SHRM and Social Media – What a Difference a Few Years Make

#SHRM14

 

My first SHRM conference was in March 2010, and it was not the big “Annual” affair that I am currently attending. It was the SHRM Legal and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, designed for lawyers and senior HR pros who have a responsibility for legal compliance in their organizations.

At that conference, I was unhappy to find that social media – which I had embraced about 18 months previously and was enriching my life by leaps and bounds – was a topic of fear, avoidance, and derision. I blogged about that conference, mentioning the story of telling one attorney-presenter who was speaking on social media that I would be tweeting her session. She looked at me horrified and said, “you mean you are going to tell people what I SAY?” Another blogger wrote an entire blog about the lack of balanced presentations about social media, calling on SHRM to do a better job.

Well, it only took four years, but I think SHRM has finally decided that social media is not a crazy, soon-to-disappear fad to be avoided at all costs. Here at the big Annual bash (#SHRM14), there have been several sessions related to social networking and social media, most with a positive outlook about how much good social can do to promote a healthy workforce.

But when I saw the scheduled session with “risk” mentioned twice in its title, presented by an employment lawyer, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my lips started to curl. It sounded like the old fear-mongering SHRM, and I knew there was no way I could miss that session, if only to hurl invectives via Twitter.

But my resumption, based on previous experience with SHRM’s social media offerings, was wrong. Dead wrong.

Jonathan Segal gave a fair, balanced, and delightfully energetic program showing the risks and benefits of social media use to the organization. One example? “Liking” subordinate employees on Facebook is too risky, but adding them as LinkedIn contacts has benefits that outweigh the risks (as long as you don’t endorse them). Another tip discussed the potential value of employee social media posts as both offensive and defensive evidence, advising to document them and hold them for litigation.

Overall the program showed the benefits of social media, the risks of certain social media practices, and ways to mitigate and minimize those risks. There are risks to being risk averse.

And I let out a little sigh of relief, muttering under my breath, “finally.”