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Some argue that human resources professionals are late-adopters when it comes to anything technology related, including social media. But the popularity and possibilities that social recruiting have brought to the profession are causing HR pros to take notice.
While part of HR’s role is to mitigate legal risks, another very large component is to help support and cultivate the corporate culture. As social media becomes more defined in the business world, human resources professionals will have a significant opportunity to leverage this powerful medium in many aspects of the business.
Here’s a look at how we think social media will affect the human resources field. Add your voice to the conversation in the comments below.
1. Resources at Your Fingertips
Regardless of your profession, we all know using social media allows us to expand our network. And human resources is no exception. I’ve often said human resources can be a lonely profession. One minute you’re at the holiday party and the next you’re terminating someone’s employment. Having the ability to interact with colleagues around the world about the challenges facing human resources is priceless.
Mike Kohn, human resources representative at SmithGroup, one of the top architecture and engineering firms in the country and a national leader in sustainable design, said his involvement in social media has allowed him to expand his HR network and industry network. “I have participated in knowledge sharing activities like the #aiachat, a monthly tweetchat for professionals in the architecture industry, I have been able to give insight into SmithGroup’s internal culture, I have positioned our firm as a thought leader and raised awareness of our company and I have gotten to know potential talent that might someday be a good fit for our organization.”
As Kohn mentioned, staying connected has the extra benefit of possibly finding new talent for the organization. Victorio Milian, human resources generalist for global fashion retailer H&M, points out that social media allows human resources to stay engaged with former employees. “I worked with our public relations and marketing departments to create a LinkedIn Alumni Group for former H&M employees. This allows the company to continue to keep the brand in the forefront of their minds. It also helps to reduce the amount of knowledge that gets lost when an employee leaves. Lastly, it’s a potential pool of rehires for H&M.”
2. Balancing Productivity and Value
Many human resources pros remember when using the Internet at work became popular. Organizations were convinced that employees would spend all day surfing and not getting any work finished. Human resources departments are still fighting that battle. This time, it’s social media.
Milian emphasizes the importance of understanding value. “Human resource professionals must understand which social media tools and strategies will give them the most bang for their buck. Just because many of these tools are free or low-cost doesn’t mean they’re worth investing in. That lack of cost makes it easy to dive into social media without considering what you want to get out of it.”
Kohn also mentioned the importance of creating value not only for the business but for the internal workforce and the industry. “On our Facebook Page, we’ve worked hard to focus on ’news you can use,‘ fun information related to the design industry, community activities that our employees have participated in and fun events that go on in our offices. We have succeeded in developing an internal following of employees that are more engaged with their colleagues, which we think and hope will lead to stronger retention rates.”
When human resources begins to include employee involvement in their corporate social media strategy, it also means working with senior leadership to create a culture that supports the change. Deirdre Honner, associate director of human resources at Calvin College, a four-year liberal arts college in Michigan, mentioned she regularly has employees contact her via Facebook regarding work matters.
While using social media tools provides human resources professionals convenience, establishing appropriate metrics to measure results will be key. Honner shared a recent story about being contacted via Facebook from a colleague who was traveling. “She had forgotten to approve some time cards and couldn’t find a safe Internet connection to log in to take care of her payroll. So, she messages me on Facebook from her iPhone. I get the message and take care of her problem.”
Employees getting paid on time is a pretty important activity, so there’s definitely value. But just as other aspects of the business like public relations and marketing are searching to quantify social media, human resources is doing the same.
3. Reevaluating Corporate Values
Honner’s story is a reminder to organizations about how using social media can change levels of expectation. Before Facebook and iPhones, it was understood there are times when people just weren’t available. And even though we now try to encourage “disconnect” time, it’s still essential for organizations to set expectations and manage those expectations where using social media is concerned.
This not only applies to employees using social media but to customer service. HR pros have to work closely with marketing, sales and operations to understand customer demographics and needs. Milian predicts that HR will use social media “to find business solutions faster and from a wider variety of sources. It will also mean that the business will need to be able to respond to the needs of their customer faster as well. We’ve all seen the power of a negative tweet or YouTube video by an irate customer. On the flip side, companies like Zappos and Dell have proven that social media can be good for business.”
4. Supporting Innovation
Benjamin McCall, leadership performance consultant at Standard Register, a recognized leader in document and print management serving health care, industrial manufacturing, financial services, government and retail industries, sees tremendous potential in social media tools for collaboration and the sharing of real-time ideas or solutions with team members. “I see the application of private enterprise tools, similar to Gowalla and Foursquare, for internal conferences or team development and meetings. HR pros will use Twitter to keep up with industry conferences, information and articles for their job and certifications. They’ll also rely on blogging to collaborate and inform leadership groups around practices and methodologies of the business; and also to get training cohorts in on the conversation.”
Human resources professionals realize in order to accomplish business goals, individuals must be encouraged and rewarded for using non-traditional thinking. But as Kohn reminds us, “Don’t think that we’ve finished exploring all of the potential that social media has. We’re all still adjusting to the professional life with social media and there’s so much more that we can do. There’s more still to be discovered and harnessed. The more we use these tools, the more we’re going to learn and grow in our roles. This is just the beginning.”
Like our colleagues in marketing and public relations, human resources professionals are learning what social media tools are available and how they can be leveraged in the workplace. Many of the rules regarding what works and what doesn’t haven’t been written or tested yet. But one thing is certain: Human resources professionals understand that social media isn’t going away. That’s the easy answer. The challenge is integrating a cohesive, relevant and effective strategy at every level of the organization.
Series supported by Gist
The Future of Social Media Series is supported by Gist. Gist keeps you better informed with less effort by giving you a full view of your professional network in one place bringing together information from across the web for all your contacts giving you the right information at the right moment to get a meeting, deliver an amazing pitch, or just find a better way to make a connection.
More HR Resources from Mashable:
– 9 iPhone Apps for Managing the Recruiting Process
– HOW TO: Use Twitter Hashtags to Boost Your Job Search
– How Job Seekers May Use Social Media in the Future
– 4 Digital Alternatives to the Traditional Resume
– Should You Search Social Media Sites for Job Candidate Information?
Reviews: Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, Internet, Twitter, iStockphoto
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