How HR can be strategic with social media

One veteran HR professional offers her insight into being social media savvy.

It’s finally happened: digital immigrants in the workplace have finally caught up to the digital natives. Or if you prefer a more colloquial turn of phrase, the older generation has finally caught up to the millennials in realizing and utilizing the power of social media in the workplace. Granted, it took a while but not for the reasons one might think. While millennials were quick to flock to social media, the realization of its value in the workplace has charted a slightly longer course. This is primarily due to a ‘wait and see’ approach by seasoned communications professionals who are strategic by nature and frequently see trends come and go. But social media has proven in spades that it isn’t a passing trend and that it is very clearly here to stay.
For HR professionals this is good news because it means unlocking a world of potential. Social media has an inherent value in the workplace and it isn’t just limited to ‘Generation Like.’ But taking advantage of this potential isn’t just about regular tweets or community page votes, it’s about being strategic. Working in HR is in many ways like being a business partner with the company you work for and a good partner helps to outline strategy. “HR needs to be part of the strategic planning process from the people side of the business” says veteran HR professional Michelle Gibbons.
With over 25 years in the business, Gibbons has seen more than a few trends come and go and knows that social media isn’t one of them. “You need to understand the business you are in and how you can most affect change and development within it from the people perspective. Applicants want to learn about you as a firm and social media is a great way to do that to attract the best and the brightest talent.”
A well thought out social media presence is worth its weight in gold and Gibbons, an online HR instructor at Ashton College, knows that applicants are going to take an ‘employee first’ approach in scouting potential firms to apply to. “All of your employees are ambassadors for your organization. The more they know about what the organization is doing the more they can share with others and promote the business.” This is where social media really comes into its own in the workplace: positive employee reviews are an undervalued resource because they give potential applicants an inside perspective into how an organization operates.
However, social media can be a double edged sword. If employees are truly unsatisfied with a company and take to social media to vent, negative feedback can compound and turn into a very serious problem. Thankfully, many companies have social media policies outlining what is and isn’t acceptable but serious violations can and do happen. “Your online presence is your brand,” says Katharine Mills, a Vancouver-based digital marketer. “Reputation management should be in every company’s repertoire.” By drafting a social media policy and ensuring that employees are familiar with it, you can save a company a potential headache down the road. “Being honest in your assessment of a company is one thing,” says Mills. “But when that turns into a vendetta it can be a real problem.”
Social media is a tool and like all tools, in can be misused. And while it may not have been in the HR toolkit in previous decades it is now. By maximizing its potential and learning to minimize its risks, it can be a powerful asset in HR.
Ashton College is accredited post-secondary institution offering flexible education options for working professionals including a Diploma in Human Resources Management and a variety of professional development seminars.
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