Want to know how to increase the role of social media in your organization’s HR strategy? Or maybe you’re just beginning to talk about it and don’t know where to start... A panel of senior professionals at SUMMIT 2012, the annual premiere event of The Human Resources Management Association of Chicago (HRMAC), recently shared their experiences and lessons learned. This post offers tips and takeaways for enhancing the effectiveness of social media initiatives in any organization and raises questions about how individual HR practitioners, their organizations, and professional associations like HRMAC should navigate the road ahead.
This is a guest post from The Human Resources Management Association of Chicago (HRMAC).
HRMAC held its annual premiere event, SUMMIT 2012 on November 8th at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. With over 800 attendees and four general sessions, one of the highlights of the day was a panel discussion entitled Social Media and Mobile Communications: Leverage Your Ability to Connect, Share, and Engage. The session was moderated by WTTW Chicago Tonight’s Phil Ponce, and the panel included three leaders from the Chicago area: Joel Warady, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Enjoy Life Foods; Paul Hamann, President of The Night Ministry*; and Veronica Micklin, Manager of Associate Training at True Value Company (panelist bios appear at the end of this post).
The session began with a few poll questions that produced interesting results and set the stage for the discussion to follow:
- 51% of the respondents disagreed with the statement “Social media is important to my company’s overall HR strategy” (35% agreed, and 14% were uncertain).
- For professional outreach 87% said they mostly use LinkedIn (4% said Facebook and 3% said Twitter).
- 52% indicated they mostly use social media for recruitment; 34%said networking.
- 88% responded that their organization still has a significant learning curve in integrating social media into their HR strategy.
To early adopters and social media enthusiasts, these percentages may seem surprising and perhaps disheartening, but they are fairly typical and indicate that social media adoption in most organizations is still in its infancy.
In their introductory comments, the panelists emphasized that social media is a means for connecting and needs to be used as such in organizations, especially in HR. They also highlighted the fact that social media should be used for two-way communication and should become a platform for dialogue. Specifically, Hamann noted that social media is a great way to connect with employees who work odd-shifts or might not be in working environments that easily connect them with the rest of the organization. And Micklin reminded the group that people are always learning from one another. Offering electronic media simply facilitates a natural process.
Warady suggested that organizations consider hiring a ”Chief Listening Officer” to identify opportunities for improvement based on what employees and customers are saying about the organization and its products and services. Hamann recommended that the CEO set an example by using social media as his or her primary means of communication. The panelists also advised:
- A senior person or the CEO must be prepared for an increased level of transparency that will follow the initiation of social media. If she or he is not ready to be more transparent, then the use of the media cannot be complete or effective.
- Be aware that the use of social media will bring with it a whole host of other concerns that need to be addressed, such as policies around its use, employee access to it “off hours,” etc.
When asked by Phil Ponce about implementing social media into HR strategies and with employees, the panelists gave this advice:
- Start with a process or group in which sharing will be natural and the convenience will be appreciated, such as a cross-functional project or multi-site team.
- Start small and document your successes. Run a pilot in which you move communication from email to a new platform. Make access and participation easy.
- Invest in one-on-one time you need to make participants feel competent and excited about participating. You can prevent small questions from becoming barriers. Everyone learns at a different pace.
- Shake off any age bias. You’ll be surprised at the fast adoption and creative use by Baby Boomers.
Hamann also noted, “The constant goal is to keep your employees interested and involved in the overall social media plan of the company.” And Micklin suggested attendees remember the four E’s of social media: Engage, Educate, Excite and Evangelize.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The social media panel was both informative and stimulating, providing HR professionals and social media advocates alike with ideas and advice on how to better leverage social media and engage employees in its use. It also raised a number of questions and provided important food for thought. When we connect this session with the opening keynote from Penelope Trunk (The Brazen Careerist), in which she championed the idea of HR professionals assuming more significant roles as change agents, we were left with a few questions of our own:
- What role should HR professionals play in helping organizations and their members become more socially and digitally sophisticated?
- What changes need to take place in organizations to enable HR to assume a greater leadership role with respect to the digitization of work and the workplace?
- What changes do HR professionals need to make to better prepare themselves to take on those leadership roles?
- What role should a professional association like HRMAC take on to help HR professionals, HR functions, and organizations better prepare themselves for success in the Digital Era?
HRMAC has been and will continue to help its members address these questions and more as the Digital Era continues to evolve. We’d love to hear your thoughts on them as well.
Since its founding in 1915, HRMAC has been leading the dialogue on workplace strategy, connecting HR leaders with the industry’s best-in-class resources, and growing Chicago area companies and talent. With a membership of over 750 organizations and a network of more than 7,000 HR professionals, HRMAC is the oldest organization of its kind in the country and independent of other local, state or national organizations. For more information on HRMAC please visit our website at www.hrmac.org.
About the Panelists
Joel Warady is Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Enjoy Life Foods, a leading brand in the North American Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly CPG category. Prior to joining Enjoy Life, Joel was Principal of Joel Warady Group, a Marketing, Social Media, and Business Growth consulting firm. Internationally, Joel is respected as a marketing and social media expert, speaker and business advisor.
Paul Hamann is President & CEO of The Night Ministry, a 36-year-old Chicago non-profit that compassionately provides housing, health care, outreach, spiritual care, and social services to adults and youth who struggle with homelessness, poverty and loneliness. The Chicago Community Trust named Paul as one of three Nonprofit Experienced Leader Fellows for 2012, and in July of 2012, he was awarded a Champion of Change Award by the White House and the Federal Interagency Council on Homelessness.
*Disclosure: The Night Ministry is a client of Renaissance Strategic Solutions, which is Courtney Shelton Hunt’s consultancy.
Veronica Micklin is the Manager of Associate Training at True Value Company where she provides leadership in helping employees improve their job performance and develop their careers. For True Value University, she created a blended multi-level curriculum for company managers, and developed the series Human Resource Toolkits, used extensively by True Value retailers.