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With the growing availability of top-notch social tools at their disposal, HR professionals are harnessing social media in new ways that add value not only to the employees they serve, but also to the business as a whole.
"HR is in a unique position to leverage the power of social -- to more effectively engage employees, retain talent and attract new employees," said Jacob Morgan, principal and co-founder of San Francisco-based Chess Media Group, a management consulting firm. And of all the specialties within HR, experts say recruiters have had the most transformative success with social media.
Social recruiting gives HR a leg up in the war for talent
Talent acquisition and social networks are a natural fit, so it makes sense that recruiters have made the most of new social technologies.
"Building relationships is everything in HR, and there's no better way to do that than using social media," said Christine Empie, senior ERP recruiter at Atlanta, Ga.-based M9 Solutions, a business technology consulting firm. "I can now reach out to hundreds of thousands of people yearly."
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Empie, who has worked as a recruiter for 16 years, has seen a sea change in the way she does her job. "It's hard to believe, but people actually used to fax their resumes to me," she said. "Then you'd follow up by phone before the days of email. My friends used to recruit straight from the phone book." Now, with more than 2,000 direct connections on LinkedIn and more than 17 million second and third connections, her social recruiting power has kicked into overdrive.
Empie is particularly excited about her HR social media management software, Bullhorn Reach, which allows her to post jobs to eight different social networks simultaneously. The tool also allows her to analyze metrics that measure the efficacy of her social recruiting efforts.
According to Morgan, the power of social recruiting is the ability to break into someone else's network. "If I'm able to ask a weak tie for help, they'll be able to reach out to their network, which more than likely won't overlap with mine," he said.
HR professionals are not only using social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for social recruitment. Enterprise social tools like Chatter, Yammer and Tibbr help businesses tap into the wisdom of every employee.
"Finding experts from within your company is now easier," Morgan said. With enterprise social software, "it's easier to find and share information. It streamlines work and leverages the wisdom, intelligence and knowledge of the whole organization."
Morgan went on to explain that this kind of two-way engagement is not only good for improving business processes, but it's also an incentive for employees to remain engaged and excited about their jobs. "The reason why talent leaves an organization is because they get bored and aren't passionate about what they're doing anymore," he said. "Collaborative environments allow employees to engage in what they are passionate about -- and be rewarded for it."
Social HR helps identify and cull future leaders
The way businesses are able to communicate and engage with their employees is a boon for HR, according to Rob Koplowitz, vice president and principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "When we looked at the business value of social, we couldn't find an area that it wasn't good for," he said.
For example, Koplowitz described the experience of one major retailer that recently rolled out a social network for its whole operation -- including for in-store sales associates. Managers were able to monitor and engage with the network and begin to identify employees who demonstrated a passion or an expertise in a particular area that might extend past the limits of the sales floor. "These employees can be targeted for promotion," he said. "The business is able to informally mine for talent from within."
What's more, social media can be a key tool in developing that talent, he said. "Because of the important role of internal learning, employee training is a hotbed for social."
Koplowitz said a large part of the time and expense of employee education and learning management can be minimized with e-learning and interactive social learning tools. And employee onboarding time, for businesses using enterprise social networks, is much less than for those not using them.
The future of social tools in HR
Experts say the growth potential of social HR tools is enormous. "Social can be a vast repository about how work gets done," Koplowitz said.
The question for HR becomes: Can we capture what our employees do effectively and mine that data to train new employees? If the growth of enterprise social media over the past five years is any indication, the answer will certainly soon be yes. But as Koplowitz pointed out, HR deals with issues that are often private -- from benefits management to payroll -- and this may have kept HR out of the social game at its beginning stages. However, HR is a highly social endeavor at its core, he said.
More and more, social HR is seen as a win-win for managers and employees -- all things HR can feel good about. Better late than never.