Opinion: What is the role of social in the war for talent?

For years HR and corporate affairs teams have fought to keep employee social media activities under wraps. In the ongoing war for talent, what would be gained if they stopped? Roger Christie investigates

Opinion: What is the role of social in the war for talent?

For years HR and corporate affairs teams have fought to keep employee social media activities under wraps. In the ongoing war for talent, what would be gained if they stopped? Roger Christie investigates

It’s nearing 15 years since LinkedIn launched and began changing the way organisations and professionals could connect within the global talent market. With over 500 million members across 200 countries, it has grown to become a source of hope and promise in the ongoing war for talent attraction and retention. The talent market has changed dramatically in that time.

Yet, all this time on, how would you say your organisation actually manages this new world? Individual social media tools or platforms like LinkedIn represent just a fraction of that change – which is better captured as a shift in our human desire to have greater choice, flexibility and autonomy in all we do – but remain a popular choice to gain competitive edge because they are ready-made solutions. So, have you changed the way you attract and retain talent, or have you simply changed the tools you use?

I would argue those organisations focusing on tools will fail in the war for talent as they seek technical band-aids to solve cultural challenges they were never designed to fix. Instead, considering how these cultural changes will influence someone’s decision to consider, join or leave an organisation is where the battle will be won, and where ‘social’ plays a key role – perhaps just not where you’d think. Let me illustrate this divide between organisational practices and tools further via two opposing scenarios.

If your organisation has a tools focus, it’s very likely this ‘new world’ is being managed in a few ways. Firstly, you’re still concerned about who has access to social media platforms, what they could communicate as a representative of your organisation, and the tools and policies required to manage that risk. There’s an immovable mindset to contain and control employee advocacy for the sake of corporate brand and reputation.

In fact, rather than equipping and encouraging employees to share their own stories via social media channels, Asia-Pacific organisations would rather spend almost $12bn on social media advertising and control the message. The potential to reduce expenditure, let alone staff engagement and empowerment, is captured in Hootsuite’s recent The Social Executive report:

“…content shared by employees at every level of the organisation gets eight times more engagement than corporate content and is reshared 25 times more frequently. As to converting those interactions into real business results? Employee social media activities convert seven times more frequently than other leads.”

For the past 15 years, HR and corporate affairs teams have largely focused on how best to control and restrict access to social media platforms, and how to manage the ever-blurring lines between personal and professional. How much more powerful could your organisation be in the war for talent if you viewed ‘social’ as an opportunity to review traditional organisation practices and structures? Recruitment costs, brand profiling, EOC stature, grassroots advocacy, marketing expenditure – all these factors stand to benefit.

So, consider the alternative for a moment. 

If your organisation understands the need to evolve existing organisation practices and structures in response to this ‘new world’, you already recognise the very activities others are trying to supress are in fact among the most attractive and valuable resources your employees can offer. Your organisation is committed to resolving strategic challenges in a talent-short market, and view social tools and technologies as means to execute strategy. You believe staff have an important role to play in future-proofing your workforce, and seek to provide training and enablement across teams to build confidence and competence with these new tools, technologies and practices.

To be clear, I’m not referring to executive, sales or product evangelist roles here. I’m referring to everyone – all employees. As all employees with digital and social competencies – the desire to use digital and social tools and technologies to network, learn new skills, share new ideas, collaborate with others – suddenly provide your organisation with whole new streams of value away from their day-to-day duties. Isn’t that a force worth unlocking?

Read part 2 of this series here

About the author 
Roger Christie is founder and managing director of Propel – a consultancy that helps organisations get better business outcomes with social by aligning social strategy with organisation goals.

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