Is social media a great solution for HR?

Written by
Changeboard Team

17 May 2014

17 May 2014 • by Changeboard Team

So what is social media?

Social media is the term for a web-based conversation that relies on and revolves around social tools and media. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the prime portals for the modern social media user, among a proliferation.

Its here to stay (in our world that means at least three months) and rapidly changing our professional and social interactive engagement practices. The profusion of easy-to-implement and frequently free Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and online video, has precipitated a phenomenal upsurge in social engagement. 

How has social media affected HR?

The effects on the HR function can variously be described as good, bad and the dubious. For good at least, HR now has a formidable set of tools for sourcing and recruiting employees on a far more selective basis than hitherto.

Tia Carr Williams, director of engagement at has observed an escalating trend in recent months:

Taking advantage of social media to engage top talent during tough economic times has been one of social medias biggest advantages to HR. Social networks have turned into serious recruiting mechanisms, facilitating some of the activities a company can offer potential candidates.

Having monitored the adoption of LinkedIn by recruiters, HR departments now see the savings that can be realised in terms of costs for recruiting new hires. In fact, 55% of HR professionals rate word of mouth as the best source of candidates. Utilising social networks to source new prospects and saving the costs of utilising agencies or costly headhunters for talent sourcing is an extremely attractive proposition.

Using social media for recruitment

Organisations can take advantage of social media to promote open positions through current employees social networks. Nothing represents a company better than when current employees use their own networks to source new hires.

Carr continues:

Creating a continuum of talent search that allows current staff members to reach into their own social networks to promote current job vacancies is a novel approach. Recommending your employer organisation to your network carries significance in terms of referral, reputation and job satisfaction. Marketing money cant buy that type of trust.

Professionals can also enjoy the Benefits of faster access to knowledge sources and ideas exchanges through affinity groupings on the new media.

Typically, LinkedIn groups lead the way on business issues; the submission of a problem or an inquiry set before the groups attract a swift and varied response, enabling professionals to benefit from width of experience of the professionals within that group.

It remains to be seen whether or not Facebook can shake off its fun perception to attract similar groupings in any significant numbers; busy people dont generally like to replicate their knowledge sources.

Negative effects of social media

Falling firmly into the bad category is the increased likelihood of company issues and affairs being discussed in the public domain. Employees complaining openly about their salary, or working conditions, can create a viral firestorm. There are also potential areas of concern with defamation and, probably more importantly, the issues around intellectual property and copyright.

Organisations will struggle to police these areas effectively for some time to come, and HR will have to decide if this is a role that they will relish taking on. An area of concern for some time has been the amount of working time spent on social network sites; in my view, the monitoring of this should be a management issue, rather like office telephone or mobile use.

I've seen some draconian edicts relating to the choking off of access to these sites. HR will have to work with their management teams to set down fair and workable practice policies and guidelines. It should also be noted that social medias creation of easier recruitment conditions for organisations is balanced by enabling better access to jobs by their employees.

HR checking up on employees' social media?

According to a recent CareerBuilder report, the number of companies using social networking web sites to screen potential employees has doubled in the last year. What they discovered was enough to jeopardise the hiring of more than a third of candidates. 

The report revealed that Facebook was the most preferred environment for employers to do their online sleuthing, followed by LinkedIn and MySpace. Additionally, a study from Harris Interactive discovered that 45% of employers are now using social media to screen potential job candidates, more than double than last years 22%. Additionally, 7% followed job candidates on Twitter. Those sleuths are, in the main, HR professionals.

Social media: a great tool for HR

Whether people like it or not, what they show on their social sites, even for leisure or between friends and family can be noted and have a subjective effect on their careers. The jury is still very much out on the ethicality of using this information to inform opinions on employees or candidates.

What is certain is at this point in its evolution, social media offers more Benefits for HR functions than disadvantages; recruitment cost savings and sharply-focused candidate search are there for all to see.