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Belinda Gannaway

You’ve got to get wet to learn to swim in social business

A dip in social business means getting wetThe world of HR and social media are well and truly colliding. But to really understand the opportunities, HR folk need to think big – in HR parlance, this is real business partner stuff. And there is a vital role for HR in helping to deliver the social business agenda.

A thought-provoking webinar on social media and HR (courtesy of Personnel Today and IBM) painted a useful picture of some of the issues HR will need to conjure with if it is to help organisations become the social organisations they deserve to be.

Here are my quick takeaways.

Social media policy v social media guidelines
Yawn. Yes, I know, we’ve been round this particular track many times. But how many organisations will follow IBM’s lead and use an organisation-wide ideas jam to crowd source social media use guidelines – and then share them openly online with anyone who is interested? Downside? Apart from the obvious caveats of setting expectations and making the process honest and transparent, I can’t think of too many. What do you think?

Employee engagement is an output not an input  

There are lots of related challenges behind this point – not least how do you get disconnected organisations to begin to collaborate in the first place. But for me, the key learning here was that if you start small by building social into existing processes and get a team of champions at every level across the organisation, the critical mass will follow. You’ve got to get people in the water if you want to them to swim and a few aids and cheerleaders go a long way.

There are many steps towards employee engagement. Social media isn’t the sole solution, but it is a key enabler. As Ofer Guetta, Social Collaboration Leader IBM, suggests, socially enabling HR can make a big difference to how things get done. And once everyone has genuine opportunities to have conversations up and down the organisation – and to be listened to – employees will be a lot more willing to engage in other parts of the programme.

Generation Y can drive adoption – but it’s not the whole picture
It’s easy to assume Generation Y employees hold all the keys when it comes to unlocking the power of social in the organisation. And they do have many insights to offer – Nokia has its own GenY group to harness the energies of these critical people. But there will be plenty of people across the organisation who are familiar with and can champion social tools.

It’s also vital not to overlook the role of leaders in pioneering and evangelizing social to bring about the genuine culture change necessary for social business. After all, culture will dictate the success or failure of any move towards becoming a social business. So it’s a question of bottom up and top down. But why not marry up the two with a little reverse mentoring where there is a gap in skill or understanding?

This isn’t new
There was some inevitable discussion about the risks of social. And consultant and author Jon Ingham drew a parallel with the concerns about the introduction into business of telephones and email – would staff spend all day chatting with friends?

But the fact is that rather than simply offering a new communication platform, social collaboration taps into the way work already gets done – so it helps people be more not less productive. As Nokia’s former HR Director Communities & Social Media Matthew Hanwell said: “Organisations succeed based on how they work together so social business is key to the success agenda.”


Image courtesy of Beverly & Pack

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