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Social media - recruitment and performance management


Employers are increasingly using social media to recruit staff. It has become much more than just another channel for listing job vacancies, and has changed how some employers approach recruitment.

Managing performance can also bring challenges for employers in how they supervise employees' performance. For example employers may be concerned that some employees spend too long using company computers for personal reasons, such as sending emails to friends, updating social network accounts, or browsing and shopping online.


Advertising jobs

Employers want to get the best person for the job and should usually use at least two different methods of recruitment. For example:

  • social media website
  • local newspapers
  • Jobcentre Plus
  • employment agencies.

This will help attract potential candidates from different backgrounds. If an employer only targets people who are similar they may be accused of discriminating against people outside of those social groups. Recruiting from a wide pool of people will help build a diverse workforce. If employers have a workforce that reflects the communities that it serves it will help to deliver services and products that meet the needs of its customers.

Screening applicants

Some employers look at job candidates' social media profiles to see how they present themselves to the outside world and how they might fit the job. However, employers should take care as there can be pitfalls, as this can be unfair and potentially discriminatory.

Further, under the General Data Protection Regulation, using information from a candidate's social media profile without their permission in the recruitment process could breach GDPR rules. The GDPR principle is that an employer being able to see a candidate's social media profile does not mean it has the candidate's consent to take it into account.

Risks of discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. These grounds are called protected characteristics.

Employers could face an employment tribunal hearing if they refuse to interview or offer a job to, someone based on a judgement they made through looking at the candidate's social media profile, if this is linked to a protected characteristic.

Employers should take into account:

  • how they will reach potentially good candidates who do not use social media
  • whether it's fair to assess candidates differently by looking at the social media profiles of applicants who have them while they cannot do the same for those who do not
  • that using social media to try to target low-skilled workers may not prove successful as they are less likely to use it in their roles.

Performance management

Employers may be concerned that some employees spend too long using company computers for personal reasons such as sending emails to friends, updating social network accounts, or shopping online. This is a problem which can be difficult for line managers to spot, as employees can switch quickly on screen between their work and personal use of social media. Another complication can be that as well as using their work computer, an employee might also use their personal smart phone or device.

Employers should have a policy about personal use of work devices so employees are clear about what they are allowed to do. It would also be a good idea to speak to staff about the use of personal devices during working hours. If a policy is breached, or if the employer can deems it necessary, IT specialists can monitor employees' time spent online on work equipment, or block access on a work computer to certain sites.

Develop a policy on the use of social media at work

Every organisation will have different rules. Some may ban personal use of the internet altogether, while others may allow 'reasonable use' at the discretion of a line manager.

It may be helpful to set some guidelines - for example, personal use of social media is permitted during tea breaks and lunchtime. An employer should consult their employees or trade union representatives when drawing up a policy.

Give line managers guidelines on remote/homeworking

Using IT remotely is allowing many employees to work away from an organisation's base with their employer's agreement. This can pose unique challenges for performance management. However, the basic rules of effective performance management still apply - for example, holding regular performance reviews and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with all staff.

Settling in new staff

An employer should use the first few weeks of employment to establish the acceptable standards of behaviour. An employer should also spell out the risks of using company facilities for personal use, and any potential disciplinary consequences.


An employer should make it clear to employees what behaviour will be monitored and what disciplinary sanctions may be triggered - for example, if someone is off sick, but colleagues report seeing pictures online of them out socialising.