Can Social HR Help Today’s Workforce?

Photo Courtesy of Martins Bruneniecks

Photo Courtesy of Martins Bruneniecks

Management labour over what – if any – social media can do for them when engaging employees.

Disengagement breeds absenteeism. A fact most managers are aware of and the numbers speak for themselves. In 2012 Statistics Canada pegs the average Canadian worker was away from work for the equivalent of almost two weeks in a year. Fiscal translation: 9.3 days lost representing 2.4% of gross annual payroll, or $16.6 billion for Canadian employers.

Lakshmi Ramarajan from the Toronto Rotman School of Management identified,

‘lack of respect, ideas not being valued, lack of control and the absence of any feedback, the top contributors to burnout and disengagement.’

So how de we get employees back to work?

What about observing their behaviour? I’m not talking about charting coffee breaks and lunchtimes, but really taking the time to see into our staff. Many managers including myself, firmly believe by understanding employee behaviour we are directly enabling better engagement, respect and loyalty. Clearly, if we are to be successful managers, we need to know what makes our staff tick. We owe it to them, our company and to ourselves. So how do we do this without months, if not years, of polling, surveys and interviews?

Enter social media.

This new and constantly changing medium is a natural fit for internal communications to bolster contribution, feedback, value and the ever-important engagement. And of course the most important of all – human behaviours and the rhythms they create. Social media is built on the mining, extracting and fostering of various behaviours and their coveted traits. Why would we not leverage these tools inside our workplace?

Take the behemoth of social interaction, Facebook. CNN’s Doug Gross laid it out succinctly in his article, ‘5 Ways Facebook Changed us, for better, for worse.’ Facebook promotes and fosters good things as sharing, and bad things, as ‘over-sharing.’ If that is even possible in today’s accelerated world of online exchange. Facebook has the inherent ability to adjust and modify behaviour. A leading study at the University of Michigan details how our ‘seemingly’ harmless news feeds have the ability to promote both goodness and wickedness. In one second social media can envision instantaneous moon swings just by looking at images from our Facebook pages.

Are Mood Swings a Good Thing When Deciphering Behaviours?

I believe it is. If we recognize these ’emotional pendulums’ can act as enablers towards understanding how our staff communicate – why not? This is especially warranted where a good portion of workplaces today contain a generous mix of Gen X, Y and millennial employees.

Forbes Magazine’s Jeannie Meister reports in 2014, The Year Social HR Matters how digital immigrants have now caught up to digital natives. A statement aligned to Microsoft data where they polled 9,000 workers in 32 countries and found millennial employees will make up 50% of the 2020 workplace and distinctly see the business value of using technology on the job.

O.K. so this needs to happen. But how?

Everyone Loves to Play Games!

Barbara Swenson at All Business Experts takes it to a whole new level in extolling the virtue of ‘gamification.’ Organizations as LiveHelpNow will gamify your workplace to attain employee engagement quite literally by playing video games. This methodology is supported with further research done by officevibe where 70% of Forbes Global 2000 uses gamification to boost engagement, retention and revenues.

Seems like a no-brainer. What better way of harnessing these behaviour traits than by having our staff actively involved in social media. Whether it is simply bringing their own device to game on breaks, or logging into Facebook, you have a captive audience ready and willing to feed your corporate needs.

Not So Fast. What About Security and Reputation?

Guaranteed the perpetual vanguards of corporate safety and character – IT and legal, are aghast when they hear your new designs for internal communications and staff engagement. After all, they are being paid to look out for malevolent, salacious and damaging events as social engineering, viruses, reputation, liability, privacy and proprietary ownership. Those are pretty heavy words in any context for most companies. Issues needing very discernible and strategic attention.

Dan Pontefract of Huff Post Business reports on the 2014 Proskauer survey:

  • Only 17% of organizations have provisions that protect them against misuse of social media by ex-employees
  • 36% of employers actively block access to such sites, compared to 29% in 2012
  • 43% of businesses permit all of their employees to access social media sites, a fall of 10%

More use for sure but conversely a more rigid and restrictive communication culture.

Queue the social media policies.

So what gives? How much rope do we give our employees when it comes to their keen desire to engage with their personal friends, communities, groups, brands, etc., while at work? At the same time, how can we not use social media to infuse a culture of active employee engagement.

Not any easy solution, but if we don’t embrace social media in the workplace, we may loose everything, including our best and brightest employees.

John K. Bromley