Submitted by Arthur J. Dykes, CPA, and Donald Paris, CPA

In a current column, we "complained" about how increased regulatory pressures and complexity was making it very difficult for corporate CFO’s to control and manage financial statement processes, as well as to manage the time commitments now required to fully comply with rules and regulations.

This month, Bob our CFO of a $25M government contractor was juggling multiple tasks and priorities, due diligence requests, banking demands, tax deadlines, senior management requests for more financial analysis, and interpreting the federal acquisition regulations, while still trying to prepare monthly financial statements and do all the routines of the accounting department, as well as interact with the demand of operating departments.

Bob marveled to me that there just didn’t seem to be enough time in the day to handle all those competing demands -- and yet his staff could find time to play fantasy football (multiple leagues) and exchange social "niceties" on Facebook, and those same staff seemed to know exactly when to close out the application when management was watching. This younger generation has either amazing time management skills, is extremely productive and focused, or perhaps doesn’t have the sense of urgency that our harried CFO is experiencing. Are these social media outlets just a pleasant workday diversion to our staff, or is productivity an issue at your organization?

We surmise that younger workers are not thoroughly trained in the fundamentals of time management skills and the importance placed on workforce policies on social media usage. Popular websites such as Facebook, Linked-in, Plaxo, blogs, etc. may generate legitimate business leads, recruit talent, and keep you connected to your customer base, prospects, and other business contacts. But perhaps it may cause distraction and possible internal resentment between over worked vs. other less busy departments. Bob thought that implementing some controls around social media usage would facilitate a more productive workforce, and better equip staff to know the do’s and don’ts of using this medium. At a minimum, implementing a social media policy to emphasize the appropriate use of the social media outlets and encourage better workforce productivity is a good starting point. A sample social media policy may read something as follows:

Authority to Use Social Media On Behalf of the Firm

You may not use any social media application by or on behalf of the Company unless you obtain formal written approval from the Company’s Corporate Communications Group.

Adherence to Social Media Guidelines

If you receive approval from Corporate Communications, you must comply with all of the requirements and obligations found in the Company’s Social Media Guidelines, Social Media Overview, and any other rules or guidelines set forth by Corporate Communications in consultation with the Company’s Legal Group.

Failure to comply with this policy may subject the Company and the individual to various fines and penalties, and may result in disciplinary measures, including termination, for the individual offender. If you have any questions about this policy, or if you wish to use social media applications on behalf of the firm, please contact Corporate Communications.

In addition to a policy, the Company should have a web-based application that registers all employees, including the sites and the business purposes for using them. We have also found very useful a list of prohibited activities. So before "going social" we suggest your employees think about their business objectives, such as (1) with whom do you want to connect; (2) what industry group would be most effective; and (3) a mechanism to monitor usage and results. We hope a little more discipline over social media will increase productivity, resulting in less stress on your financial accounting department.