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BW Businessworld

Why HR Needs To Network

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Here’s the thing HR personnel, among others, need to remember: ‘social media’ might be a new term, but what it signifies is not really new. Since the advent of the Internet, people have connected with each other in a public system — via usernet, bulletin boards, etc — to discuss and share views and opinions.

It is just that social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have emerged at a time when Internet penetration via the mobile is growing exponentially in our part of the world. So, what does social media comprise of?

When most people think of social media, they think of ‘networks’. Social networks such as Facebook (Friendster and Orkut earlier), professional networks such as LinkedIn (and Ryze earlier) and information networks such as Twitter.

Networks are people-centric. My social network comprises of people whom I have known — but might not know well. The other aspect of social media is ‘communities’. They are virtual places where people with a common interest gather to engage in a subject. These can be communities of practice where professionals interact and share content with each other.

Content and communities are shaping how people find and connect with each other. Organisations, to remain relevant, need to participate in this conversation by becoming content creators. They cannot rely on external media — paid, like advertising; or earned, being mentioned by the mass media — alone. They have to invest in creating ‘owned media’. For an employer, it means media that showcases the organisation’s culture in the form of articles, presentations, videos, etc. This is necessary as employees and alumni are rating and reviewing all aspects of an employer — from culture, to salaries, to interviews — on sites such as Glassdoor and JobBuzz.

It also means that HR personnel need to ‘listen’ to the conversations on the social Web — what are people saying about the organisation, its leadership and also about competitors. This can be as simple as using a search engine regularly, or using sophisticated tools that track large numbers of conversations and can even judge the sentiments in those conversations.



It means HR — along with IT and other functions — in order to engage the next-generation workforce with the larger organisation, needs to get the organisation ready to deploy tools that enable employees to use the principles of ‘participation for a purpose’. These tools can be deployed from the cloud — via the Internet — or installed on company servers. Most large ERP (enterprise resource planning) service providers also offer social networking software these days. These tools help employees connect across geographies and silos to discover and collaborate. These are also great tools to engage the workforce in larger change initiatives or communication when they are rolled across the organisation.

Can employees, HR professionals and management folk work together using social media — to do things that were done only by HR?

Let’s think about the aspects of HR work and what can be made ‘social’:

l Recruitment: How about a talent show where prospective candidates perform tasks that are voted on by current employees — and the final selection is made by the hiring managers. These tasks could be simulations of the job role. They could be text-based, photographic or video-based. These folks can be pre-screened based on their interests and participation in the company’s external communities. The first question the recruiter needs to answer is: Who is my top talent and what is he/she interested in? Primarily, is he/she interested in the content and knowledge component of the job? Followed by organisational culture and the mechanics of the job. The recruiting firm needs to reach out to the community where top talent is likely to be present and publish the above by way of blog posts, YouTube videos and pictures, and on discussion forums.

An example of a recruiter using Twitter is Christa Foley (@electra) of zappos.com. She gives followers an inside look into her career at Zappos. She tweets examples of negative recruiting interactions with potential clients, the outreach she does with high school and college students, and how she looks for potential Zappos candidates.

Another example is how Best Buy tweeted about an opening and then changed the job description based on feedback from the community.
  • Recognition: Peer recognition, which is social, beats a pat on the back from the boss. Enterprise social networks such as Socialcast and Chatter allow employees a chance to offer badges and other kinds of recognition to their peers.
  • HR processes: Dell employees use an internal platform called Ideastorm to give ideas for improving systems and processes at the workplace.
  • Employee engagement: We all know that an internal corporate social network can leverage connections that exist between employees and also help in serendipitous discovery of new knowledge and innovation by getting people to collaborate and discover people whom they might not have met in person.
  • Learning and development: Employee engagement and collaboration helps people learn from fellow employees. These tools can also be used by trainers to add more to the classroom and create a community of learners who can continue to share experiences and be a support group as they implement learnings in their workplace.
How Can Social Technologies Help?
  • First, in creating a community of fellow learners before they ‘attend training’. This will help them learn from each others’ experiences
  • In focusing away from ‘competencies needed’ to people sharing their expertise and strengths
  • In facilitating sharing of content and theory before training — so that face-to-face time can be used for practice and feedback
  • In enabling the community of learners to become a support and ideation group to fall back on when they return to their workplaces
  • By inducting managers into the community to understand how they can support their colleagues’ learning and channel it into the workplace
What Will The Future Bring?
With the rise of the ‘collaborative economy’, where people move from sharing digital media — text, video and images — to sharing goods and services, thanks to sites like Couchsurfing, Uber, AirBnB. Talent marketing is ripe for disruption with ‘talent in the cloud’ (sites like oDesk and eLance). MOOC (massive open online course) sites like Coursera and EduX will change how companies source skills and how people keep their skills relevant.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 30-06-2014)