“An ex-employee of recruitment firm Hays has been ordered to disclose details of his profile at social networking site LinkedIn. Mark Ions set up a rival agency and is accused of using LinkedIn to steal clients. He says Hays encouraged his use of the site.
“Ions worked for Hays Specialist Recruitment for six and a half years before leaving to run his own agency, Exclusive Human Resources, which he set up almost three weeks before resigning.
“Hays alleges that while still an employee, Ions copied and retained confidential information about clients and contacts of Hays. The firm says that Ions used that information for his own venture and that he breached his contract of employment. Hays went to the High Court in London to seek pre-action disclosure from Ions and his firm, i.e. an order to disclose information that Hays could use as the basis of a subsequent lawsuit.” (OUT-LAW.COM)
Hmm, I once worked as recruitment consultant for Montrose Technical recruitment, the sister company to Hays, back in 1990. I was rubbish at the job!
Social capital has always been a tacit element of sales recruitment, sometimes a principal one, especially in incestuous vertical markets. This translates to largely unenforceable anti-competition clauses in employment contracts.
It stands to reason that the exposure of social capital through LinkedIn and other similar networks is starting to be used in a forensic manner as in this example. It’s another case of our collective consciousness being slow to wake up to the threats, as well as the opportunities, presented by such social disclosure.
Your LinkedIn profile is also your summary CV and thus it is equally unsurprising that some organisations with high value knowledge workers see it as a threat and are considering new clauses in employment contracts that prevent their “intelectual assets” from being exposed on it!
Perhaps these developments represent the first signs of an impending turf war over social capital, with enterprise “control freakery” laid bare. I suspect such a war could only reflect badly on the enterprises that choose to fight it and following adverse publicity and reputational damage, they would quietly accept that they “rent”, rather than “own”, their employee’s social capital.
By coincidence I came across a nice case study (pdf) on selectminds involving US law firm Goodwin Procter, which aims to foster a culture that is collaborative, entrepreneurial and practical. Scott Westfahl, director of professional development, then goes to make a real plus point about enhancing individual employee’s social capital: “Our commitment to developing our people starts even before their first day, for example, as a summer associate, and continues well after they have left our firm. We are fostering a collaborative culture with the hope that all of our employees substantially increase their own personal market value — both internally and externally — as a result of the professional development opportunities offered here at Goodwin.” Sounds like they’ve seen the light!
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