Like it or not, Web 2.0 is unleashed and a part of everyday life, but does HR really know what to do with it? Christiana Tollast examines how HR can harness this powerful beast, and use it to its own advantage.
The CIPD’s 2008 Web 2.0 and HR discussion paper describes Web 2.0 as a “read-write web, encouraging people to share ideas, promoting discussion and foster a greater sense of community”.
This paper then led to a report, released in February 2009 and called Web 2.0 and Human Resource Management: ‘Groundswell’ or hype?, which found that HR is failing to take advantage of many opportunities presented by Web 2.0 technology.
When the report was launched, Vanessa Robinson, CIPD adviser, organisation and resourcing, said that Web 2.0 provides employees with new tools for collaboration and knowledge-sharing, but that HR professionals were just focusing on the “negative side”.
Jon Ingham, HR consultant
“HR is in danger of playing catch up as a profession in failing to advance the interests of organisations by navigating them through the undoubted benefits,” she added. “Organisations will be increasingly faced with employees seeking to use Web 2.0 social media technologies at work, so rather than ignore them or ban them outright they will need to adopt sensible policies that fit a particular context.”
The word ‘community’ is key in grasping what Web 2.0, or social media, is all about. Log on to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and the main theme they have in common is they are all about communities. Communities that HR cannot afford to ignore.
HR consultant and blogger Jon Ingham explains that the biggest win is in how the working environment itself could be changed: “All the things that HR does have the potential to be transformed through Web 2.0 technologies. From recruitment to performance management, through to learning, whatever it is, there are potential applications.”
Perhaps the most talked about new kid on the block is Twitter, the microblogging site where users can post messages or updates onto the site to their friends and ‘followers’, who in return, can ‘tweet’ their messages back.
Ingham explains: “On the face of it, Twitter can look pretty stupid. Until you start developing your own use of it and set up people you are following and get people following you, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Ingham strongly advises that before HR does anything else, it should log on to Twitter, set up a blog and start playing with the technology. “If they [HR] are not on LinkedIn, get a profile and start forming relationships, because until they are doing all that, they won’t really understand it.”
Confront the enemy
One of the main concerns, says Dave Dunbar, head of BT Workstyle, is that employees will use sites to bring their company into disrepute: “In the past people would go into the pub after work and tell their mates how terrible their company is; now people blog it, and the whole world knows.”
Yet Ingham does not see this as a concern: “People will talk about organisations anyway. The more they get involved in the technology, the more chance they have of managing the situation.”
The other big fear, says Dunbar, is that people will spend forever on say, Facebook, so productivity is lost. However, he adds: “At BT, we measure people on their output, as opposed to their time. So that worry about productivity vanishes.”
Deal with it
Lauren Harkin, from employment law firm Lemon & Co, says that employers should have a policy in respect of emails and internet usage, “stating that the company reserves the right to monitor employees’ usage and that any remarks made online of a derogatory nature will warrant disciplinary action”.
Dave Dunbar, BT Workstyle
Harkin continues that remarks made out of office hours can still be dealt with by employers: “All employees should act in good faith towards their employers – in or out of working hours. If employees make online derogatory remarks out of work about their employer or their colleagues, then providing the remarks have a sufficient connection to work, there is no reason why employers should not consider taking disciplinary action.”
Use it or lose out
Dunbar has a stark warning for HR about the consequences of ignoring social media: “The genie is out of the bottle; if we don’t use it, we are going to start to lose ground to the organisations that are.”
Ingham agrees and urges HR to think seriously about what business needs must be addressed and if social media is part of the answer. “Focus on the output rather than the activity. Would a social network or a Wiki help? Should you be getting people to blog? If microblogging is the appropriate technology, should it be Twitter or Yammer, or even the in-house counterparts?”
Recruiting via Facebook
Twitter has proved so popular for posting job vacancies, that it has just launched Twitterjobsearch.com, but are social networking sites really the right medium for recruiting?
Ingham says that the real value for HR of Web 2.0 is in forming communities through social networks, “to make powerful relationships with the people that you potentially want to recruit.”
Brewers SABMiller has been using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool for the past three years, as Danny Rosewarne, group talent acquisition manager, explains: “After looking at who we already know, we will go straight onto LinkedIn and network for the right people as our default resource.”
Over the past 18 months, Rosewarne says they have hired around 30 to 40 people on LinkedIn, to service the global needs of the business, all with salaries from £50k to £130k. “At around $1 to $2000 per user per year, it’s very cost effective.”
Rosewarne sees that, going forward, organisations will increasingly use the social media platforms to develop their brand: “There will be a pull towards the organisation, rather than us going out there and actively finding these people.”
Ingham sums it up simply enough: “This is an opportunity not a threat.” So what are you waiting for? Get logged on and blog on!