One-third of young staff happy for social media to be monitored

Up to one third of young people suggest that they would be happy for their employer to have access to their social media profiles in return for job security, according to a report that claims such personal data monitoring is set to become the norm in the workplace.

The report, written by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC ) using a survey of 10,000 workers worldwide and 500 human resources professionals, suggests personal data from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites could be used by employers to understand what motivates their workforce, reasons why people might move jobs and to improve employee well-being.

PwC predicts that online monitoring by employers will rise over the next decade. By 2020, people currently aged 18-32 will form half of the global workforce, bringing with them different attitudes to technology and personal data.

The research claims that younger people are more open to sharing their personal data with their employers, with 36 per cent of workers saying they would be happy to do so.

John Harding, human resource services partner at PwC in Manchester, said: “Just as advertisers and retailers are using data from customers’ online and social media activity to tailor their shopping experience, organisations could soon start using workers’ personal data with their permission to measure and anticipate performance and retention issues.

“This sort of data profiling could also extend to real-time monitoring of employees’ health, with proactive health guidance to help reduce sick leave. Key to the success of organisations being able to use employee data will be developing measurable benefits for those who hand over their data and building trust through clear rules about how data is acquired, used and shared.”

Siding with the two-thirds of the survey’s respondents who disagreed with social media monitoring, Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, said there are obvious problems with this approach. “First of all, it is naive to think that if you trade off your privacy rights, eg access to one’s social media that an employer can ever guarantee job security,” he said.

“Second, I cannot see, if an employer had access to an employee’s social media, how this could possibly lead to greater employee motivation or well-being. This seems a plain case of trying to find out what employees are doing and thinking – clearly an intrusion into their private life. I see no HR justification for it whatsoever.”

The PwC report also said that the shift towards more reliance on digital technology is disrupting the traditional nine-to-five office environment as workers are now contactable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This change gives some employees the flexibility they want, whilst others are unhappy at having their non-work hours invaded with texts, emails and phone calls from their employers.

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