Social Media, HR and Progressive Policy

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By Andrew Woods

With ubiquitous applications such as Twitter and LinkedIn having become standard tools of communication within the business community, managing the risks and rewards associated with social media remains one of the biggest challenges faced by HR professionals in todays’ workplace.

On the positive and proactive side, many companies have developed policies and put ‘social’ media to extremely practical purpose: recruiting talent, bringing depth and dialogue to their brand (both externally and internally), and maintaining a real-time flow of information between offices and countries.

However, in the absence of tangible social media policies, HR professionals and managers can be torn between policing and participation. There are plenty of reasons organizations need a social media policy, but policy must not get in the way of being progressive.

The Push to Go Social
The “opportunity” to for HR to empower this shift has become more of an imperative. A recent survey conducted by HR firm SilkRoad showed that HR leaders are just now starting to feel the pressure to implement social media initiatives—with 75 per cent of respondents agreeing that their company was behind the curve with internal and external usage of social media.

The survey also found companies accelerating their adoption of internal social technology with 67 per cent having adopted or planning to adopt the technology. Amongst those that have adopted internal social technology, tangible success has been moderate with only five per cent reporting terrific success, 22 percent reporting good success and another 24 percent indicated that it was too soon to tell; five per cent reported terrific. Tellingly though, only five per cent reported poor results.

Build Brand (And Employee) Potential
Eliot Johnson is senior manager of global social media at KPMG and shares the company’s philosophy regarding employee use of social media.

“At KPMG, social media is as much about the individual as it is about the brand. Empowering 145,000 partners and employees to use social media across our global network demonstrates our vision of enabling the business through our people,” Johnson explains. ”It is important that we recognize the business value of social media in order to connect with clients, employees and the media. If we are successful, we expect to see a shift in the digital behaviour of our people and more broadly a shift in our corporate culture.”

Taking policy off the page, KPMG recently created a video social media policy. Johnson shares the strategy behind its development: “As part of our global social media strategy, we’ve created a series of foundational materials to enable our global network, one of which was the social media guidelines. There was much debate about whether this should be a policy or a set of guidelines. In the end, we chose the latter given there were already policies in place; particularly with regards to client confidentiality, protection of intellectual property and our brand.”

Unsurprisingly, the response to the video has been very positive.

Policing in Effect (If Not Effective)
This is not to say that companies are not looking very carefully at what is being shared online. A survey by research firm Gartner says digital surveillance in the workplace is on the rise, with around 60 percent of companies aiming to increase a formal presence on social networks—including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn—to monitor their staff. While such efforts are often substantiated as attempts catch breaches in corporate security, they can obviously be detrimental to engagement and motivation.
Perhaps this goes too far, but clearly organizations cannot afford to be without a well defined policy that allows the free flow of information and usage while setting the parameters for defined misuse.

One only need look as far as Glassdoor.com to read reviews of companies that have a zero tolerance policy on the usage of certain social media platforms. It is clearly not a step in the right direction for employer branding and can be equally as harmful to a brand as social media abuse by employees

How Do You “Like” HR Now?
If the valid merits and very real value of social media is beginning to register with leadership in organizations large and small, where does HR stand?

One only need look at the high levels of engagement and participation on the Twitter feed at the recent HRMA 2015 Conference + Tradeshow to truly appreciate just how switched on HR has become. At the 2014 HRMA Conference, Dave Ulrich drove home the importance of a number of key areas of potential for HR with technological innovation sitting strongly in the mix; the message appears delivered.

With well social media policy or “guidelines” in place, HR can encourage rather than enforce and allow social media to be used as a valuable and essential tool for business development, employee engagement and personal growth.

HR’s opportunity to truly be “Liked” has arrived.

Andrew Woods, MBA is a professional speaker, trainer and author of BOOM! Engaging and inspiring employees across cultures. @AndrewWoods2

(PeopleTalk Summer 2015)

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