Social Media and HR: how to stay ahead of
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There has been an explosion in social media in
the last few years. Everyone, it seems, is on Facebook and
LinkedIn, along with tweeting and blogging. Comprising online
content created by people, for people, social media provides an
opportunity to share thoughts, opinions, experiences, and expertise
using free tools such as blogs, podcasts and video sharing. With
the dramatic uptake of these new technologies, social media has had
a profound impact on the way people interact, read and share news,
and view information.
Already used by many HR professionals, social
media is helping to create closer relationships with people inside
and outside the organisation, and is therefore becoming a key
A game changer for HR
According to recent research by Sage across
many of its business customers almost one in ten are already using
social media. HR, however, is lagging slightly behind other
business functions such as sales and marketing in using it to their
advantage. This may be because HR has historically policed internet
use rather than encouraging its use.
The value of social media to HR professionals
is however starting to be recognised. It has a potentially game
changing role to play in recruitment and a significant role in
creating a positive employer brand. It can also drive greater
collaboration within organisations, and it can help HR
professionals to share best practice and learn from the experiences
of their counterparts in other organisations.
Harnessing social media
For Generation Y (generally characterised as
people born after 1975) social media is a way of life, and its use
is growing three times faster than that of the internet. The
pressure is therefore on to educate and inform people about how
best to use social media within organisations. As the in-house
experts in understanding behaviours and how to influence them, HR
has a central role to play in setting policy and driving
There are some quite natural concerns about
social media, including its potential impact on productivity, the
ability to control what people are saying, and the possibility of
reputational damage. HR is however ideally positioned to mitigate
the risks and harness the benefits of social media by creating
policies and procedures for its use.
Creating a social media policy
Most companies are keen to encourage their
employees to build strong networks inside and outside the business,
and social media is an ideal tool for this. But, in the same way as
HR has created policies regarding the use of phones and email, so
it also needs to create a policy for the use of social media.
A key issue to be addressed is the ‘online
footprint’ that social media leaves behind. It is important to
clarify with employees that if they can be identified as an
employee of your company when using social media they need to use
the same discretion as they would in any other media. They should
keep company information confidential, not disparage their fellow
employees or your competitors, and be aware that what they write
may be monitored by the company.
Tip: The following sites
offer advice on creating a social media policy
Getting the best from social media
If you are keen to drive the use of social
media amongst staff then it is important that they know what to use
and how to use it. Creating a training programme that identifies
the business benefits, and possible pitfalls, of using social
media, will help ensure that people can get the best out of using
the technology and drive its adoption internally, while also
ensuring that people are fully aware of your policies for its
Tip: To find out more about
building a training programme for social media see http://mashable.com/2011/01/18/social-media-training/
Finding top talent
Recruiting top talent has always been a major
challenge. Focusing on the ‘social’ in social media can help
attract a better quality of joiner. Relationships with potential
employees can be built over the long term, sometimes referred to as
‘headfarming’ as opposed to ‘headhunting’. It becomes possible to
grow relationships, and reach out to Generation Y in a medium they
are comfortable with.
Giving you the ability to tap into talent you
may not have traditionally explored, sites such as LinkedIn and
Facebook provide access to thousands of potential employees while
giving you a much wider view of an individual. Creating a picture
that goes beyond the bare bones of a CV, these sites let you enter
into a dialogue with people. You can see how they interact, what
they are interested in, and what motivates them.
Bringing your brand to life
Social media also give you the opportunity to
bring your employer brand to life, promoting your values and
culture to potential candidates. You might post videos on YouTube
of employees talking about their experiences, and why you are good
to work for, or even video job ads that introduce the team in which
someone would be working.
You could also consider setting up a dedicated
job hunter page, and create content that makes it an attractive
place for job hunters to visit. KPMG, for example, has a graduate
fan page on Facebook. It has a mini mind workout, plus audit and
tax ‘business’ games, as well as an interview skills section.
McKinsey offers a mock online interview for candidates and Ernst
and Young is using Facebook to recruit its next generation of
Offering these services free of charge allows
you to post details of recruitment fairs, for example, which can
potentially supplement, or even take the place of, the graduate
milk round at a much lower cost.
Searching out the right people
In addition to attracting people to you, you
can also use social media to target people. For example on Facebook
you can advertise jobs using very detailed and specific search
criteria so you can ensure you are getting in front of the right
It can be particularly useful to get
colleagues talking to each other when companies merge, or are
acquired. Social media can be used by HR to build cohesion when it
is difficult to get people together face to face.
Live chats can also be facilitated by HR to
take temperature checks amongst employees, finding out how they
really feel, in a cost effective way, especially when organisations
are spread across multiple sites or even countries. Social media
has also been used successfully to engage younger employees,
communicating key messages to them. It has, for example, been used
payroll departments to encourage younger employees to enrol in
pension schemes, an area from which they are usually the most
It may be useful to create your own newsfeeds
so that employees can tap into subject areas and have information
pushed to them. Blogs can be tied to learning programmes so that
people know what’s available and can find out what their fellow
employees thought of a certain programme for example, and what they
gained from attending.
Research shows that while most HR
professionals read, listen to and watch content every day, very few
use RSS feeds, post original content to blogs or websites or post
ratings, reviews or comments on blogs or online forums.
As with any other medium, before you get
involved with social media it’s important to set some objectives.
Are you primarily concerned with recruitment? Do you want to manage
your employer brand online? Do you want to connect with other HR
professionals? Deciding what your objectives are will help to
clarify how you should progress.
Finding out what’s out there
To find what works for you it is necessary to
experiment. Some things may not work, others may work differently
than expected. The first step, therefore, is to identify your
target audiences and gain an understanding of which channels are
most relevant to them. This is likely to include popular mainstream
channels such as Facebook and Twitter as well as more specialist
websites and blogs.
Once you have explored these channels you can
begin to tune into the conversations. Not only will you benefit
from insights, this will also help you understand the tone and
style of social media.
It is important to understand the etiquette of
social media – every social media channel has its own set of rules,
established and enforced by and for its users. Breaking these rules
could result in you looking naïve or foolish. Generally speaking it
is important to be honest and transparent about who you are, avoid
abusing the system and remember that it is a system built around
Getting up to speed
Social media is changing the way the world
works and HR professionals need to be proficient in its use if they
are to take advantage of it. There is overwhelming agreement
amongst HR professionals that social media can improve
communications, bring greater efficiency to workplace, provide
insight into people’s interests and motivations, and offer
opportunities for learning and knowledge sharing.
HR is ideally placed to the lead in the use of
social media, helping to drive behavioural change and working with
other departments such as IT and marketing to identify the best way
to incorporate its use to drive innovation, and improve
communications without reducing productivity.
Key social media
Used by a growing numbers of employers to
boost their brand and as a powerful recruitment tool.
Tip: Facebook offers very targeted
advertising using a whole range of search criteria including
location and areas of interest which can used very effectively for
An excellent way to initiate conversations
with potential recruits, it lets you see how they act and what they
are discussing. It’s also a useful tool for internal discussions
and problem solving.
The most important site for recruitment, you
can view CVs, place job ads and share information in online
communities. It also lets you build a network of connections with
other HR professionals across multiple industries and around the
Tip: There is a ‘Recruiting Solutions’ tool on
LinkedIn. For more information watch a demo at http://talent.linkedin.com/?pin=tr02
Blogging and YouTube
Blogging creates a real sense of an online
community, while YouTube has become popular for broadcasting
corporate videos for recruitment and training that have the power
to convey individual enthusiasm.
Tip: HR Xpert has listed some of the
best HR blogs in 2010 here
For recruitment specific blogs take a look at