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Time for HR to get social



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Social media is here to stay and revolutionise the way HR works. Akankasha Dewan calls out the need for HR leaders to maximise its potential to increase the effectiveness of their recruiting and branding efforts.

Even though sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been around for about a decade, it has now become hard to imagine a life before social media. Today, bosses are increasingly acknowledging the role social media has to play in enhancing HR processes and priorities.

Innovative companies are mining connections on key social networking sites. Brands are maintaining their reputation online, and watching how their own talent is interacting on public platforms.

They are also leveraging on social media to create talent communities that engage passive candidates and promote their brand.

A 2013 survey by JobStreet found more than 80% of Malaysian employers strongly believe social media tools can be used to drive business prospects. Likewise, more than 90% of the 900 local employees agree on its positive effects.

“Companies not taking advantage of this useful business tool may want to reconsider their policy on social media at the workplace, as 88% of employees responded they were more likely to join a company which was active in its social media platform,” the survey stated.

Clearly, social media is here to stay, and influence the way HR works.

“Social media has given HR an opportunity to demonstrate how it contributes to the organisation in an even bigger way,” observes Sue Olivier, regional talent development director for Ogilvy & Mather (Asia Pacific).

“We now know what people think about the organisation, what they say about it and what the most important issues are to people working in their company. If we pay attention, it gives us a more informed view on managing our people.”

Indeed, HR professionals today can benefit from using social media in a plethora of ways, increasing the function’s value as the company’s strategic business partner.

“From improved communications to external recruiting and even increasing employee satisfaction, social media allows HR to align to both the real-time and predictive environment, contributing to better strategy and tactics when it comes to employee retention, company brand-building and overall business revenue,” says Sabrina Jaksa, head of HR for Asia Pacific at Hootsuite.

Social media has given HR an opportunity to demonstrate how it contributes to the organisation in an even bigger way.
– Sue Olivier, regional talent development director for Ogilvy & Mather (Asia Pacific)

Using social media as a recruitment tool

Out of this wide range of social media uses, recruiting stands out as a great example of how the HR function can utilise social media – especially in the Asia Pacific region.

The 2013 Kelly Global Workforce Index found 67% of respondents prefer searching for jobs using social media over traditional methods such as newspaper advertisements, online job boards or recruitment companies.

Thailand and Indonesia were identified as the top two countries in the world to embrace social media when looking for jobs, coming in at 79% and 70%, respectively.

“Online recruitment and social media have transformed recruitment and provided an exponential increase in the volume of job information in circulation,” the survey reported.

“People not only search for jobs online, but engage in conversations and swap information about jobs, careers and prospective employers.”

More than half of the Asia Pacific respondents (56%) had also been contacted about a potential job via social media, compared with 41% in the Americas and 38% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Social media has democratised hiring. Suddenly, you have so much more information at your fingertips – a global database of candidates,” Olivier says.

“Today, pretty much all candidates get checked out instantaneously on social media the moment you have had a look at their CV.”

She explains the recruitment process has been further democratised in terms of who can announce the availability of vacancies for a specific position.

In current times, not just HR, but representatives from any function, anywhere, can put out communications of all kinds on social media – including those for recruitment.

“Many more people have access to performing functions such as recruitment. You now have a bigger pool of internal recruiters,” she explains.

Despite these advantages, Jaksa warns HR leaders that social media hiring cannot be used to replace face-to-face recruitment completely.

Instead, a synthesis of the two is what essentially leads to optimal results.

While digital recruitment provides a more interactive outreach, the hiring process still requires a certain level of offline interaction, such as face-to-face interviews for recruiters to make the best hiring decisions.
– Sabrina Jaksa, head of HR for Asia Pacific at Hootsuite

“While digital recruitment provides a more interactive outreach, the hiring process still requires a certain level of offline interaction, such as face-to-face interviews for recruiters to make the best hiring decisions,” she believes.

Olivier agrees, and adds face-to-face recruitment is actually integral for some organisations – especially those in the services industry.

“As a service industry we rely on our people to deliver and improve our services, and you can’t recruit people from a distance without being able to assess the fit.

“In addition, our industry tends to be informal and personality based. Ultimately, there is no substitute for the face-to-face discussion.”

Judging a candidate’s social media profile

But for bosses to effectively judge a candidate using their social media profile, they should keep in mind certain behaviours or values which differentiate between a good profile and a bad one.

In a recent survey by CareerBuilder, 51% of American employers, who had researched job candidates on social media, said they had found content that caused them to not hire the candidate.

Social media accounts with provocative or inappropriate photographs or information made up the highest percentage of unsuitable job candidate profiles online (46%).

More than four out of 10 (41%) employers also cited they had rejected job candidates because their profiles featured them drinking or using drugs.

Additionally, 36% of bosses had passed on candidates because they had posted messages which had bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employees.

“How we judge a candidate’s social media profile is dependent on the context,” Olivier says.

Warning signs in a candidate’s social media behaviour would include rants against employers, posting inappropriate photos or a general lack of judgment in what is publicly shared.
– Sue Olivier, regional talent development director for Ogilvy & Mather (Asia Pacific)

She advises hiring managers need to ask themselves about the type of expectations they have from the role and subsequently from the candidate.

“More senior roles tend to carry higher expectations. The type of industry and organisation will also dictate what is deemed ‘acceptable’ personal social media posts and behaviour.

“Warning signs in a candidate’s social media behaviour (regardless of industry) would include rants against employers, posting inappropriate photos or a general lack of judgment in what is publicly shared.”

Jaksa agrees, and concurs that a candidate’s social media decorum, the type of content posted and online demeanour, are reflective of a person’s personality.

She warns, however, of the dangers of being over-critical when judging a candidate by their social media profile.

“Overall, recruiters should assess the candidate’s social media decorum. This is particularly important as the types of content posted and online demeanour are reflective of a person’s personality,” Jaksa says.

“That said, recruiters should not totally discount the capabilities of employees or candidates who seem to have a lack of social media presence. It doesn’t mean that they are not digitally savvy – they may just be guarding their privacy.”

Echoing Jaksa, Olivier says recruiters should be careful when looking at candidates’ profiles because candidates themselves have become more savvy about what they want visitors to their profile to believe.

“Although social media gives you a lot more information about people, we’ve learnt that you cannot judge a book by its social media profile only,” Olivier says.

“Sixty endorsements on a candidate’s social media profile doesn’t mean they are 60 times better than another candidate – it just means they are more savvy about getting endorsements.”

Learning how to use social media effectively

But with this added layer of complexity accompanying social media recruitment, are HR professionals today sufficiently skilled to accurately judge candidates through their online profiles?

Apparently not, according to Jobvite’s 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, which canvassed responses from more than 1,800 recruiters and human resources professionals across various industries and regions.

The survey found 82% of recruiters believe their social recruiting skills to be only “proficient” or less.

“Being a good judge of character comes with the territory for HR practitioners. But I do think we can all benefit from being more media savvy,” Olivier says.

“In the sea of available information, HR leaders need to decide which sources should be their priority and how they can best access it to gain information and insight, and to inform their talent approach and practices.”

Jaksa agrees, and adds the need to educate HR professionals on using social media is made even more compelling because social media in itself is constantly evolving.

“This means HR practitioners need to keep their skill sets updated through regular training sessions and online engagement in social,” she says.

“Employee training is another key area that HR practitioners are typically focused on, so the betterment of their skills naturally benefits the wider organisation as well.”

Employees can be great brand ambassadors on social media platforms once they are empowered with relevant social media skills and knowledge.
– Sabrina Jaksa, head of HR for Asia Pacific at Hootsuite

Social media training should, she stresses, be provided to not just HR personnel but all employees, as it can help make them great brand ambassadors of their companies.

If done properly, Jaksa believes proper social media training can lead to higher levels of engagement and retention in organisations.

“Employees can be great brand ambassadors on social media platforms once they are empowered with relevant social media skills and knowledge. If they know why employer branding matters, then you will get their engagement.

“Also, by monitoring social conversations around the business on a regular basis, HR and business leaders can evaluate and shape the organisations’ employee engagement strategy to ensure the company’s culture is aligned with employees’ needs.”

Overcoming the risks of social media

But this training remains essential, not only to ensure better usage of social media and increase staff engagement levels, but also to overcome the risks inherent in using social media tools.

“Social media is unforgiving and instant,” Olivier warns.

“Anything negative can be picked up, re-tweeted and re-posted. If you aren’t quick enough to catch it, it could potentially cause a crisis for the organisation. How, and how fast you act, points to your brand values as a company – do you ignore the situation or handle it immediately?”

As such, she advises any organisation with an active social media presence to have policies which constantly monitor content online. The responsibility for this should be undertaken, she adds, between HR and the corporate communications divisions –especially when it comes to people-related issues.

Social media is unforgiving and instant. Anything negative can be picked up, re-tweeted and re-posted.
– Sue Olivier, regional talent development director for Ogilvy & Mather (Asia Pacific)

“The final danger is probably inadvertent poor judgment from employees who post on social media – with or without company sanction,” she says.

Jaksa highlights learning how to manage social media accounts is even more integral for companies because they do not have much control over the type of content posted online.

“We don’t know what you are going to include in your post and whether that is in line with the company’s brand values and policies. All you can do is provide good guidelines and hope they will do the right thing.”

She adds that to deliver key business goals in the digital era, HR and business leaders need to look beyond the confines of social media as a marketing tool. Instead, they need to plan a unified social media strategy across different departments within the entire organisation.

“It is only through adhering to a social business structure that enterprises are able to truly capitalise on social media capabilities.”

Such an approach to social media networks is advisable, especially because the proliferation of these networks is only going to increase in the future.

“We can expect even more social media talent tools in the future, leading to more choice, but also to the need for discernment in terms of functionality and value-add to your organisation,” Olivier predicts.

“Practitioners will see the value of educating themselves about using social media and become more discerning about how they use it.

“This will create opportunity for social media savvy HR practitioners who embrace new technology and are always on the lookout for new ways in which to make it work for themselves and their people.”

Image: Shutterstock



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