Embracing social media for recruitment about shifting culture, knowing end user well

Warner Brothers takes different approach using sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/18/2011

Social media and HR: Harpaul Sambhi, CEO of Careerify and author of Social HR, spoke about how HR professionals can recruit, engage, retain, communicate and create a brand with social media at a Strategic Capability Network event in August. For more information, visit www.scnetwork.ca.

Embracing social media for recruitment about shifting culture, knowing end user well

Democratization of info: Power shift (Strategic Capability)

Human resources, social media already inextricably entwined (Organizational Effectiveness)

Time for late adopters to embrace social media (Leadership in Action)


Embracing social media for recruitment about shifting culture, knowing end user well

By Amanda Silliker

When Warner Brothers is recruiting new talent, it uses a wide variety of social media. It has more than 10,000 followers on Twitter, it receives about 1,000 job applications every three months on LinkedIn and in one day alone it received 163 job applications through Facebook.

“Warner Brothers has become really innovative in utilizing and breaking down their traditional practices and being more proactive in the social reach,” said Harpaul Sambhi, CEO of Careerify and author of Social HR, published by Carswell.

“They quickly understood what works on LinkedIn might not work on Facebook and they have a unique practice for each network.”

But figuring out which networks to use can be a daunting task. Social networking isn’t just about the “big four” (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube). There are more than 10,000 social networks available that employers can use for recruiting, said Sambhi, who spoke at a Strategic Capability Network (SCNetwork) event in August in Toronto.

“It can be wikis, niche networks, professional networks, blogging platforms... It’s extremely confusing, especially if the HR professional doesn’t utilize social media,” he said.

The first step in determining what social networks will work best for recruiting is to understand the end user, said Sambhi. HR should determine who it is trying to recruit and figure out what social networks they’re using.

For example, if the goal is to hire recent graduates or generation Y, HR should be looking on Facebook instead of
LinkedIn. Or if it needs talent from India or Brazil, HR should be looking to social networks popular in those regions, such as Orchid.

“A good approach is to speak to current employees,” said Sambhi. “Go to recent hires and say, ‘What do you use because we want to hire like-minded people.’”

Once the end user is identified, the next step is to develop a strategy around the social media that will be used for recruiting. The strategy should make sure an organization’s presence on each network is personal and relevant to job candidates, said Sambhi.

“Warner Brothers’ secret is personal touch. It’s not the ‘90s anymore where resumés are submitted to a job board which feels like a black hole — there’s actually a person talking to each individual and creating positive feedback.”

Warner Brothers’ Twitter feed provides advice for potential candidates, such as interviewing and resumé writing tips, and directs them to helpful and interesting articles.

Irrespective of whether or not a candidate is interested in Warner Brothers or is job hunting, the organization is focused on “creating evangelistic people that love their brand,” said Sambhi.

This way, maybe when people are considering a career change, they’ll keep Warner Brothers in mind.

The strategy should also be focused on engaging potential hires in unique, memorable ways that show what the organization has to offer, beyond just salary and regular benefits, said Sambhi.

“If your company loves hockey or loves basketball, it can do something around that theme to really get people involved in the organization,” he said. “Make a video with a manager saying, ‘We love to play pickup hockey after work and if you love hockey, you’ll be loving us as well.’”

In 2007, Deloitte in the United States launched a filmmaking contest asking employees to show why they liked working at Deloitte. The videos were posted on YouTube and the winning video has more than 11,500 views to date.

“They’re on YouTube, on the Deloitte corporate website and now they have real, live employees that candidates can actually see and relate to,” said Sambhi.

Siemens has recently developed a recruiting tool in the form of an online game called Plantville. The game mimics a real-life workforce and potential candidates have to create a factory by buying products, producing and selling goods, and hiring employees. It’s riddled with true-to-life management and worker challenges such as poached talent and stolen inventory.

“All they simply need to do is look at the high scores and those are the people you want to hire — give them a straight offer,” said Sambhi. “If they are able to succeed in your constraints, they will succeed in real life, and it’s a lot easier for recruiting while creating a viral effect and improving their brand.”

For HR to effectively use social media for recruitment, there needs to be a slight culture shift within an organization, said Sambhi.

In some companies, management prohibits the use of social media or the websites have been disabled altogether.

Regardless of an organization’s stance on social media, HR should start with a test program to sample how social media works for them for recruitment, he said. It should outline an end goal, define the desired return on investment (ROI) and track the metrics.

“It shouldn’t be anything really aggressive, like needing 3,000 applications by the end of the year, because you don’t know how social media will affect you and behave,” said Sambhi. “Then you can show how it was able to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and take that back to the leaders.”

By being active on many social networks, Warner Brothers saved 40 per cent on job board costs in 2010 and saw an 85 per cent reduction in outside agency costs in 2009, said Sambhi.

Employers should be embracing social media for recruitment because 67 per cent of HR professionals think it will be the primary recruiting tool by 2015, and 50 per cent think it will be by 2013, according to a recent survey of 2,300 HR professionals by Careerify.

“Organizations are taking a more proactive approach (to hiring) because you need to outreach, you have to create relationships and social media can help that,” he said. “I think, personally, that will trump the conventional route of posting and praying an application will occur.”

Return to top of the page


Democratization of info: Power shift (Strategic Capability)

By Karen Gorsline

Few people would have predicted the exponential growth and popularity of social networks on a global basis and across generational lines. While HR was using technology to increase efficiency, build corporate knowledge data banks and screen resumés, the revolution occurred.

Building relationships, accessing information on demand and openly expressing and exchanging views became the norm. Now HR must use technology to manage in an open environment where relationships and engagement are the keys to success.

There are five key things HR needs to keep in mind:

Psst... Want to hear a secret?: The concept of confidential information is almost impossible to sustain. Information about governments, corporations and individuals is growing in the public domain without their control. And individuals are openly posting information that would have been considered private just 10 years ago.

HR must re-evaluate what privacy means and how managers relate to staff on social networks. Job descriptions, salary grades and other policy information previously swapped in one-to-one conversations is finding its way to the public domain.

Mind-melding: In a world with no secrets, an organization’s success relies on its relationships. Engagement needs to be a way of operating — not just a program. Broad engagement of stakeholders results in diversity of insights, intelligence and ideas that result in better business decisions.

Organizations can tap into the mind power of employees, customers or business partners by asking questions, soliciting ideas on a challenge or using simulations, scenarios and games.

People are people: People are multidimensional, unique and want to be recognized. Where “posting and praying” with keyword searches to narrow a candidate pool might have been an effective method in the past, the future will be about reaching out and broadening relationships — it will require a more proactive approach.

The person who shows the most promise for a role may not meet formal criteria but have a track record and experience that trumps any accreditation.

Social media sites have demonstrated people want to be known, recognized, feel they belong and have a connection. While it may not be possible to have a full relationship, some relationship is better than none at all.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: HR has consolidated infrastructure, suppliers and systems to operate more efficiently, but this approach may be risky when it comes to social networks. Each one attracts different types of people — using just one may not allow HR to connect with the target audience. Also, social networks are fluid and changing. Specific social networks can shift audiences over time, be replaced or simply cease to exist.

One size does not fit all: What works for one company may not work for another. Tailoring or developing unique approaches suitable for a specific company culture will make the difference between success and failure. Using social networks does not necessarily require a significant upfront investment in infrastructure so organizations should experiment and learn through pilots or small initiatives.

HR must continue to be efficient in terms of time and costs, but must also build and sustain relationships by increasing engagement, constructively responding to criticism and promoting positive awareness.

Karen Gorsline is SCNetwork’s lead commentator on strategic capability and leads HR Initiatives, focused on facilitation and tailored HR initiatives. She has taught HR planning, held senior roles in strategy and policy, managed a large decentralized HR function and directed a small business. She can be reached at gorslin@pathcom.com.

Return to top of the page


Human resources, social media already inextricably entwined (Organizational Effectiveness)

By Barb Kofman

Harpaul Sambhi’s unequivocal message to organizations that want to be at the forefront is they must move their HR practices into the social media age now.

To do so effectively, they first need to clarify:

• the rationale for incorporating social media into these practices

• how doing so connects to the broader organizational strategy

• whom specifically they want to target

• what social networks the target groups are using.

It is essential an organization’s social HR strategy reflects its culture. Copying the social media approach used by a competitor does not work.

Sambhi uses the term social HR — also the name of his book — to broadly refer to an HR strategy that enhances productivity within an organization through social media and, hence, collaboration and connectivity.

While social media is in its infancy, Sambhi asserts HR and social media are already inextricably entwined due to the intrinsic potential of social media as a communications tool for managing talent inside and outside an organization.

There is clearly opportunity for organizations to develop unique social media strategies now as research indicates one-third of HR professionals don’t yet understand its return on investment (ROI) and are skeptical about its value — an attitude often reflected in limitations on its use by employees. Sambhi astutely points to the futility of this mindset. Policies and firewalls curbing social media access don’t prevent employees from using smartphones to get around restrictions.

Examples of companies that have leveraged social media to enhance their overall organizational effectiveness were particularly insightful. Pitney Bowes launched its own internal social media vehicle — IdeaNet — as an electronic employee innovation tool and meeting place.

It has been used to successfully cut across the common organizational barriers of function, location and level to create a climate of engagement, collaboration and diversity of thought by openly enabling employees to provide input on specific challenges.

Warner Brothers has tapped into a variety of social media to create a targeted recruitment brand and has seen impressive savings on its recruitment costs.

Siemens has developed an online game called Plantville to enable users to mimic the real world of Siemens and, through it, has been able to identify people it wants to hire.

While these big organizations have the resources to implement a social HR strategy, it follows that smaller, more nimble organizations would equally benefit from — and possibly be more adept at — doing so.

Sambhi urged employers to not rely on old paradigms in determining social media strategy. To implement an effective strategy, it would be wise to consider his advice to identify a central media lead in HR, start small, employ a range of social media tools, keep on top of the ever-evolving nature of social media, and identify out-of-the-box ways, in alignment with corporate culture, to be innovative and build a unique social media presence.

Barbara Kofman is SCNetwork’s lead commentator on organizational effectiveness and founding principal of CareerTrails, focused on enabling individuals and organizations to resolve career-related challenges. She has held senior roles in resourcing, strategy and outplacement, and taught at the university and college level. She can be reached at bkofman@careertrails.com.

Return to top of the page


Time for late adopters to embrace social media (Leadership in Action)

By Trish Maguire

There’s no doubt about it — social media is changing the game in the workplace. As an HR leader, if you believe a key component of your role is to support and cultivate an inclusive culture for your organization, well, social media is the means to make it a reality. Harpaul Sambhi, entrepreneur and CEO of Careerify, makes a realistic argument as to how social media enables HR leaders to develop and leverage a realistic and effective social HR strategy.

How would you feel if your HR team reduced the amount of time, effort and money spent on recruiting, engaging and retaining talent by an average of 15 per cent in 2012 and a further 20 per cent in 2013?

As HR leaders, the sooner we understand the tremendous potential social media tools offer the workplace, the sooner we can begin to create a balance between high performance, innovation and value for the business and the internal workforce.

Imagine how having the ability to foster more meaningful interactions with colleagues around the world could accelerate connection, collaboration and sharing of real-time ideas and solutions.

Think about how the value of internal conferences, learning communities and team development could be advanced even further.

Both scenarios offer the potential of increasing retention levels, realizing higher performance results and improving employee engagement — which inevitably realize improved bottom line results.

Within five years, generation Y will outnumber baby boomers in the workplace. Social networks are already beginning to change the passive recruitment process to a more transparent and collaborative process where employees are encouraged to forward company openings to their friends and connections.

The average employee has 130 Facebook friends and 244 LinkedIn connections, according to Sambhi’s research, which can provide HR with thousands of potential candidates. With these numbers, generic job boards will become dinosaurs.

Learning to leverage social media tools to improve cultures that encourage high performance is finally becoming a cost-effective and viable business proposition. A number of organizations are already raising awareness about their employment brand by:

• tapping into an extensive internal and external pool of potential talent

• increasing collaboration with leadership, management and employee groups by providing insight and information on company practices and procedures

• reinforcing bottom-up communications by giving employees a space to ask questions, express opinions and share their profiles

• creating quick and fun news blasts that include community events and team activities going on across the world.

Social media isn’t going away. Even though many of the rules regarding what works and what doesn’t work have yet to be written or tested, it’s time for any leader who is a late adopter to adjust and embrace an integrated and cohesive corporate social media strategy.

There’s so much more for all of us to discover and harness. Today is just the tip of the iceberg.

Trish Maguire is a commentator for SCNetwork on leadership in action and founding principal of Synergyx Solutions, focused on developing customized talent management strategies for small entrepreneurial businesses. She can be reached at synergyx@sympatico.ca.

Return to top of the page

Add Comment

  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *