With the proliferation of the Internet and mobile technologies relentlessly evolving, social media has infiltrated the Human Resources function and companies will soon be unable to do without it.
According to recent studies, China is the most socially engaged market in the world; 84 percent of Internet users connect at least once a month via social networks, blogs, video uploads, photo sharing, or forums. With this in mind, HR professionals should be ready to embrace social media as a significant tool in the ‘new normal’ and take advantage of it as soon as possible.
Employer branding & recruitment
Forward-thinking HR leaders have made connections between a robust social media strategy and seeking out top talent – 47 percent of Millennials now say a prospective employer’s online reputation matters as much as the job it offers.
In traditional forms of recruitment, companies look to fill an open position at a certain time with a specific individual. The approach was ‘we announce a job and you come to us’. Early adopters of social media for recruitment have invested in building long term relationships to attract talent and personalities that suit their business environment or corporate culture, even if they are not currently looking for a new career. This innovative approach speaks, ‘we already know you, and so if something does come along, we’ll come to you.’ With that said, often companies strategically avoid posting frequent job opportunities for fear of advertising high employee turnover to their supporters.
Employee engagement & retention
Using social media specifically to enhance employee engagement is not as recognized as other functions – marketing or customer services for example – despite the potential for improved collaboration and idea sharing,
A challenge in implementing such a campaign is that top management or decision makers may not be so familiar with social media as a language mode and are opposed to exploring or investing money in it. The HR function has long been associated as a source of cost rather than income generating and maximising productivity. In China the mean age of top managers is younger than global averages, facilitating support of these social channels. It will become HR’s role to educate the older generation to appreciate and adopt these new methods
Companies need to develop ‘personas’ and ensure content is appealing, or employees quickly disengage. Often rigid policy based information appears disingenuous and lacks the ‘social’ element of social media. Encouraging and trusting employees to create an online society of this nature increases the attractiveness of working with the organisation amongst potential new candidates, clients and business partners as well as improving employee retention through a sense of community.
Internal engagement plays a significant part in an organisation’s social media recruitment strategy. Engaged employees are far more likely to share recruitment campaigns with contacts via their own social channels. However, in order to maximize the potential of these social media channels, companies must primarily decide what they are saying, who they are saying it to, and how they will make best use of the opportunity to engage.
Education & Training
Empowering employees with the tools, training, and time to become authentic, advocates will in turn create a culture of sharing hard work employees create in a company.
Many businesses now provide product training through WeChat as a fast and effective way to disperse information across a large employee base. To encourage completion of such training, consider offering incentives, discounts and prizes. In China, in managing the highest labor force in the world, firms are implementing gamification for the training of staff (see Jabil Case Study).
Managing risk & compliance
In order to implement successful social media strategies in the workplace, companies must also support strong compliance and risk mitigation policies. Some internal scenarios to be cautious of include:
- Employee accidentally or deliberately leaks confidential information or private employment issues that belong to the organization
- Ownership issues regarding public forums or networks where employees connect with each other or clients to discuss business
- The introduction of sensitive personal information into the workplace (politics, religion, sexual orientation, lifestyle issues)
Exposure of information in the above mentioned ways can breach data privacy including personal identifiable information. Examples of external high risk situations comprise of:
- Potential for viral growth of negative sentiment in reaction to organization communications
- Inappropriate or inaccurate comments on the organization’s performance
- Misrepresentation of the organization’s position on public issues
Such scenarios can result in large-scale damage to the company’s reputation or desired brand image. Striking the appropriate balance between the personal and the professional that has become amalgamated through social media will be a continual challenge impossible to qualify. While using social media tools provides human resources professionals convenience, establishing appropriate metrics to control and measure results will be key. Social media does not appear to be going away. The challenge is integrating a cohesive, practical and effective strategy at every level of the business.
Jabil Circuit Case Study:
US global manufacturing services company, Jabil Circuit currently employs 100,000 people in China alone. The majority of their employees are blue collar, front line workers between 25-28 years old.
In answering the challenge of how to engage a new workforce generation, of which 80% are smart phone users, Jabil implemented gamification into their employee training methods. The aim: to encourage learning and to earn qualifications out of the classroom in their own time, in a fun, competitive environment. Employees can share and record games, top scores shown ‘volunteer learning’. This is proving particularly popular for training such as health and safety and also allows employees to train in areas of personal interest for future career development. Wifi is available in employee dormitories and common room iPads are available for those without Smartphones.
Jabil sends their vendor presentation slides with course materials; this is then customized and uploaded inside WeChat games. Jabil implemented key metrics to measure return on investment of this style of employee engagement and saw huge benefits including:
- Utilization rate through numbers of downloads shows 25,000 employees are users and ‘engaged’
- Cost saving on learning hours from out of classroom training
- Fast accessible information has dramatically decreased hours on hotline calls
- Employee engagement and employee communication can be accelerated with social media
- Social media is transforming the entire recruiting process, and the candidate/company relationship
- Learning is an enormous opportunity for leveraging social media
- Social media has the potential to transform talent management and performance management
- HR service delivery can be improved through emerging technologies
- Social media technologies are pervasive and are constantly evolving
- Multi-generational workforce has access to enormous amounts of information, has higher expectations – flexibility, diversity, mobility, transparency
- Increased privacy, risk and compliance concerns
Further Information and Resources:
- Karen Isaacson and Sarah Peacey, KPMG, Human Resources and Social Media, 2012
- Jeanne Meister, Forbes on Leadership, 2014 The Year Social HR Matters, 2014
- Giorgia Madonno, Marco Polo Consulting, Possible Application of Social Media & Digital HR Processes in China, 2014
- Steve Miranda, ERE Recruitment Management, The 4 Biggest Social Media Trends In HR Right Now, 2013
- Spherion Staffing Services, Latest Emerging Workforce Study Discovers New Workplace Realities and Significant Employer/Employee Disconnects, 2013
- Zain Wadee, Hyphon, Employers must develop a social media strategy that does more than push corporate messages, 2013
- AmCham Shanghai HR Committee: Social Media Practice Group session I, II and III
To learn more about the AmCham Shanghai Human Resources Committee, visit their website.