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By Social media are changing the way HR departments work
  • Published 29.10.13

The human resources (HR) profession was just about becoming human in India. From bean counters and remuneration gateways, the HR folks were learning how to embed themselves in organisations. As the talent wars became critical, the role of recruitment and retention moved centre-stage. HR professionals were even making it to the board of directors. Some had CEO aspirations.

Suddenly, the world has changed. First, because of the economic downturn, retention has become much simpler. Few are prepared to take the risk of turning entrepreneur at this juncture. As for recruitment, it has become more complicated because you have to wade through 100 applications against the earlier 10. But technology — in the form of keyword searches — has made things simpler there too. The jobseeker had better watch out. If he doesn’t put self-motivated, he might end up in the Recycle Bin without a human having seen his credentials.

But into this peaceful world has come social media. “Social media changes HR, forcing them to consider technology and the online conversation in everything they do,” says Jessica Miller-Merrell, an HR consultant and the host of Internet television show Job Search Secrets. HR is often the last department in an organisation to adapt, she adds.

The change comes in three main ways.

Employee communication: Before social media, employers communicated using one-on-one meetings, email and memos. Now they must communicate changes to their organisation making the assumption that by telling one, you are telling all.

The voice of the employee: Companies used to rely on suggestion boxes and relatively static feedback. Now employees — through blogs and tweets — are as good as customers.

Employer branding: In the past, employers communicated their job openings using one-way conversation tools like newspapers, job boards or career fairs. HR teams are now seen as an extension of their PR and marketing departments.

HR professionals are also moving beyond their organisations to spread their message to the masses. The Society for Human Resource Management (SRHM) has just released a report on the Top 20 HR influencers in social media. The first five are Gautam Ghosh (Philips), Abhijit Bhaduri (Wipro), Tanmay Vora, Sahana Chattopadhyay and Vineet Nayar.

Social media can be looked at inside an organisation. They are really not much different from the systems in the past, excepting that they are so much faster. It is easy to get everyone on board. But it is equally easy to alienate everyone too.

Social media can be trivial. It may need Emily Post: “My boss wants to friend me on Facebook. What do I do?” But if you have been sowing your wild oats and telling the world about it, it can also be dangerous.

In some contexts, social media have all the potential of turning out to be a monster. You share with your friends and you end up sharing with the world. But from an organisation’s point of view, it will become increasingly important — even if only for snooping purposes. And you’ll be left wondering how much of your colourful past you can cover up.