why are we afraid of social media?

I find a lot of HR professionals having a hard time incorporating social media into their company’s culture. We use it for recruiting and to stay on top of new ideas and connect with other professionals, but we are the technologically savvy minority, It seems to me that there are still vast numbers of HR pros that aren’t ready to make the leap, or even if they do engage, they aren’t ready to incorporate it into everyday life. But I think there are two issues here, the first being, it’s still a fairly new concept and working out policies and liabilities is of course what we are here to do. How do we incorporate something like that when we have spent years asking employees not to use the internet too much, not to instant message, and now we have Twitter, Facebook, and a whole plethora of other social networking sites. I wont say its easy, there is a fine line that we will have to walk, but it is do able!

The second thing is that I think for a lot of seasoned HR professionals Social Media is a new and strange concept. I was thinking this afternoon while considering what I want to talk about at a round table discussion I am participating in next week on this very topic. What I thought about was companies using  social media to engage customers, why that works and how we can apply that concept in the field of Human Resources.

Now, I am not in sales or marketing, I do not have an MBA, so this may sound very simplistic, but it seems to me that social media has become so prevalent in business today because we are coming out of an era where industry seemed to be out to get us.   If someone tried to sell you something you had to figure out what the catch was. Whats in it for the sales guy? Are they trying to pull a fast one on me? We have wasted away so much time doing due diligence on the other guys to make sure we don’t get screwed over. Using social media correctly helps companies to operate transparently. Engaging your customers personally, making them feel special and a part of the process is key. Letting the public know what you are doing and why you are doing it is what builds a following. Companies that have adopted these practices have thrived. I’m sure you are nodding in agreement and thinking that this is not a novel concept, and you are right. But now lets change it up, it’s no longer some big corporation it’s just your HR department, and the customers are you employees and your candidates.

Why does the theory have to be any different here? I say it doesn’t! Don’t think about it as using social media, for some that is still a little scary(and for those of you who feel that way I refer you to Trish McFarlane’s post on Social Media 101) but let’s think of this as acting transparently. It’s not just another a buzz word it is a way of life, being honest and open with your employees can completely change how your HR department is viewed. Using social media to encourage engagement and development is a perfect way to tie into talent management. We don’t have to be the bad guys anymore. Your employees don’t need to shudder when they see you coming! Different forms of social media are just a tool to put in your arsenal to engage with your employees. Let them see you as an honest company that cares about them and more importantly their ideas, they too will follow suit.

As I said in my last post about open communication, people just want to be heard and treated with respect and honesty. Using social media as an outlet for those concepts helps your HR team win. So stop dragging your feet, get on board! Use blogs, twitter, have a company Facebook page, heck go overboard and start an internal community! And start trusting your employees to use these tools responsibly, if you show trust they will be responsible.

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