SnowdropKCS HR and Payroll Solutions, over 30 years' experience in the HR and Payroll industry

Social Media and HR: how to stay ahead of the curve

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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 communication tool.

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 behavioural change.

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

http://mashable.com/2009/04/27/social-media-policy/

http://www.marketingzen.com/10-steps-to-creating-a-social-media-policy-for-your-company/

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 use.

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 professionals.

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 people.

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 disengaged.

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.

Getting started

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 reciprocity.

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

Facebook

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 recruitment.

Twitter

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.

LinkedIn

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 world.

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 www.xperthr.co.uk/blogs/employment-intelligence/2010/03/hr-blogs-and-blogging-habits-5.html

For recruitment specific blogs take a look at http://www.recruitingblogs.com/ and http://www.hrmtoday.com/