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Social media: Friend or foe in the workplace?

Two of the greatest challenges for employers and HR professionals in the workplace at the moment are engagement and retention, so by actively seizing the opportunity of this current of behaviour , the positive benefits of social media to business is being explored.

With this in mind, Evolutionhr recently co-hosted a breakfast seminar with Davenport Solicitors on the subject of social media in the workplace. This was a very interesting topic to cover, because, as consultants to small businesses, we seem to be receiving an increasing number of calls on the subject of Social Media in the Workplace.

Typical questions include - 'do we need a policy for such and such? What can we do in such and such situation? How can we control it?

This caused us to look further into the challenges that social media is giving to business and HR, how to address them and to consider the positives for HR and business.

It's bizarre to think that it's only about 25 years or so since the World Wide Web was created and only in 2008 that Facebook became the social media tool of choice. What is also unusual is that this is a phenomenon where work use is influenced and driven by personal use and not the other way around.

It's not just the static media like emails and the intranet that we're talking about either. Social media can be a more interactive, collaborative, engaging, democratic, immediate form of communication. For example, ESN (employee social networks) such as Chatter or Yammer. But at the very least, blogs, Twitter, Linked In, etc.

We tend to experience two particular reactions to the subject of social media at work:

Really negative – "It should not be used in the workplace", "the company shouldn't be mentioned on social media", "it's got nothing to do with work, that's why it's called social media".

Spasmodic – benefits may have been received from blogging, for example, so that is addressed by a policy, but there are huge gaps in policy and no overall approach considered. This leads to confusion and problems.

So, why do we need to engage with social media and how can HR use it positively?

Just think about the workforce demographics:

Much is talked of Generation Y – the Echo boomers, born in the 1980s/90s – and Generation Z – known as Digital Natives, born after 2000. It is predicted that these will make up more than 75% of the workforce by 2025. To them, even email is old fashioned. But we also have other interesting developments. The fastest growing demographic on Google+ are 45-54 year olds and on Twitter 55-64 year olds.

Bearing in mind the major challenges facing HR now and in the future largely orientate around talent management – hiring, engaging and retaining the right people – we need to be using all the tools at our disposal to address this. In that context, it's worth noting that research suggests that Generations Y and Z value learning and development, mentoring and feedback above a competitive salary.

So, rather than considering the negatives of social media at work – time wasting, opportunities for negativity or bad press, difficulties of control or management – we should consider how we can use social media to our advantage at work.

Already we use social media to interact with clients, via Blogs and Twitter for example. And already employees can and do use social media for work purposes, whether we like it or not, so this is about how to use it as a positive force for both employee and employer. If you're not familiar with Glassdoor, take a look at it. It's a little like TripAdvisor for employers.

So here is brief list of ways in which we, as Directors, Managers and HR Professionals, can use social media for the good of the company....



Training, Learning and Development:

Performance Management:

By choosing and using the right channels, social media can also form part of your reputation management strategy, as your messages will travel far and wide. However, it is imperative to ensure employees are creating and delivering positive and quality content too. As a rule of thumb, introduce guidelines and policies, thus limiting any damaging effects to your company's reputation.

Contact us for a more in-depth discussion on how we can assist you implement your social media strategy.