Non-exempt Social Business

Employees are a key element in social business. As a company starts to activate and officially sanction its employees to publish social media and use social technology, the details of managing the participation of a diverse workforce get tricky quickly.

At a high level, designing roles for employees in social business requires particular thought around ecosystem (i.e. how they connect with others), hivemind (i.e. their level of social calibration), and dynamic signaling (i.e. content creation and distribution).

At a tactical level, I'm starting to see an old question come up more often, which doesn't have a clear answer. Management almost never wants non-exempt (e.g. hourly) workers to get paid overtime for participating in social media – say an internal community or answering support issues on Twitter while representing the brand. Most companies address this issue by requiring participating employees to agree to terms & conditions before participating, whether this is the best solution remains unclear, given a lack of legal challenges to date.  

Most of the people I know who are involved in social media are of the white-collar salaried variety. Many of them participate in order to gain a competitive edge in their work. But what happens when the rest of the company gets involved?  In particular, when the participation happens for corporate benefit and being social becomes part of the job…how should employers reward this value creation?

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When an entire business ecosystem becomes socially active – and our corporate labor policies and 9-to-5 mentalities have not yet evolved – should employees be paid for participating in social media?  What happens if the hourly employees participating in Twelpforce and similar initiatives stop for a second and think – "hey, I'm not on the clock…why am I not being paid for this?"

  • Some people might stop participating.
  • Others might still do it for "extra credit."
  • It's not inconceivable that in some environments the workforce might sue. In fact, it's already happening in some closely-related cases.

The propensity of people to contribute value on a volunteer basis is all around us. Individual editors on Wikipedia, participation in site improvement surveys, or retweeting information for a good cause. But volunteerism is only going to take us a limited distance, the first step or two on the journey of a thousand miles to social business.

So how is your company going to handle the journey? Are you prepared to potentially pay for it every step of the way?

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  1. Seems like this is mostly a “it depends” kind of answer.

    There is a fair amount of employment law already developed about people who are on call/carrying beepers – and my guess is that the same kinds of approaches will apply here.

    If you have a large hourly workforce, it is hardly fair to expect them to represent/work for the company on their off hours. Seems more enlightened to pay them for this effort. (We the company actually VALUE this engagement so we are happy to pay for it.)


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