Remember that old thing called the internet? Organisations were convinced that employees would spend all day exploring the web and not getting any work done. The battle continues – except this time social media is the battleground.
I’m perplexed. In spite of the mounting evidence to support the benefits of engagement in social media, why would you want to restrict your workforce from tapping into networks of millions? It’s my belief that people come from a place of good intent and that everyone is trying to do the right thing. If you have a policy to prevent staff from doing the wrong thing or wasting time then, to me, you are essentially treating a symptom of an underlying performance issue. It’s high time that the HR world moved from analogue to digital.
Is social media always a peripheral activity that gets in the way of real work? This kind of thinking may be hindering your recruitment efforts – especially if targeting the Gen Y demographic.
Social media has already become a weapon in the war for talent. A recent study found that young professionals are searching for working environments that accommodate social media, device freedom and remote work options. And trust me when I say that they’re prepared to take a lower salary to get it. Yep, the desire of young professionals to dabble and work in this space more freely is even strong enough to influence their future job choices.
A recent CISCO study highlights the seriousness of the next gens workforce demands. More than half of young employees surveyed said they would accept a lower paying job that had more flexibility with regard to device choice, social media access and mobility than a higher paid job with less flexibility. It gets better. More than half of uni students surveyed globally said that if they encountered a company that banned access to social media, they would decline the job offer, or find a way to compromise existing policy.
Social media is like word of mouth on narcotics. It has the unique ability to amplify debate, so previously hidden voices and opinions of an organisation, whether positive or negative, can be more apparent. While this terrifies suspicious HR folk, when you encourage a process of interaction between entities that are different, you are left with an important insight – a non-linear interaction between people that helps us challenge our current paradigm.
The so-called experts in this space say control, or clamping down on employees using social media is not an option and is more likely to result in more rather that less misuse. Social media cannot be controlled – it is simply too open, too vast, too unregulated, and often too anonymous.
Legendary examples of organisations that have got it right include Dell Computers, which has set up an internal social media and Community University to train staff across all its business units. Even colleagues in the public sector are getting the point. The Victorian Department of Justice has produced a simple short video to encourage and guide employees in using social media. Over 70,000 hits. I suspect about 69,990 more hits than your average social media policy.
Tip 1: If you put fences around people you get sheep and sheep are notoriously stupid.
Tip 2: Nothing amazing has ever been done in isolation – embrace the power of social media.
Tip 3: Get ready for social mania. The next wave of social media activity will be at an enterprise level. Internal social networks will soon flourish.
Tip 4: Social media is here! Stop waiting for the messiah.
Reanna Browne is an Adviser in Strategic Workforce Planning & Development in the NT and is the 2011 winner of the AHRI HR Rising Star of the Year. Reanna’s views on social media are her own and are an excerpt of her keynote presentation delivered at the Darwin AHRI HR Practices Day.