Social media critical part of HR tool box

New sites such as Pinterest gaining ground
By Sherrilynne Starkie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/18/2013

Social media has been mainstream for the better part of a decade, yet many professionals still shun it, ban it and ignore it. They do so at their peril.

From an HR perspective, social media is a critical part of the tool box. It certainly has been a boon for recruiting — almost all recruiters use it daily for posting vacancies, sourcing applicants and networking.

LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, garners most of the attention in the workplace. It allows people to present their “brand” through profiles that list their skills, experience, education, connections and more, and employers can easily find job candidates through a variety of search options such as education level, area of expertise or location.

Recruiters also use Facebook and Twitter to gauge a job candidate’s persona and expertise. Talent scouts use social networks to find potential employees, even those who are not seeking jobs, and befriend them. This builds trust and strong relationships.

Pinterest gaining ground

A lesser known social network, Pinterest, is being used increasingly to source new recruits. It’s a pinboard-style photo-sharing website that jobseekers are using to promote their personal brands, and it is the fastest-growing social site.

It starts with “pinning” and tagging a resumé to make it findable via search. Candidates posting creative, stylized CVs tend to see them shared widely across their networks. Others pin their resumés directly onto recruiters’ own pinboards to gain attention.

One key trend sees jobseekers creating pinboards to highlight different aspects of their resumés, such as work samples, pictures of past employers and schools attended.

But care is required. While looking at a candidate’s social media profile can provide amazing insight into who he is as a person, legal experts are predicting an onslaught of lawsuits alleging workplace discrimination should jobseekers be passed over because of something posted on a social media website. Such mentions should be categorized as hearsay or rumour and all vetting should be backed up with traditional checks.

Some recruiters have also been asking job candidates for their Facebook passwords so they can review content there. This is inappropriate and most jobseekers would — and should — run a mile from anyone who makes such an unethical and poorly considered request.

Besides being a clear invasion of privacy that could result in bad PR for a company, no fruitful, long-term relationship could bloom when there is such a level of mistrust from the start. Recruiters need to remember that social media accounts are often private and intended only for the eyes of friends and family.

Communication potential

Social media offers broader benefits to HR professionals in terms of communications and collaboration. When used correctly, it can boost employee engagement and morale, corporate reputation and more.

For example, using Facebook private groups is a great way to add value to training initiatives. Employees can gain familiarity with course materials and trainers in advance of sessions, and collaborate with each other on course materials and learning.

In the same vein, social networking tools such as Yammer and Present.ly provide private platforms for company use. These work like Twitter and provide a closed environment for work-specific conversations. Employees can share content, learn from each other and build relationships online, which is especially useful for organizations with multiple locations.

Bans ineffective

Banning the use of social media at work and blocking the main social media sites is an ineffective strategy and could be the professional equivalent of burying your head in the sand. Social media is pervasive and so is the use of mobile phone applications, so whether you’ve banned Facebook or not, employees are using it daily. They post updates, photographs and other items that reflect their daily lives — and this might include their work too.

But businesses operating without a clearly articulated social media policy create a culture where employees lack direction about which behaviours are acceptable or not. Consultation with the legal department is important to develop a policy that gives people a clear outline of the rules of the social media road.

The imposition of sanctions on those who contravene the policy is not only wise but a prudent step in protecting a corporate brand.

Social media monitoring helps identify any employee missteps and provides insight into perceptions of the organization as an employer. There are plenty of free and paid-for monitoring tools available online, such as Google Alerts and Source Metrics, that pick up mentions in real time. However, many social networks, particularly Facebook, provide users with privacy settings that block monitoring tools from seeing updates, so it’s not possible to catch everything.

Sherrilynne Starkie is vice-president of content marketing and social media at Thornley Fallis Communications in Ottawa. Follow her on Twitter@sherrilynne.

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