The separation of our personal and business lives seems almost as sacrosanct as that of church and state. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. If you work as a lender at a bank, for example, you are expected to follow a set of rules that gives people of all races and religions access to your product. If someone’s behavior outside of the office indicates that they are prejudice, then their employer is likely within their rights to take action.
But it’s not always so clear. What if a banker simply shows bad judgement outside of his or her job? 20 years ago, the bank probably wouldn’t have even known about it, save for the talk around the water cooler. Today’s social media has changed that, of course. Now a scuffle goes viral, events take on a life of their own and the minute somebody identifies where the banker works, the bank’s brand itself is in jeopardy.
So what should bank management do? Should you hire extra staff to monitor employees’ Facebook and Twitter accounts like some kind of Orwellian overseers? Perhaps, but that security comes with its own risks. Is that really the kind of organization that good employees want to work for? Is it akin to mounting a camera outside of their home to watch their every move? The best and the brightest may blanch at the thought of their employer looking over their shoulder as they post images of their vacation in Cancun.
Being Proactive And Professional
The best answer, as it almost always is, is probably somewhere between the extremes. Experts suggest that good communication is the key. Tell employees what your expectations are for their behavior right away when you hire them. Have them sign a document that makes it clear what will happen if they act in a way that jeopardizes the bank’s image. Then add that document to the employee manual and have your current staff sign it as well. Your HR team should be in charge of this process. They’re the experts, and they’ll likely take part in enforcement as well.
At the very least, this spells out the rules for everybody involved. You may or may not want to monitor the private lives of your employees, but that’s where the uncertainty ends. You absolutely, positively want them to know what will happen if they put the bank in a bad light. That way, you can move quickly before the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later nature of the internet escalates the situation beyond your control.
On the other hand, don’t let issues like this scare you away from social media. When used properly, these platforms are a great way to show your customers how much you care about them (and your employees). The relationships you strengthen are invaluable, and the rewards can be significant. Just be careful and think ahead – two strategies that come natural to bankers anyway.
Greg “Hal” Halliday is the president of Anchor Marketing, a branding and new media agency that specializes in successful differentiation and positioning. Anchor Marketing has spent nearly 20 years branding and marketing independent banks in Minnesota and North Dakota. Halliday is recognized as a Certified Financial Marketing Professional by the American Bankers Association. You can contact him via phone at 701-787-8230 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.