HR Should Quit Fiddling With Social Media

When I was recently asked by a local SHRM chapter (not my own)  if I would be interested in speaking about “what’s new” in HR management, I politely declined. First, in my opinion there is not much new in HR management, and, second, it’s not what I want to talk about to HR peeps right now.

I did offer to speak about social media in HR, titling my presentation “Old Problems, New Tools”. In response, I received the following:

Our group has had a social media presentation before, and for some reason, our members just see it as “one more thing to do”.

Oh, snap.

After I quit banging my head against the table, I was reminded of a great article I had recently read at Human Resource Executive Online, titled “HR Fiddles While Organizations Burn“. If you haven’t read it, do so. Right now.

In the article, author Margaret Morford argues that the biggest problem with the HR profession is that it is overly mired in compliance, compensation, and benefits, paying little or no attention to the strategic needs of talent management and succession planning.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because I have heard many similar complaints from HR practitioners in the social media world since I had the good fortune to become involved almost 3 years ago.

In that same time period, though, I have seen very little evidence that the online HR community is making an effort to fix that problem. Sure, we blog and tweet and write endless words about strategic issues and say great things. But do we impact those people who need it most? Hardly.

Before we try to use social media to teach HR pros how to do their jobs better, we need to convince HR practitioners to use social media. They need to be persuaded that they will earn more professional respect with the knowledge they gain through social media. We need to quit fiddling around, and make a real, concerted effort to convert  HR practitioners to its use. All of the blog posts in the world are not going to change the profession if we don’t change who’s reading.

Think of the impact on the profession that could be made if everyone on Unbridled Talent‘s list of Top 100 HR & Recruiting Industry Pros To Follow On Twitter actually mentored and taught at least one HR practitioner how to use social media to the same extent they do. I don’t mean standing up and giving a presentation to 100 people and hoping for the best. I want them (you?) to find an HR practitioner who thinks social media is an administrative chore, and teach them otherwise. They’ll pay it forward.

Instead of fiddling, let’s build an entire orchestra.


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10 thoughts on “HR Should Quit Fiddling With Social Media”

  1. I couldn’t have said it any better. For too many HR and hiring managers, the reliance on social media has become a needless crutch. I agree – our profession is mired down in all sorts of old ( the labor laws enacted in the 1920s and 30s ) and new ( GINA ) regulations, policies, and laws. Not to mention endless internal corporate edicts. But we’ve taken this whole social media thing and are now allowing it to drive our work, instead of the other way around. With so many social media sites, how many are you following, blogging on, and researching candidates at ?? Too many I bet. And if your first ( or perhaps only ) site you rely on is LinkedIn, you do realize that many savvy candidates now understand how that popularity-contest game is played, right ? Please – let’s all try to get back to what we loved so much about our career: people finding, people training, and people compliance. Be the first to back away slowly from social media addiction.

  2. Oh agreed, I have had some wonderful, talking to a brick wall discussions on this topic. It both makes me laugh and makes me give a head shake at the same time. I think that instead of trying to change the mindset of those who aren’t ready to *know*, those that do know should carry on, accomplish what they intend to and let the rest catch up when they are ready. The ‘ready’ bit is necessary. The one place that it is possible to make a difference early on is in the curriculum of the HR disicplines in the post-secondary institutions. The use of social media/networking tools should be a mandatory course for HR, OD and Learning & Development professionals.

  3. Joan – you make such important points in this post. I’ve heard many of the same comments from my HR peers over the last several years as I’ve attempted to bring them into the collaborative and beneficial world of social media. And long ago I stopped trying to ‘convince’ the larger group and decided to grab individual episodes to present some teachable moments; a one-on-one conversation with an HR practitioner, sharing resources and links and updates with a small group, and yes, FINALLY convincing my local chapter to let me present on this very topic.

    And I’ve seen movement and adoption at the micro/individual level which has given me hope and excitement and convinced me that although many have been slow to adopt and change their mindset (so they DON”T JUST FIDDLE) there is more and more awareness every day that there is much value they can gain by learning about and hopefully participating in the SM world. I’ve had HR peers come back to me and tell me “you convinced me to give twitter a try” (and then they ENGAGE which is even MORE awesome); “thanks for the kick in the pants, I’ve decided to create a LinkedIn profile, add my picture, add content….”; “thanks for sharing all those HR blogs and resources – I had no idea how much content was out there and now I’m reading them every day!”……..and one of the neatest of all…“after your presentation to our chapter, I started my own blog (not HR but a blog nonetheless!!!)!

    I even had a friend (a VPHR at a local and fairly large organization) ask me to do a presentation to himself and several of his HR team members – he admitted HE didn’t know a lot about SM but wanted his staff to ‘catch the excitement and possibilities” that HE caught at one of my presentations.

    So I guess, deep down in my toes I like to think I’ve made an impact. I may not have gazillions of readers and followers, but I like to think there’s quality and great results!

  4. RJ, I don’t think you and I are in the same book, let alone on the same page. 😉 Maybe you looked at the title (okay, I admit it was meant to be a grabber) but not at the substance of what I said, or maybe i didn’t say it well, BUT – I’m all for social media and I don’t think it’s a crutch at all. I mean, you’re here commenting, right?

    I think HR peeps can use it more, and more wisely.. But most of the HR world hasn’t even tried it. My feeling is that we should not only burst the bubble we’re in, we should spit out the chewing gum and start talking to people (yes, face to face) and help them find the right tools for their needs.

  5. Karin, I think your idea about post secondary education is a good one, and I agree wholeheartedly. But I am going to respectfully disagree about waiting until people are ready to advocate social media use. I think there are too many HR pros out there that don’t know they’re ready, because they have never been taught its possibilities or capabilities. I have said this before – I wish someone in HR had come to me a year before I got involved and told me what it was. It wasn’t that I wasn’t ready – I was uninformed.

  6. Gosh, Robin, I almost cried when I read this comment. Really. Your efforts are exactly what people should be doing, and I was griping that not enough of us are. I read today in the SHRM Leadership Survey that most people become volunteers because they were personally invited by a chapter leader. That’s not surprising, is it?

    My point is the same. Get up, step away from your computer, and go find someone in HR to teach SoMe to. I have been working with my local for over two years and I still don’t feel I have made a big impact, but I am not. giving. up.

  7. Joan: although I do actually agree with you I have had way too much of my time spent in discussion and demonstration and people still come back with excuses as to why not. There is ready, as in they have an inner curiosity and there is absolutely not ready, as in they have more “why I can’t, should’t, won’t” excuses than an openess to learning. I prefer to spend my time productively so I look for the inner curiosity, then-no problem- but if someone is in full resistance mode-I will take opportunities to share something positive that occured because I use social media (even curmudgeons soften after awhile) but I don’t take valuable time trying to teach to those who aren’t ready.

    I have been connecting with more and more people that have the same experience and we agree-we go ahead and make things happen-the rest will come along when they are ready. Different people respond to different prompts and some need to see real and demonstrable benefits repeated (kind of like a science experiment) before they are willing to let the “no” go. Recently I had an HR VP tell me that “no one in our organization uses social media” -so I suggested they Google a couple of employee names to see what popped up. Let us just say she was surprised-but-is still adamant it is just a fad and does not “belong in the workplace”. I think it is more valuable to work with the person who says “I don’t get this social media stuff at all, but I think I need to learn” – now that is worth taking the time to share.

  8. I’m not trying to get the last word in, Karin (or maybe I am :D), but I am not advocating that we beat dead horses or slam our heads against brick walls. I am saying we spend far too much time advocating organizational changes in our blogs and Twitter chats, and not nearly enough time teaching people to look there for information. Take HR Happy Hour as an example: this show is like getting a free, no hassle, HR webinar or SHRM chapter meeting every single week. Who’s listening? The same on line HR bubble that always listens. My feeling is that if you want to make an impact on the HR profession, go teach someone about HR Happy Hour. Tuning in and listening and tweeting HR Happy Hour is fun, but we’re not impacting the profession at all.

  9. Love the post Joan! I’ve got 12 on my hitlist so far of those who I’ve converted. I do all of the coaching sessions for free as I believe that makes more of a difference then like you said standing in front of 100 people and telling them about HR and SM.

  10. WooHoo! 12 converts is an impressive number, Rockstar! I, too, believe in social media coaching for free – I think it will pay off later. Keep it up!

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