Social Business & HR

Social business is about taking a step back from what’s essentially a worm’s eye view of social media; and looking at the bigger picture of how we can prepare to cope with the always-on, real-time demands of today’s social customer and today’s social employee; and internally, how we can become more flexible and resilient in an increasingly unpredictable world.

It’s not a technology challenge that business is facing today, but a human, psychology challenge, so it stands to reason that HR plays a critical role in social business transformation; and should be elevated to a cross-functional strategic role, involved in decisions around social business.

Not only does HR have a direct line to company leadership; but they also interact with employees at all levels, across every function. They understand the structures of their organisations and have deep understanding of challenges faced by employees. HR already, in fact, do change management – so it makes sense for them to take a front line position in pushing their organisation to be more social.

Most of the drive behind social business has come from Marketing so far. However, as we get over the initial social media hype and move further towards the social business slope of enlightenment, a realisation dawns that social isn’t just a marketing thing; and that social business shouldn’t be confused with social media marketing (neither tools, nor channels).

Looking at many of the legacy systems that are destroying business value today – and how those can be replaced by applying social business principles – you start to see that neither marketing, nor IT, are the sole drivers. Rather, many of the use cases are very closely related to HR and internal comms.

What’s more, if you consider the type of questions employee engagement surveys focus on, they’re very similar to those you’d ask when developing an enterprise-wide social business initiative. Do you have access to the information and tools you need to do your job? Is it easy to collaborate? Do you feel the organisation is supportive of your personal ambitions and success? Do you think it’s clear what’s expected of you?

Social business is about changing from the inside out to drive innovation, so HR could play a key enabler role.

The role social media plays that’s invaluable is enabling organisations to truly listen, interact and get instant, accurate feedback – from customers and employees. The latter has been underutilised so far.

Two key HR areas for social business and HR are recruitment and training. In recruitment, HR is becoming more like Marketing – building careers websites and communities, give recruitment agents personal profiles so they can chat to candidates – and managing a funnel of candidates, just like a sales and marketing funnel. Here’s an example from Deloitte in Holland.

As for training, the way people learn is fundamentally changing. We used to get training only if we really needed it – now training is continuous and people are committing to lifelong learning. Our learning used to be facilitated by a formal trainer – now we’re using social learning from our network of peers and self-study. Given learning culture accounts for 46% improvement in business outcomes [Bersin], the value of social business when applied to talent acquisition, retention and development is enormous.

Communication overall is changing too. It used to be guarded, hierarchical and secretive. Now it’s much more transparent and informal.

Social business achieves alignment with strategy. It enables improved productivity, including reducing time-to-value, often by around 25%. It improves employee engagement, which accounts for 16% increase in profitability [Gallup] – unsurprisingly, given the link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

HR is, in essence, about people, relationships and alignment of employee and company goals; while social business is about people, relationships and alignment of employee and company goals. Social enables employees to build stronger connections across the organisation, collaborate more efficiently and stay engaged.

HR folks who embrace social in meaningful and ambitious ways will give their organisations competitive advantage through attracting, hiring and retaining the best talent; and in enabling the whole organisation to work better, faster and cheaper.

The mission, should you choose to accept it, is to see just how human and just how resourceful you and your organisation can be.

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