Social is an HR Issue


Next week I’ll be chairing the CIPD Social Media in HR Conference 2013. I chaired last years’ too so it’s nice of them to invite me back! At the event they will be presenting survey findings from their ‘Social Technology, Social Business‘ research.

They have already written about some key findings. Unsurprisingly they find that younger employees use social channels more than their older counterparts, but they do find some more interesting behaviours amongst senior employees:

  • Over 50% of senior leaders use social media for work, compared to 33% of Managers and 20% of non Managers.
  • Senior leaders are externally focussed and see social media as a way to build networks
  • 52% of the senior leaders who use social use LinkedIn
  • Senior leaders are more likely to comment on forums and post blogs
  • Managers are more likely than non-Managers to job hunt using social media

There was one point of caution sounded though…

“However, senior leaders don’t seem to have seen the potential for social media as an internal leadership tool, helping them to be visible to their employees, gain trust and focus employees on strategy – indeed the data suggests thy could learn a thing or two from their middle managers here”

This interest in using the platforms probably won’t come as a surprise to regular readers. I’ve always believed that senior leaders, the C-Suite, are quite comfortable with social and that the real roadblock often lies within middle management. But the inability to see social as an enabler of better leadership is very disappointing, as is the nagging reluctance of many in HR to see this whole area as one for them. If anything should bring HR to the social table its the potential for better and more engaging leadership – visibility, trust and focus.

There’s not really a road back. This is evolution in the way that people connect and share information, and just like the phone and email, businesses need to adapt it if they are to survive and thrive in future.

Too often HR practitioners seem to see social technologies as something for marketing or internal comms to get their heads around, happy to leave it to the broadcasters and external message conveyors, but this is a gross dereliction of duty!

These tools and platforms aren’t just for external use – they are for internal use too! And that’s the point at which marketing need to let go of the reins.

  • If an an employee says something on Twitter that causes the business a problem, then that’s ultimately an HR issue.
  • If your key workers are posting on how they hate Mondays and wish the weekend could last an extra day or two, then that’s likely to be an issue for HR they are highlighting too.
  • If they go on to Glassdoor and post an anonymous review of how awful it is to work four you, then that’s also flagging up an issue for HR.
  • If you’re missing out on the talent you need because other companies have social technologies embedded, and a range of employee advocates telling their story online, then that’s another HR issue.
  • If there’s a lack collaborative working in the company, then that’s a managerial issue, which will almost certainly become an issue for HR.
  • If employees are disengaged through a lack of leadership visibility or a lack of trust in senior management, then that’s certainly an HR issue.
  • If your employees already have their own social media policy (as Euan Semple has said) then it’s certainly an issue for HR to make sure that the company is included in it.

When I say it’s an issue for HR, I don’t mean for HR to control and police…I mean for HR to get with the programme and start understanding how these tools are used and how they can be harnessed for creating the type of work environment in which employees feel valued, proud and able to give their best efforts. Not workplaces where people moan, hide, feel undervalued and generally have no desire to perform.

Of course, some of these issues require HR to challenge, not to accept the status quo or meekly follow leadership will. As Neil Morrison says, HR needs to be a trusted partner, and that means knowing when to tell a hard truth.

And to tell that hard truth you need to understand it. The opportunities are there for collaboration, learning, sharing of knowledge, different working arrangements, and creating a stronger bond with customers, clients, suppliers and partners…it needs to be grabbed.

As the recent book Attenzi – A Social Business Story defines ‘social business’:

“Social business is about adapting the way in which an organisation delivers its mission and pursues its vision by designing the organisation around influence flows, connecting: its people, partners, customers and other stakeholders; data, information and knowledge in and all around it…more openly, productively and profitably with the application of social web, big data and related information technologies.”

In my conference preview a year ago I likened social media to punk rock, but the clock is now ticking and this time it’s even more vital, not something you can indulge in if you like.

As Peter Cheese said when he opened CIPD13 “The future’s already here. It’s just happening at different speeds in different companies

I’m hoping #CIPDSocial13 offers a great way to start getting everyone up to speed…

(image via xln business blog)