What do social tools mean for Human Resources? (part one)

Matthew Hanwell from Nokia speaking during the webcast

Today I participated in a webcast organised by Personnel Today looking at Social media at work: What social tools mean for Human Resources (HR).

It promised to not only examine the ‘ubiquitous question of whether HR should control employees’ use of social media’ but also focus on increasingly social ways of working and the impact these have on organisations.

I was intrigued to see how the conversation would evolve and how the HR view on social media came across. The importance of the relationship between comms teams and HR teams is well documented and I wondered whether this would be explored.

There wasn’t anything in the webcast that surprised me or that was a huge revelation, but hearing it from an HR perspective rather than a traditional comms one was certainly a beneficial thing to do and I’d encourage other comms pros to do the same. I’ve ended up taking so many notes that I’m going to split my article in two and post one today and a follow-up later this week.

The panel
Today’s webinar was hosted by Rob Moss, Editor of Personnel Today, and featured:

Wise words
Matthew Hanwell from Nokia said: “Historically there’s been a fear of any normal communication being introduced – fear that introducing phones meant employees would be using them all day, and the same with email and the internet. How many of us can work without email, browsers and phones? I believe social media will be part of our working life in the future and HR needs to take advantage of this form of collaboration and communication now and not block it.”

Ofer Guetta from IBM

Ofer Guetta from IBM gave some words of wisdom for the HR community: “It is inevitable that employees will access social media in their workplace, whether HR ‘allow’ them to or not, as they can use their own devices. Look at the prevalence of social media within employees’ personal lives – HR has to be cognisant and react accordingly. HR has banned social media in some places; this is archaic and I don’t think you should stop employees from communicating in this way.”

Policy matters
There was some discussion around whether specific HR policies are needed for social media use within organisations. Jon Ingham said: “There is debate as some organisations say their existing policies cover this behaviour. However it is a disruptive enough change to warrant a policy based on social media behaviours and I think that in five or 10 years we’ll see existing HR policies capturing social media needs.”

“It’s as much about policy as guidelines,” said Matthew Hanwell: “We encourage Nokia employees to be active on social media, but obviously you need to provide some guidance on what’s appropriate and what’s not. A lot comes down to common sense.”

IBM uses social media internally and Ofer described how they had an ‘ideas jam’ so employees jointly and collaboratively created and published the social media guidelines. These were then published internally and externally so all partners could see and adopt them. He said: “It’s about transparency.” (You can read their social media guidelines online, covering blogs, wikis, social networks, virtual worlds and social media).

Reconnecting Nokia
Matthew talked about a project within Nokia called Reconnecting Nokia, which looked at how the company embraced a social business approach and he identified four key elements to make up the ‘collective intelligence’ an organisation:

  • Openness and transparency
  • Engage and invite partipation – from customers, employees and partners
  • Interactions – ideas, thoughts and conversations between people
  • Employee engagement – ‘if I participate I feel involved and have a say’

He described how they had “too many tools, often doing the same thing” and how Reconnecting Nokia aimed to rationalise the toolset so employees had a single one for each interaction – they didn’t need to think before starting a conversation about which tool to use, it became more apparent as they had a ‘critical mass’ of employees who filled the demand and scoped the need for relevant tools. (In other words – your employees will vote with their feet and not use what you provide if it doesn’t suit their needs or is too confusing – Rachel)

Jon agreed with Matthew and said: “If you don’t use social media you look stupid! People could disengage if you don’t use these channels. I think there is something fundamentally compelling and engaging about social media use. You see the endorphins hit when people get a status update. There are issues and risk about people wasting time and because it is so compelling, you do spend time on it.”

The overall opinion of the panel appeared to be that a balance is needed when introducing social media, to ensure it fits with an organisation’s culture. The major outcome from having it within a company was cited as collaboration across the business, which is “the heart of social business,” and the need to reinforce the social aspect of an organisation for this to be successful.

Being connected
The webinar then focused on productivity and the view was shared that performance management should be defined by outcomes rather than actions. So in the context of this discussion, it’s not about how long employees spend on Facebook, it’s about the outcomes possible from being connected to people inside and outside of the organisation. Matthew said: “Being connected is a key productivity enabler, it’s the culture that enables that level of conversation and dialogue to occur, rather than blocking, controlling and banning.”

As promised, I’m going to post the rest of this article later this week, but as a taster it will cover HR as the role model, top tips from the panel for the HR community and the role of social business.

What do you think of the panel’s comments? Do you agree with what they said or do your views differ? Feel free to comment below or contact me: rach@rachmiller.com

Post author: Rachel Miller

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