The Top Social Tools For 21st-Century HR

Seven years after the Fast Company article "Why We Hate HR," change may finally be here. No longer the paper pushers Keith Hammonds and staff wrote about in 2005, HR is becoming one of the front line innovators helping build organizations that rack up likes and big-time revenue.

After all this time, why now? Two reasons: 1) Startup successes like Airbnb and Pinterest, who've reaped big benefits from big investments in their people, have inspired plenty of executives to get serious about fostering a culture that can drive a market advantage, and 2) social media.

THE SOCIAL ANIMAL

Like it or not, social media has found its way into every cubicle, and this incursion has inspired the most fundamental change in the way we work since the introduction of the Apple IIe. Longtime SAS CEO Jim Goodnight has said that his "chief assets drive out of the gate every day." In the end business is about people, and social media offers the best tools today to connect them to each other and the business.

Whose job is it to find, implement, and run these new social-media powered platforms inside organizations? You get one guess.

Humans, communication, work—it all makes HR the ideal spot from which to harness this change in work habits for the benefit of the company. A digital deluge of products are on offer to help human resources fulfill employees' and organizations' new demands. But which HR platforms enhance, not hinder the way we want to do our jobs and will truly help build a modern workplace?

WHAT'S CHANGED AND WHY

The following is a list of the four most important social media-powered changes in the way we work, the opportunity they present, and some credible tools to help modern HR pros transform their workplace and grow their business.

1. We are impatient.
Technology has conditioned us not only to be able to absorb constant feedback but demand it. Millennials are an ambitious crew, and more than anyone they are constantly motivated to do better. An annual employee review? Forget it. The world changed three months ago, and so has your employee.

Today's work force is willing to take direction, criticism, and praise from peers as well as managers if it means succeeding quicker. Two great examples of systems built from the ground up to deliver real time feedback from both managers and colleagues are Work.com and Small Improvements. By leveraging social media and engaging in constant feedback, employees are motivated to achieve goals faster, and course correct sooner, all the while helping their colleagues do the same.

WHEN EMPLOYEES:
Are impatient for feedback
MODERN HR WILL:
Punch up performance management
NEW TOOL TO USE:
Rypple or Small Improvements

2. We want control
From travel arrangements to medical consultations, we control our lives from the comfort of our screens. Nearly all of us are avid DIYers, and it's technology that has given us this control. Why should that be different at work?

Having control over the basics of one's work life is just as important to employees as anything twice as fancy. Self-service portals provided by Human Resource Information Systems can help HR skip the paper pushing and facilitate data management to be done quickly and effectively in one system. A great example is BambooHR, which allows employees to access their communications, profiles, and benefits as easily as they would their Gmail.

WHEN EMPLOYEES:
Want control
MODERN HR WILL:
Give it to them
NEW TOOL TO USE:
BambooHR

3. We will speak our mind
And loudly. If an employee loves their job, they're telling their followers all about it. But if a manager consistently disappoints, then that too goes on Twitter. When an employee doesn't like what's happening on board, they can easily sink the ship with the tools at hand.

There will always be gripes, but unaddressed feelings of dissatisfaction quickly fester malcontent. It's what's done with those feelings that can make the difference. Encourage communication and feedback from employees to the company. It goes the other way, too. Give us information, keep us up to date, help us understand how our day-to-day efforts drive the company's goals and you will have a happier, more engaged staff.

Platforms like Yammer and Chatter are potentially tremendously effective here because they have the ability to decrease friction of inter-workplace communication and could easily be applied to channel discontent into positive improvements, and turn daily inspiration into quarterly achievements.

WHEN EMPLOYEES:
Will speak their mind
MODERN HR WILL:
Encourage dialogue and harness feedback
NEW TOOL TO USE:
Yammer and Chatter

4. We have a choice.
According to a 2011 Social Recruiting Survey by social recruiting platform Jobvite, nearly a third of employees predicted they would stay at their next job two years or less. Says Jobvite CEO Dan Finnigan: "The bond [between companies and employees…] was completely severed in the most recent recession, when we lost 8.4 million jobs in a matter of months. I think it has permanently shocked all working generations into looking out for themselves and making sure they're always looking out for what their next gig or opportunity is going to be."

If companies want the best talent, employers must be putting the kind of effort into acquiring talent that they once applied to acquiring customers, and brand is the best tool they've got if they want to compete. Most companies have an untapped resource just waiting for them in the form of their own URL—what have you done to create a window into your workforce on your website? A tool gaining popularity for just this purpose is the culture video. (Love it or hate it, this one is definitely making the rounds for Airbnb.)

Along with a well-thought-through recruiting site, the aforementioned Jobvite is another potential tool for building a strong employer brand. You can activate social networks and share not only a company's opportunities, but its story as well through compelling job descriptions and creative recruiting. To survive in the next decade, organizations must build a strong community of friends and fans well before they need to nab talent.

How will social media transform the way we work? Whether you've been paying attention or not, it's already happened. Now, it's HR's #1 job to ensure their employees are given the right tools so the change already happening in their company is the change that's best for their company.

WHEN EMPLOYEES:
Have a choice
MODERN HR WILL:
Foster and promote a strong employer brand
NEW TOOL TO USE:
Culture videos and Jobvite

Josh Levine is director of strategy at Great Monday, an employer brand agency based in Oakland, California, and regularly speaks and writes about the intersection of brand and business. Claudia Fulga is HR Director at TicketFly, the San Francisco-based social ticketing platform.

[Image: Flickr user Wes Peck]

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8 Comments

  • Mark Sokol

    Not only the tools, but HR will evolve into 'a gaming system' or 'HR Gamification' as it is being dubbed.  Opening engaging your employees and giving immediate recognition and rewards for it are key!  It will be fascinating to see!   see What is Gamification? for more on that.

  • Barrie Moore

    Great point about needing more immediate, tangible ways to give and provide feedback. I've long felt that the annual performance review was out of date, and while I think the best feedback is frequent, in person conversation, I also think people crave seeing things in writing. Interesting idea to use social media tools to bridge the gap. Great article, Josh and Claudia!

  • Josh Levine

    Thanks, Barrie. I hope more execs see the opportunity to support their staff with frequent feedback. 

  • Frederic Lucas-Conwell

    I like the format and content: Thanks: Very informative. HR will evolve one way or another. Tools play a nice role into this evolution. Thank you.

  • Dmcgrath

    I think clients will push companies to social , hr will need to implement and monitor it to be strategic and listen to what employees and clients want. 

  • Josh Levine

    Another major contender is @worksimple:twitter . Thanks @jocelynaucoin:twitter for the call out. 

  • Marc Effron

    While it's nice that there are new tools to enable HR's work, it's a bit premature to declare victory.  HR isn't going to be saved by technology/social media.  It's going to be saved by showing its customers that its solutions add more value to the business than they add complexity.  Based on every recent executive survey about HR, we stil have lots of room to go.