The sharded self – why a 360-degree view of employees is needed in a digital world

Mark Sugden, Sales & Business Development Director, at GBG explains the importance of knowing who your people are

Do you act in the same way at work as you do in your private life? Do you talk to your friends and family as you would your boss, colleagues or clients? Do you demonstrate the same views, interests and support the same causes? Maybe sometimes, but probably not in most cases.

Within working hours, we put on a professional business persona – a professional, business-like one. We speak a certain way, maybe hold our tongue in a stressful situation or grit our teeth when hearing a client’s thoughts on a political topic.

However our private persona may be quite different. Traditionally someone’s identity was confirmed by credit-derived data, but now we have access to open-source data that paints a fuller picture of an individual.

So you think that you have the perfect employee – but what’s really going on beneath the surface? Is the person under financial stress or coming to the attention of the authorities? Have they an undeclared criminal record, been convicted of a motoring offence – facing a period of disqualification or declared themselves bankrupt?

Maybe contractually an employee is required to inform their employer of any of the above – should they choose not to then it is the employer who is exposed. Knowing your people is therefore a critical part of any HR department’s role.

Blurred lines

In a digital age, with the growth of social media platforms, an employee’s private persona is increasingly accessible to the employer, shared with colleagues and visible to customers. Personal posts, images and shares can be viewed on the open internet and as such, the lines between an individual’s professional and personal lifestyle begin to blur.

Of course, there is the view that the monitoring of employee’s social activity can be seen by as an invasion of privacy. An alternative view is that this is a reputation risk assessment, rather than snooping into an individual’s private life.

With the individual’s consent the employer can check if an employee has current criminal convictions, on their financial status and their eligibility to drive Making these checks is generally regarded as best practice in professional recruitment pre-screening.   

Running regular checks on an employee is very much a grey area for HR, but the fact of the matter is, a company needs to have a full 360-degree view of its employees in order to understand if their out of work self is in any way a potential risk to the business’ reputation, or its bottom line.

Yet despite the fact that there are now 2.3 billion active social media users in the world, recent research from AXELOS highlighted that only 6% of HR professionals regard checking candidates’ social media profiles as an important part of the employee on-boarding process.

Prioritising the pre-screening process

Employment pre-screening is a form of protection for a business, but with multiple pressures being piled on the HR team, the process is often bogged down in siloed spreadsheets, falls to the bottom of a ‘to do’ list or is delegated to the most junior member of the team to complete.

Undertaking a criminal record check, taking up candidate references or checking for a valid driving licence may all be part of the current on-boarding process, but there’s relatively little checking of the social media profiles of the person who’s looking to be an advocate of your company.

Understanding the wider profile of a candidate or current employee can be incredibly enlightening, and avoid any surprises down the line.

When sharded turns shady

Monitoring the key integrity indicators is important when it comes to protecting an organisation’s reputation and business opportunities.

It is not uncommon i sales negotiationsfor each side of the interaction to check out the social media profile of on the other. This often raises the credibility of your representative – revealing their previous experience and business associates in common – however discovering something unsavoury on social media can threaten the sales opportunity and ruin the business relationship.

The Financial Conduct Authority’s latest Certification Regime requires regulators to pre-approve people with senior manager functions and also make regular financial and criminal record checks thereafter. While it’s the firm’s responsibility to determine how the honesty, integrity and financial soundness of their employees.

Shine a light on the sharded self

As our personal and professional worlds collide regular employee checks will prove a business necessity rather than a ‘’nice to have’’. They are invaluable to HR professionals and show that a firm understands the essence of self. If the private persona of an individual is not considered, an employer is only seeing half the picture. And when that hidden half could jeopardise business, the benefits of shining a light on the sharded self is clear to see.

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