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Dave Foxall Using Social HR Software to Build a Collaborative Workforce

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 By Dave Foxall

Internalizing the Social HR Technology Trend

Judging by the HR software landscape, the use of open-source HRMS software, mobile applications, and social technologies are clearly upward trends that appear to be set to continue. For example, Social Recruitment was identified as moving into the "survival" phase in Forrester's 2010 report—TechRadar For Business Process Professionals: Human Resource Management Apps. Indeed, the organizational use of social HR technologies for recruitment (particularly via LinkedIn) is by now quite well-established (although there are no shortage of late adopters) and is a prime example of how social media can be used in an outward-facing mode—interacting with people who are currently not part of the organization (similar to the now-ubiquitous marketing of products and services via Facebook, Twitter and other social networks). Even so, social HR software has not reached mainstream adoption in all Human Capital Management functions—especially those internal areas designed to encourage innovation and collaboration among employees.

Interestingly enough however, additional research by Forrester predicts that, "Social networking will become a key resource for collaboration". In fact, as Forrester analysts believe; faster work speeds will require faster response times. As such, companies will have to warm up to social media strategies because the continued emphasis on the speed of doing work will require the broader use of tools for immediate response," and "Companies will embrace social media throughout the organization. Technology enables employees to get work done faster and more effectively from multiple locations. Employees will need anytime/any place access to productivity tools to complete sales, find information, take employee training, locate the expert, and so on, no matter where they work or what device — mobile or connected — they use."

What Social HR Technology Options are Available?

Social HR software tools can be accessed via a browser, a specialized app, a mobile device or be bundled together in a fully-supported social business software platform. The basic tools in common use are:

  • File Sharing—both for reasons of quantity and size, sharing files via email is often no long viable. A dedicated file sharing utility allows a more methodical storage and access methodology.
  • Blogs—great for informal sharing and opinions and creating a debate but less useful for more structured project-related needs.
  • Wikis—a useful knowledge management option for creating shared documentation and a central repository of guidance, information, etc.
  • Microblogging—good for simple, short relationship-maintaining interactions and reminders. The use of push technology permits users to subscribe to filtered activities and events.
  • Forums—online discussions can create a sense of community around a particular corporate issue or project.

Social HR Software Adoption Levels

The CedarCrestone 2011-12 HR Systems Survey measured strategic adoption of HR social media tools by organizations (as opposed to merely allowing individual employees to use such tools in a work setting) and found the following results:

Workforce Using
In 12 Months
Recruitment / Talent Acquisition
Learning and Development
HR Management / Record-keeping
Time and Labor / Time and Attendance
Business Intelligence / Workforce Analytics
Performance Management
Succession Planning and Management
Average adoption across all social applications

The still-low percentages fit with collaborative social technology still being in the 'early adoption' stage but the same survey predicts a global 107% increase in corporate use of social media tools over the next three years.

Leveraging Social HR Technologies for Collaboration

The options are potentially limitless but some emerging themes are:

  • Learning and development—the CedarCrestone survey suggests, "engaging a social community around learning and training events to make them more dynamic; enabling learners to interact and communicate before, during and after the event; providing social-based mentoring that may be informal, ad hoc or on-the-job; enabling user-generated content; leveraging social tools such as tagging, bookmarking and rating of learning content, courses and instructors". Social learning platforms are the second of the three 'splinter markets' that Bersin & Associate's 2011 Learning Management Systems report identified for the learning software landscape.
  • Record-keeping—social tools can be used by employees to access and update personal records.
  • Time and labor—employees can bid for or swap shifts using remote, social media tools.
  • Internal communities—a major collaborative output, communities can be purely social or work-related, centered on special interests, projects, peer groups, 360 feedback networks, etc.

All of these options drive up workforce cohesion and engagement via coaching, mentoring, informal learning and general guidance.

Where Next for Social HR Software Tools?

The industry analysts agree: the near future holds an explosion of HR social media usage. In fact, a 2010 Forrester report recommended that organizations embrace, "mobile and social technologies to build loyalty and innovate processes". Going further, the company's research affirmed that, "Especially with the tech-savvy new workers and the consumer popularity of mobile and social networking, these tools will let users communicate more easily inside and outside the organization, as well as allow them to find the information they want when they need it." As for the current market leaders, both Gartner's 2010 Magic Quadrant for Internal Social Software and the 2011 Forrester Wave for Enterprise Social Platforms concur that Jive Software, IBM, NewsGator and Telligent are all at the top as of now; yet countless other social software vendors seem to be continuously entering the race—a clear indication that, for the foreseeable future at least, social media is here to stay. End

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Social HR software has not reached mainstream adoption in all Human Capital Management functions—especially those internal areas designed to encourage innovation and collaboration among employees.


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