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Two Ten Seminar Weighs Social Media Usage at Work

Social media isn’t just reshaping everyday communication, it’s causing some head scratching among human resource execs at footwear firms.

Attendees at the Two Ten Human Resources Leadership Summit on Wednesday were divided on how to use social media within firms to help employees communicate with one another.

Held at Foot Locker Inc.’s Manhattan offices, the event opened with a panel debating the topic. Christy Conklin, director of internal communications at LF USA, said the firm developed an internal social media platform called The Showroom, which lets staff members interact through message threads, and works a little like a proprietary Facebook.

“Conversations happen so much faster than on email,” said Conklin. “It also has proved invaluable in crisis communications, such as when Hurricane Sandy happened.”

Scott Domann from Facebook’s HR department was also on the panel. He advocated for companies to be open to change and follow the needs of the workforce.

“It’s amazing to be able to create a community and connection with the people you work with. The more you resist [that trend], the worse it’s going to get,” he said.

Conklin agreed: “An engaged workforce is a happier workforce and a more productive one, too.”

One caveat for firms looking to embrace social media, however, is that the National Labor Relations Board enforces firms’ social media policies as part of employees’ rights to communicate any possible dissatisfaction with their workplace.

“It’s part of the standard audit now, asking for the firm’s social media policy,” said Keith Wexelblatt, associate general counsel and head of legal at Reebok. From a legal standpoint, conversations online that invite a string of comments and discussion — which is a fundamental objective of social media — are tantamount to union management, he added.

Of course, the same privacy concerns one would have in personal life apply on the professional side, but social media advocates maintain that the positives of open communication outweigh the negatives. Panelists also noted very few instances in which employees posted material that was inappropriate. Rather, the efforts increased contact across all levels.

“Generally nowadays, enough people aren’t afraid of responding to their CEO on, say, a blog,” noted Conklin.

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