Is HR the new frontier of social business and collaboration?

It’s an exciting time to be a HR professional with lots of social tools to assist in all areas of the employee lifecycle, writes Nathalie Lynton.

Is HR the new frontier of social business and collaboration?

It’s an exciting time to be a HR professional with lots of social tools to assist in all areas of the employee lifecycle, writes Nathalie Lynton.

For people who live and breathe People and Culture there’s much more to Social Business than online recruitment. As a Social Business advocate, you may need to take the lead and take some risks… But hey, that’s where we live!

HR or P and C is often the first user of social within an organisation. Social media has been a key means of recruitment for some time, but its external rather than within the organisation.

Developing and executing a People and Culture strategy is essentially a social activity, and it touches all parts of the organisation. It’s about working with people, from recruitment and internal communications to remuneration and staff welfare, engagement and productivity to staff morale.  While it can be said that people come to work to work, there is no escaping that humans are social creatures when in the workplace or anywhere else. Harnessing that anthropological fact with emerging technologies can be a game changer.

New social technologies have the power to transform HR and People and Culture activities – reducing costs and significantly increasing productivity, engagement, communication and knowledge.

Reducing HR costs

Automating process-intensive functions – employee surveys, recruitment, staff recognition, information sharing, and personnel functions – has the power to significantly reduce costs, and improve the efficiency and efficacy of these HR activities.

However, this is just the beginning, and it’s not just about reducing costs. Social technologies have the power to greatly enhance what can be achieved in HR.  Imagine being able to monitor staff sentiment in real time rather than via a quarterly opt-in staff survey. How much more useful would it be to be able to respond immediately to any expressions of dissatisfaction or reduction in staff morale? How might this impact staff turnover?

Engagement and productivity

In the traditional area of recruitment and talent management, a survey by Mckinsey found that if HR adds social capabilities into their processes there will be a 30% increase in the speed of finding the right expert, and potentially a 10% decrease in cost in finding that expertise within the organisation. 

By facilitating organisation-wide collaboration, problem solving can be achieved more quickly than in any other way. Whether it’s finding the solution to a client’s technical issue, or a problem with the coffee machine, social networks enable problems to be shared and solutions accessed more readily.  

Everyone likes to help others and to find others to help them with their work.  Social platforms help them connect with colleagues to help them do that. From that deep, almost primal connection comes trust, which in turn builds relationships and engagement.

Collaboration is particularly important during mergers or when companies are geographically dispersed, assisting people at geographically-diverse locations to operate as a single team with common goals, a common language and shared understanding

Is yours a social savvy company?  Don’t know where to start?

What happens if you’re the only one who recognises the potential benefits of social technologies to your HR role? How do you convince your colleagues, and more importantly your management, of the benefits? Perhaps they have a fear of Facebook?

There’s been an explosion in the social tools available to HR, and many of them are free or very low cost – including LinkedIn and Facebook. As a result, HR professionals are getting into social technologies under the radar and without the involvement of their IT colleagues.

Rather than taking on the executive, it might be best to introduce social by stealth, working with the “early adopters” in your organisation and focusing on those colleagues who also get it.   

Perhaps a very small pilot to demonstrate the benefits of a particular technology for a specific process would be the best way to start. You might be able to use a free trial version for the purpose, or use one of the free options like LinkedIn. For example, if you don’t have any collaboration technology available, consider creating a closed LinkedIn or Facebook group and inviting your colleagues to join and share.

Either way, it’s important not to do too much too soon. Look first at low risk activities to prove value and start to get people on board.

Start small, but the main thing is to START. For example, next time you need to promote a job vacancy, have the HR team members post it to LinkedIn. Later you could extend this to include all staff – perhaps with a referrer bonus.

In time you will want and need the support of key stakeholders like IT, to engage a key executive sponsor and to apply more formal change management. But you don’t need to wait for the organisation to drive this – it is you who will make it happen, because you are nothing if not social!


About the author

Nathalie Lynton is Human Resource Manager at IT solutions firm Ensyst

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