Is corporate HR and their executive team receptive to social media?
A commenter recently asked:
Curious of your thoughts regarding how receptive HR is in including social media strategy as part of their marketing and media mix. I think for many of us it is a no-brainer, and I believe Executives are beginning to understand the power of social media and the habits of their target, but from your experience, are you finding HR Execs receptive and willing to allocate appropriate portions of their budgets for this?
What do you think when you hear “do you have a social media strategy?” Do you think about making media buys to run banners on sites like facebook and LinkedIn; or maybe placing employment messaging within other publisher’s podcasts? In recent years the number of sites where you can place ads and the forms these ads are offered in have increased. The introduction of these options for interactive recruitment advertising is exciting and the possibilities are growing by leaps and bounds. But, this is advertising – which doesn’t happen to be the core compentancy of social sites and mediums. These sites are forums where millions upon millions of potential candidates are connecting with one another, participating in active conversations, and changing the very definition of thought leadership. The potential for social media to completely disrupt how companies find and build relationships with candidates is powerful, if they can be convinced to learn how to harness that potential.
I have spent the last eighteen months speaking with corporate HR leaders at some of the largest organizations in America on this very topic – urging then to adopt social computing in their recruiting and retention efforts. It is just in the last month that I have seen corporate HR realize that they have to begin “thinking” about adding social media to their recruiting and retention efforts. But when I discuss crafting a social media strategy, I am not talking about using these sites for advertising, I am talking about efforts such as:
- Publishing employee-generated content that shows the real soul of the company and tells the stories that make the company what it is.
- Using photo, video, audio sharing sites to help those stories come to life.
- Using RSS to distribute this content outside of the corporate career site.
- Having real FAQs sections where candidates can ask questions, get real answers, and have this exchange be indexed and searchable for others.
- Evolve the definition of “relationship marketing” to include building and cultivating your candidate community on your career site through real two-way exchange of information.
- Encourage recruiters, hiring managers (all employees really) to seek out potential hires and build relationships within online communities.
What is the “right” strategy for one company is not necessarily right for the other. The key is to allow your employees to express their stories in the way that is RIGHT for them, thereby authentically and quite literally showing candidates who your company is and what it might be like to work there.
So to answer Julie’s question, in my experience, “how receptive is HR in including social media strategy as part of their marketing and media mix?” I think that companies are starting to view advertising within social networks as the no brainer, and they are using budget that they already have allocated to interactive advertising, but just changing where those dollars are being spent. When it come to harnessing the power of social media to connect to candidates and literally give them the a behind the scenes view into the making of the organization – I would say, “not so much.” The fear of creating “too much risk” for the organization due to not being able to control the message is the root of the hesitation.
I have spent so much of my time passionately trying to explain to HR execs what social media IS, describing the changing of the guard that is happening, how thought leadership is changing, how the ability to spread and amplify the affect of messages has evolved, all of this can be seen so clearly through growth and impact of social computing – that I have probably done a poor job of making a traditional bottom-line focused business case for why companies would benefit for using social media to attract and retain the best.
Shel Holtz, an author and blogger with 30 years of organizational communications experience in both corporate and consulting environments, just wrote a terrific post addressing the business case for using social media as a communication channel entitled, Business adoption of social media: Itâ€™s not about employee rights, where he simply states:
My position on employee engagement in social media is based on my belief that doing so will produce far greater benefitâ€”in the form of enhanced constituent relationsâ€”than risk, particularly when it is managed strategically. There are many dimensions to these benefits, some of the most important of which include the following:
- Recruiting and retentionâ€”Deloitte is frequently named the best company at which to begin your career. Deloitte is also the company that hosted an employee film festival, in which employees submitted creative videos articulating the companyâ€™s values and culture. The best of these are now on YouTube. Deloitte has engaged in social media in a variety of other ways, which in part accounts for the companyâ€™s ability to choose from the cream of the crop. Meanwhile, Clive Holtham, a professor at the Cass Business School, notes some California firms â€œare finding they cannot attract or retain staff because their IT infrastructure fails to meet the demanding standards of the new generation,â€ according to an article in Data Storage Today. Letâ€™s face it: If employers in the donâ€™t want to pay for the lionâ€™s share of employee medical coverage. They do, however, because without it, they wouldnâ€™t be able to attract the talent they need to implement their strategies.
- Employee engagementâ€”Companies with populations of mostly actively engaged employees tend to outperform those with populations of mainly disengaged employees. Engagement flows from a number of factors, but it wonâ€™t flow at all without trust. Once employees are engaged, they produce discretionary effort on behalf of their employers.
In my view, using Social Media to provide a window into what it is like to work for an organization provides validation for a candidate against the marketing messages. This validation leads to a feeling of trust and genuine interest in the company (engagement), credibility (feeling that working for this employer is a good career decision) and ultimately loyalty (retention). I participate in social media everyday, it has become part of how I work, how I provide thought leadership, and how I judge the thought leadership coming out of other companies – that I know the potential for what it could mean for recruiting and retention – literally in my bones. Is it the only way? No, of course not. But the expectations of candidates are changing. They EXPECT to be able to find out what it is really like to work for a company, and they respect the companies that enable that process and help bubble that relevant information up to the top for them.
People may still want to work there even if they cannot engage in social media. The pay, the experience, the benefits all may carry greater weight than the ability to talk about work on a blog.
In general, though, based on dramatic shifts in culture, society, business and communication, most organizations will be well-served to integrate social media into their communication models.
But for any F500 company, it comes down to money – not passion for an idea. So my goal for the next month is to put together that financial business case for why Corporations cannot afford to ignore the potential of social media for attracting and keeping their best people.
Shannon co-authors EXCELER8ion with her other half Julian Seery Gude. EXCELER8ion is a blog about digital engagement.
Shannon is a regular speaker in the HR & Talent Acquisition space where she’s known for her work in social media and integrated digital engagement. By day Shannon works at a Recruitment Marketing Agency.