How HR and social media can harness an opportunity

Translation of the bible into English led to people being burned at the stake. Early printing presses were destroyed to prevent uncomfortable information reaching wider sources. Julian Assuage is unlikely to be burned at the stake, but he may want to be cautious about whom he embarrasses.

Improvements in communication have never been popular with those in control!

Organisations, particularly as employers rather than recruiters or marketeers, also tend to eschew social media. Adverse comments can quickly go viral and it is not always easy to bring perpetrators to book, especially if it is facts that are being disseminated.

However recent research by the CIPD reveals that relatively few employees use social media to voice concerns related to work (13%), while nearly half said they used it for a mixture of work-related and personal activities.

A previous employer of mine spent thousands on “team briefing” and organisations such as Asda successfully used ‘team huddles’ to tell their people everything, on the basis that “the more they know, the more they care.” HP and other successful organisations also foster open communication.

With employees of Generation Y, social media provides a great opportunity for employers to open up communication.

Team briefing focuses on communicating messages down the organisation – but the route back up and across the organisation can be equally important. For example, once you’ve made the sale, who is the main contact with the customer? Relationships across your organisation are also crucially important. Business guru, Michael Porter identified the effectiveness with which different functions in an organisation interact as the major driver in competitive edge.

So social media can foster greater team work, disseminate information across the organisation, improve interaction of different functions and enhance effectiveness.

How employees can use social media to their employer’s benefit:

  • Finding information that’s helpful to them in their job
  • Making or maintaining contacts that help them in their work
  • Building new relationships across the organisation
  • Asking work related questions of sources outside the organisation
  • Asking work related questions of sources inside the organisation
  • Networking with other professionals

What employers can do:

  • Have an explicit policy so employees know the boundaries
  • Consider a secret group on facebook
  • Encourage membership of LinkedIn
  • Encourage membership of and participation in LinkedIn groups
  • Consider using a social enterprise network such as Yammer
  • Choose trusted employees to “drive” such groups
  • Place valued content in such groups

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