom to say what they want. You wouldn’t accept it if they stood in the middle of the street with a megaphone and mouthed off about your business, and the same applies online.

The problem is that many businesses don’t have policies for this sort of thing in place. That’s not a strong defence for an employee who crosses the line, but you should nevertheless think about formalising the situation, and making sure everyone is aware of the limits.

Your staff need to know that having a grumble about work when they get home is one thing, but doing it online for the whole world to see is far from OK. Let them know that the same standards of behaviour are expected online as are expected offline.

If you need to reinforce this position, you can always point out that this can help your staff as much as it helps you. We’ve all seen stories of people who’ve spouted off on social media, only to regret it almost immediately. By encouraging your staff to think before they post something, you might be doing them a favour. Secondly, social media accounts are routinely checked by potential employers. Private conversations should remain private, but tweets and posts sent out to the world in general quickly become public knowledge and fair game. Would a potential employer be attracted to someone who has shown a history of criticising their boss or workplace in the past? In other words, having a sensible, flexible, but official social media policy can help all parties.

By Lee McQueen, director, Raw Talent Academy