Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
05 Jun 2010

HR goes social: breaking down communication barriers

05 Jun 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Social media for the people, by the people

Social media has moved on from the days of keeping old school friends in touch. Companies have now embraced this as a means of interacting with customers and employees, building brands, maintaining reputation, and even recruiting staff. In this increasingly networked world, the idea of a virtual society has revolutionised the way companies communicate with their stakeholders.

While brand marketers quickly recognised the importance of managing their online identity, HR professionals have been relatively late adopters of the social media trend. Although 85% see the importance of social media as part of their employee attraction plan, 45% admit to not having a formal social media strategy in place. By bringing HR practice in line with the 21st century, they can bring a human dimension to a discipline the CIPD recently claimed is too process-driven. 

With studies showing that 70% of consumers visit social media sites to seek information, and 67% likely to pass that information on, online reputation management is more important than ever to attract and retain the best people. Online technologies and social networks such as Linkedin, Twitter, blogs and forums are all valuable assets in attracting and retaining staff as stakeholders are able to share opinions and experiences in the move towards more credible communication.

Peers - online recommendation & feedback

90% of consumers trust online recommendations from people they know and 70% trust recommendations from people they dont. HR professionals need to be more open and inclusive when communicating with stakeholders. With user-generated and peer-to-peer content clearly more credible than traditional communications such as advertising, press releases or corporate websites, there has been a significant shift in power from the establishment to the masses.

To maximise stakeholder relationships, social media should have three main objectives:

to source and recruit candidates
empower employees to communicate online
improve the openness of online engagement with new customers.

People hire personalities

People are more likely to trust others professionally if they feel they know them personally. In the past, employers had limited capability to communicate with future employees and relied on head-hunters, employee referrals and job boards. Now, there is an interactive element to recruitment. Companies want to hire people they know, trust and respect by communicating online, social media reduces the distance between employer and candidate by allowing them to get to know each other pre-interview. In short, social media allows employers to see beyond the CV.

Social media has brought a new dimension to recruitment, as people and their careers are now marked as brands by their web presence in blogs, forums and social media networks. Individuals are effectively able to manage their own personal public relations, measured by their online activity, allowing them to be recruited based on their own self-constructed personal brands. The advent of social media allows employer and candidate to have a better understanding of one another before job offers are made, minimising the costly mistake of recruiting someone who is the wrong fit.

Gabba recently head-hunted a consultant using Twitter. Recruitment via this medium not only made it easier to identify relevant candidates, but offered a demonstration of the skills needed for the job.

Empowering employees

In this increasingly networked world, where online sentiment can make or break a business, the management of online reputation is more important than ever. Employers should actively encourage staff to connect internally and externally using social media. Allowing them to share ideas, thoughts and opinion gives employees a voice and sense of belonging, improving job satisfaction. With social media channels replacing the traditional corporately-constructed intranet, communications have become less controlled and formal, in keeping with the principles of the trend towards more open and genuine communication.

Externally, HR managers can empower employees to act as ambassadors for the company via social networks, humanising the perception of the business in the process. As the most credible sources of business information and best representatives of company culture, workers online conversations improve engagement with potential customers and new recruits. Meeting people online accelerates the networking process, as potential customers are already aware of individuals expertise upon meeting in person.

Best Buy - social media encouragement

US-based electronic retailer Best Buy and their Twitter page @Twelpforce provides an excellent example of a company embracing employee involvement in social media to raise its online brand image. Last year, the company encouraged hundreds of employees to handle online customer service and company promotions via Twitter, when customers requested their assistance with the hashtag #twelpforce.

Best Buy achieved a careful balance between freedom and control by showing trust in employees to communicate responsibly. Its policy advised: The tone of the conversation has to be authentic and honest. Be conversational. Be yourself. Show respect. Expect respect. The goal is to help. If you don't know the answer tell them you'll find out. Then find out and let them know.'  The key to improving customer relations via online conversation is to be credible and not promotional, something which this retailer clearly recognised.

Breaking down the corporate facade

Social media has far reaching potential for HR professionals and recruiters alike, to attract the best staff, keep hold of employees and create and maintain customer relations. By encouraging and enabling communication across the web, companies are creating a powerhouse of information for clients, customers and job seekers while emphasising their credibility, visibility and transparency on how they do business.

Social media not only allows a company to open up and show its customer its human side, it allows employers and potential employees to get to know one another even before interviews. Above all, social media allows companies to identify with their audience and break through the corporate facade like never before.