Pick a recent social media scandal involving the personal social media accounts of high ranking executives and prominent personalities saying things they shouldn’t have. How much good did the stock disclaimer “All opinions are my own and do not represent X company/brand/firm” do? The answer, of course, is none whatsoever. The scandal happened, things blew up, brands took some reputation damage, and that popular little disclaimer wasn’t even a speed bump for the court of public opinion.
The reality is that all employees are ambassadors of the companies we work for, whether we want to be or not, the moment we set foot in the public eye. Even the most junior employees are – ask any fast food executive who has weathered the scandal of a junior employee posting juvenile videos to YouTube abusing their products whether a junior employee can have influence on a brand.
It’s equally true that companies have very little legal right to govern what employees say or do on their own time, other than terminating their employment for causing reputation damage. So how does an employer exert influence in an ethical way over what its employees say (because they are ambassadors) without blurring the lines between what is work and what isn’t?
The answer is simple (but not easy): your core values must be embedded into every aspect of your company’s culture and be so ingrained that they become a silent mantra to guide employee opinions online at all times, inside and outside of work. For example, at SHIFT, our core values are:
These values are spread throughout our agency, from behavioral interviewing questions at hiring (“tell me about a time when someone did something that you didn’t consider honorable – how did you deal with it?”) to performance reviews (“describe how this employee has lived up to the value of creative”) to weekly recognitions and awards to office decor. This constant emphasis on our core values not only governs what we do at work, but hopefully also aids employees in how they interact with others outside of work. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful gift to our employees if these core values, so relentlessly promoted, began to change their interactions with others outside of work? Who wouldn’t want a friend or a loved one that was more dedicated, more honorable, more positive, smarter, more creative, more connected, or more ballsy?
If an employee was about to say something on their personal social accounts that was less than honorable, less than positive, less than smart, we’d hope that the constant emphasis on these values would help them to make a better choice of words, express the same creative thought they were going to share in a better way, even outside of work. Mistakes will always happen, bad judgements will always be made, foolish things will always be said, but with constant emphasis on solid core values, hopefully they can be reduced.
Are your core values good enough, strong enough, powerful enough, and positive enough that your employees would take them to heart even when they’re not working?
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology