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Micah Fairchild Social HR Technologies Beginning to Impact Full Employee Lifecycle

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Social HR Apps Infusing Into Multiple HCM Initiatives

Social HR has been with us for some time now, with vendors, analysts, and pundits arguing its benefits for just as long. But the jury has still largely been out on these technologies from the practitioner perspective. In fact, in a statistic that we recently cited from Ventana Research, fully 39% of organizations still “explicitly deny people the opportunity to interact using [these collaborative technologies]”. And in a related study from SilkRoad (The Social Media and Workplace 2012 Report), only 43% of employees indicated that they worked for companies in which social media access was completely open in the workplace. So what gives? Why the stark contrast between what the HR technology communities are advocating versus what executives are adopting?

Well, for one thing many have argued (including us) that social HR applications are overhyped—delivering only a modicum of the benefits that are being touted. For another, Blogging4Jobs’ latest survey found that 46% of company leaders believe that their employees “will misuse social media and other workplace technology”. More likely though from a business leader perspective is that the issue revolves around trying to nail down exactly how to leverage social HR technologies. Social learning is fairly well established; social recruiting will soon be reaching mainstream adoption; and social performance management is still on the acceptance fringes; but it’s the whole-scale integration that social HR technologies are having across the employee lifecycle that can be the most puzzling. To help remedy at least a bit of the confusion, we examine social HR’s 4 main infusion points.

Social HCM Infusion Point #1: The Beginning of the Employment Relationship

Of course we all know that the beginning of any employment relationship starts with the tasks of attracting, recruiting, and ultimately on-boarding an employee. Unfortunately, this is also a place that far too many businesses fail to integrate Social HR technologies into the mix. Let’s take attraction for example; just as is the case when considering your business’s brand management in the context of customers, in order to attract the right candidates to your company, a concerted effort is needed to manage and control the social conversation that’s happening about you as an employer.

Of course there are the obvious areas like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to help get this branding process started but equally important is the development by your recruiting staff of talent communities (which, as talent acquisition thought leader Sarah White says, “allow potential job candidates to opt in or be added by a strategic recruiting team to specialized groups”). These groups will then be much better informed and involved when it comes time to actually start the recruiting process. And while social recruitment is beginning to see mainstream adoption like we indicated above, often businesses overlook the areas of: P2P (peer to peer) where current employees act as brand ambassadors; referrals (which are a top source for talent); and the candidate’s experience.

What’s left once these tasks are completed is the all-important process of on-boarding that has over the past several years given an increasingly valued role to social technologies. For instance, forums can be used to allow new hires to ask and/or reply to questions; current employees can use wikis and/or boards to offer advice to recently on-boarded employees; and analytics can be used to evaluate the social conversation that is taking place about substantive aspects of the new hire’s experience.

Social HCM Infusion Point #2: The Development of Your Employees

Of all the areas that social HR technology has seen growth, few can hold a candle to that of social learning. In fact, as Gartner’s Thomas Otter writes, “the social-learning platform gives learners the ability to establish a presence or social profile that reflects their expertise and interests; create, discuss, share and capture learning content as learning objects; organize and find learning objects from varied sources, such as search or peer ratings; interact with peers in their social network and reach beyond their networks to other trusted sources of information; engage in experience-based learning exercises; and receive real-time, online coaching and support”. And while that certainly covers a wide swath of what embedding social technologies into learning can accomplish, the real impetus behind this approach is to promote relationships (a key driver for emotional engagement); motivate employees by giving them the tools that are needed “just-in-time”; and enable a commitment to learning and the organization itself (both of which have been proven keys to the question of increasing productivity).

Social HCM Infusion Point #3: The Retention of Key Staff

If learning was the old stand-by solution for social HR integration in the employee lifecycle, then retaining critical staff members would easily be considered by most in the HCM technology industry as the new kid on the block. Of course one of the most talked about areas contained in this infusion point is social performance management, but in our opinion that is a feature set that still needs build-out before it’s truly ready for mainstream adoption.

What is already available and viable are areas like recognition, which Gartner found in recent studies (if done correctly) “can motivate employees—improving performance and aiding retention”. In fact, as the research firm espouses, over the past few years, rapid growth has taken place in systems that are leveraging social software concepts such as gamification (e.g. Rypple/ to revolutionize the rewards business. And further, with social HR analytics built in to many of these solutions, businesses now have the capability of actually providing a substantive measure of ROI.

Social HCM Infusion Point #4: The End of the Employment Relationship

Most businesses are fairly well-versed in the practice of exit interviews, but far too few of them revere this process as a social HR function. But consider this, isn’t one of the major functions of a social application to elicit feedback? And isn’t this the main reason to conduct an exit interview in the first place? However, exit interviews are just one area at the end of the employment relationship that should be exploited socially.

For instance, especially in those sectors where longevity is prized, recently-retired employees are being tapped into as part of what’s being called “Known Talent Pools” for project-based initiatives that need known commodities to see the work through to completion. Still, one of the most interesting areas where social HR is being seen at the end of the employment relationship is through company alumni. As Gartner research found in their 2011 Hype Cycle report, “a stronger organizational focus on talent shortages in key roles now exists, and a large number of consumer social-network users mean that more organizations are looking to build online communities to tap into alumni”.

Final Thoughts on the Social HR Technology Impact

At this year’s HR Technology Conference (the 15th annual) over 50 vendors highlighted the social features (although social performance management made up the majority of announcements) of their solutions; with many like Culture Amp, Fairsail, and SyncHR receiving particularly high marks. And with recent M&A activity like IBM’s purchase of Kenexa largely based on a social agenda, it’s becoming quite clear that the emergence of social HR as more than just a point solution is upon us. The question going forward is whether more areas will find their social “wings” and which places we’ll be talking about next that have truly started to soar. End

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Social learning is fairly well established; social recruiting will soon be reaching mainstream adoption; and social performance management is still on the acceptance fringes; but it’s the whole-scale integration that social HR technologies are having across the employee lifecycle that can be the most puzzling.


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