A survey by cybersecurity company Kaspersky has revealed that nearly a third (32%) of UK workers feel that they have compromised future career prospects by posting online – rising to 47% of younger workers.
The data revealed that historic social media usage affects even the most senior employees, with half (50%) of directors admitting that their social media usage has had a negative impact on their career.
Social media and the workplace:
Sophie Forrest, founder of consultancy ForrestHR, told HR magazine that both employees and employers should be aware that opinions fired off unthinkingly are also on permanent, public record.
She said: "This is something for both sides of the equation to bear in mind: employees and candidates, and HR leaders, managers, and businesses."
While HR leaders have a role in ensuring the company's name isn't brought into disrepute, Forrest added that they also need to be sympathetic to the fact that for many social media is now second nature.
More than a third (38%) of UK workers acknowledged that if a potential employer saw their posts it would harm their chances of being hired.
"Many HR leaders may also vet the social media profiles of candidates as part of the recruitment process; this can give insights, but you don’t want to lose a potential superstar just because they really enjoyed their student years," she said.
Any vetting, she said, should be judicious.
"Do the posts reveal beliefs or behaviours that could be damaging to the organisation’s reputation, or do they merely show youthfulness?
"If it’s the latter, it may be worth keeping the candidate within the recruitment process, and if they are clearly best suited to your opening, discussing with them your expectations about their social media profiles before entering into a binding contract with them.”
David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, said that while it can sometimes be tempting to share things online, people should be cautious. He said: “It’s always worth taking a moment to think about how that post will be perceived by others, particularly those who may become your employers or colleagues.”
Having searched for a colleague online, four in 10 workers (40%) admitted to finding something which they then judged them for.
Emm said: "While some posts can be deleted, the content can always resurface and have damaging effects on many aspects of life, including our careers.
"It’s therefore wise to limit the amount of information shared on these platforms and use the highest privacy settings available to limit who can view our information.”
Tony Neate, CEO of cybersafety non-profit Get Safe Online, said: “Social networking has been – and still is – one of the revolutions of the online age.”
When used correctly, he said, it is an excellent way of keeping social contact, sharing information, and finding new work.
He added: “Our advice is simple. Enjoy the benefits of social media but, periodically, take a step back.
“Use the time to edit and even delete recent posts that might position you detrimentally, minimising the risk of current and future employers or colleagues seeing you in a negative light.”