Yesterday I attended the Social HR Conference run by the CIPD in Manchester. There were lots of great learning points but one thing that struck me repeatedly were the reasons put forward by (often frustrated) HR people as to why their companies wouldn’t embrace “social media”, as they are often the reasons some of my clients also state. So I thought I’d challenge a few.
“People will do stupid things on it and we’ll end up sacking them”
Yes, some employees do stupid things sometimes – they always have done and always will do. Some of them will do it on a social media forum. But if someone doing something daft on social media leads to a disciplinary problem, then, to quote Pets At Home HR Director Ryan Cheyne, you have a problem with an employee – not with social media.
“People will just waste time on it”
Some people waste time at work no matter what. They might take overlong fag or tea breaks, wander around telling jokes to colleagues or discussing last night’s Eastenders. Again, if someone isn’t achieving their work targets, tackle it as a performance problem like any other. But…
…the time you think they are wasting might be being spent finding out the answer to a problem quickly and cheaply, getting some useful ideas on good practice from their contacts, or even finding out some information or knowledge on a competitor or a new opportunity.
“It might be ok for professionals and techies, but we employ manual workers/truck drivers/cleaners”
And you think that your manual workers don’t have Smartphones or Facebook accounts? Even if they don’t use them in work it doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t have them. Some companies adopt technology earlier than others but in the end we all do. One interesting learning point for me yesterday was that there is a huge online community of people who discuss knitting and crochet, and (while I accept this is a total stereotype) you wouldn’t normally associate people with those hobbies with the cutting edge of technology
“People might get a bad impression of the company”
People have always moaned about their employer and things they don’t like. But if you’re perceived as a poor employer, word always gets round. Social media just gets it round faster. And with the onset of sites like Glassdoor, it’s going to happen whether you “forbid” it or not.
Look at Friends Reunited and Myspace – they were just passing fads
Individual sites may come and go (there are some suggestions that Facebook may soon fall out of favour, while the end of LinkedIn has been prophesied regularly) but the means of communicating via internet or mobile technology will be around for a long while.
What’s its ROI?
As Mervyn Dinnen pointed out at yesterday’s conference, this is the “killer” argument used by those who just don’t want to do something. After all, how many companies measure the ROI of talking (and listening) to their employees, making new business connections or of providing mobile phones?
For a small organisation, the benefits of using social media more seem overwhelming – a cheap and easy way to promote your business and services, a chance to get immediate customer and employee feedback and an opportunity to “punch above your weight” against bigger competitors. In the same way that we now expect a company to have a website and an email address, there’ll be an expectation from your employees and customers in the future that you’re in social in some way. Thinking it will go away or ignoring it is not the right strategy.