In the digital age, the power of social media cannot be underestimated. While viral videos can be entertaining and light-hearted, they can also cause nightmares for human resources (HR) departments when they involve employees or events related to the company. A recent example involving Byju’s, the edtech company, showed an employee venting his frustration over delayed incentives and mental pressure at work.
Another video showed employees of Coding Ninjas being stopped from leaving the office without their manager’s permission. The company has been accused of fostering a rigid and strict work culture. How should the HR react or respond in such situations? It’s for the company’s image as an employer both internally and externally.
While dealing with such unforeseen instances, a proactive approach is always better than a reactive one. There are some thumb rules that HR professionals should adhere to, and communication is a primary factor.
“The HR managers must be cautious about their communication with employees, whether in a formal or informal setting, and should refrain from assuming that they are not representing the employer at any given time. Regardless of the location, whether in the office or elsewhere, what HR says can be used against them,” points out Sunil Singh, senior HR leader and founder Mindstream Consulting. One thing they have to forever keep in mind is they are always representing the brad, and therefore, they have to be cautious about what they communicate, regardless of the time, context, or location.
Tanaya Misra, VP-HR, Endo International, suggests taking “Preventive measures, involving conducting workshops on the code of conduct, and outlining how employees should interact with managers and vendors.”
She is of the opinion that once the code of conduct is in place, communication can take place through various means, such as posters, short videos, or training sessions that are mandatory for all employees.
Creating different channels for communication, such as an employee relations team and avenues for escalation, fosters an open culture where individuals can freely express their thoughts and concerns in support of the organisation. Besides, this code of conduct clearly communicates the company’s zero-tolerance policy towards serious issues such as sexual harassment.
“The HR managers must be cautious about their communication with employees, whether in a formal or informal setting, and should refrain from assuming that they are not representing the employer at any given time. Regardless of the location, whether in the office or elsewhere, what HR says can be used against them.”
Sunil Singh, senior HR leader and founder MindStream Consulting
It is important for HR managers to avoid indulging in loose talk. They must steer clear of indiscreet talk, given their continuous representation of the brand.
One’s behaviours and values also play a vital role in preventing such instances. “If the individuals possess the right set of values and behaviours, they are less likely to engage in conversations that could be used against them, regardless of the circumstances they are in,” asserts Singh.
To safeguard against such incidents, it is advisable to adhere to a basic protocol, ensuring that no digital communication or virtual meetings are recorded. “During meetings, it is advisable to request attendees to set aside their phones or video recording devices to create a better environment for communication without the risk of recording sensitive conversations,” advises Misra.
Misra advises, “HR must work closely with legal and public relations teams to assess potential legal liabilities and develop a well-coordinated response plan. Legal experts can help navigate privacy concerns and identify the best course of action.”
Even after following the given protocols, if certain incidents do take place, such as a video going viral, HR professionals can decide the further course of action after considering certain factors:
Examine the situation: “In case an incident goes viral, the key is to not panic but to carefully analyse the situation,” suggests Misra. “Understand the origin of the issue and examine it piece by piece to find appropriate solutions. As videos often present only one side of the story, it is essential to conduct thorough investigations to gain a comprehensive understanding of the matter,” enunciates Misra.
“HR must work closely with legal and public relations teams to assess potential legal liabilities and develop a well-coordinated response plan. Legal experts can help navigate privacy concerns and identify the best course of action.”
Tanaya Misra, VP-HR, Endo International
Have faith in the brand/ image: According to Singh, “The best course of action, in most cases, is to ignore the video altogether. In today’s digital era, marked by the prevalence of social media and misinformation, delving into the incident may inadvertently give the perception that something is wrong. Instead, it is better to rely on the organisation’s reputation and credentials.” Society and stakeholders have become more cautious regarding viral videos and social-media information. People know that not everything portrayed on social media is entirely accurate.
Take action: Depending on the gravity of the situation and the nature of the incident, action must be considered. If the issue involves an individual compromising integrity, cheating customers, or engaging in malpractice, distancing oneself from that person is crucial. Such situations require a different approach altogether. “Action must be taken to demonstrate to the affected stakeholders that the organisation is committed to ethical business practices and will not tolerate any misconduct or lack of integrity,” asserts Singh.
He also points out, “Similar to politicians, organisations also experience constant public attention, with their actions being noted, commented upon, and sometimes misinterpreted by the media and stakeholders on social media. Hence, it is essential to strike a balance and focus on the positives of the organisation or politician than the negatives.”
Both Singh and Misra believe that a single isolated incident showcased in a viral video is unlikely to tarnish the long-established positive image of an individual, brand or company. It is essential to maintain composure, respond appropriately and trust that a solid reputation will prevail in the face of such incidents.
The primary focus should be on maintaining a positive and reputable image at all times. Being mindful of conduct and behaviour is crucial, as the organisation’s reputation impacts both customers and stakeholders. By proactively establishing a strong brand presence, organisations can reduce the need for reactive measures and maintain a positive image even in challenging situations.