Jeff Waldman on Why HR Needs Social Media & More
“I’ve always had a fascination with people in the workplace.”
That’s Jeff Waldman, HR technology strategist and founder of the popular SocialHRCamp, explaining why he got into human resources.
“When social media came along I dabbled in it for personal use. I just loved it. I also noticed there was a strong connection between online and the workplace. After I lost my job in the recession, I thought: ‘You know what? This is what I want to do’.”
Jeff is the go-to guy for organizations looking to power their employer brands with social technology: “I figure out how to actually enact the brand: what channels are we going to use? Which online tools, which social networks? Then I help with adoption, both outside and inside the organization: How are we going to build this into our work process?” He’s worked with clients including Universal Music Canada, DundeWealth, CIBC, Deloitte, the Government of Ontario, the CBC, and many of the leading HR and recruitment technology companies.
But Jeff is not just a consultant: he’s also an evangelist for social media adoption in the workplace. His SocialHRCamps – which have been held across North America – help HR professionals learn about emerging tools and technologies.
So what’s the secret? How can recruiters and HR professionals ride the wave of social technologies to better candidates, more loyal employees and a powerful employer brand?
He kindly agreed to a little Q&A …
“There’s a misconception that social media means just Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and Google+. But that’s not it.”
How has the HR community’s attitude towards social technology changed since you started your business, five years ago?
Jeff: Back then the only technologies people talked about were payroll systems, applicant tracking systems, and HR systems. That’s it. It was still all about clunky enterprise-wide solutions that were not good for real-time applications.
Now, the HR community is talking about social media and cloud-based systems, technologies that are agile and can do so many things in real-time. That’s the biggest change.
In the last twelve months, I’ve noticed the majority of the HR community – the mainstream – has started to adopt social media in the workplace. It’s no longer just an early adopter thing.
“It’s no longer just an early adopter thing.”
Has that changed what you cover in SocialHRCamps, versus when you started holding the events two years ago?
Jeff: I think so. The Vancouver camp coming up will be our tenth in three years, and we’ve run over a hundred and twenty different learning sessions. It first started out around social media basics: What is Facebook, Twitter 101. That kind of thing. Now its more about emerging technology; we get a diverse audience that includes more people that have already started doing some things with social media. They know how to use the tools, and now they’re trying to figure out how to make it a part of their process.
What does that adoption process look like?
Jeff: The first step is just to learn the basics of the actual tool. Forget about any process or strategy. It’s about getting used to the tools.
The next step is where strategy comes in, and companies tend to do it backwards. They’ll say: “our competitor is using Facebook to hire, so we should to.” But what I try and get organizations to do is forget about any particular technology or social channel. Figure out what your core challenges are in HR and recruitment. What’s your focus? What are the top three or four things you want to work on improving? Once you’ve got those nailed down, then we can start talking about Facebook pages and all the other bits of technology.
The last step is to identify core measures. Typically from a recruitment standpoint, that is to improve quality of hire. So, decide what and how you’ll measure the success of your social media efforts.
“What are the top 3 or 4 things you want to work on improving? Once you’ve got those nailed down, then we can start talking about Facebook pages and all the other bits of technology.”
Is there big learning curve, adopting social media for business purposes versus personal use?
Jeff: There is definitely a learning curve in using social media strategically. For personal use, we post and respond to things without any underlying plan. But for HR and recruitment purposes, the idea is to align your activities to something else: a strategy. Your social activity has to be about an HR strategy, or an employer brand strategy, or something. Social media is just a communications channel.
I definitely think there is a longer adoption process when you’re using it as an employer, because it takes time to get to that point where you can say: “okay, we’re actually using this on an ongoing basis, we’re totally dialled into the reasons we’re doing this, how we’re doing, our personality, our brand messaging.”
“For personal use, we post and respond to things without any underlying plan. But for HR and recruitment purposes, the idea is to align your activities to something else: a strategy.”
Presumably, HR isn’t the only function in a company using social media. How do you coordinate with other areas, like Marketing, to create a consistent social presence for your brand?
Jeff: In most companies, Marketing ‘owns’ social media. You need to go talk to them and become their best friend. Arrangements differ by company, but your social media presence starts with that relationship.
One common arrangement I’ve seen is for an HR employee to actually sit and work in Marketing, but focus on recruitment marketing and other HR tasks. Although social media objectives might be different between a Marketing function and an HR function, how you do it, and the brand proposition you base it off of, are pretty much the same.
Imagine you’re Starbucks. What’s the difference between someone who walks through your door as a customer, and someone who walks through your door looking for a job? Nothing, from a brand perspective. They should go into your shop and feel the same – get the same experience – whether they want a cup of coffee or whether they want to work for you.
So the actual feeling that people get from all your company’s social and online properties needs to be consistent. That’s why you need to establish a connection between HR and Marketing.
“What’s the difference between someone who walks through your door as a customer, and someone who walks through your door looking for a job? Nothing, from a brand perspective.”
What mistakes do you see recruiters and HR departments making on social media?
Jeff: The biggest mistake is forgetting that they are people talking to people.
You find a lot of recruiters whose last fifty tweets were all job postings. I call that a glorified job board. They post a job on their recruiting site, they take the link and they socially share that on their Twitter account, and that’s it. That does nothing. Absolute – pardon my French – bullshit.
Even the really powerful brands – Hootsuite, Facebook, Google – don’t do that. And they have tens of thousands of followers who are actually paying attention to them.
Social sharing needs to be embedded into your process. It can’t just be an afterthought. For example, if somebody – a potential candidate – tweets something at your recruitment manager, then they need to respond. Often they don’t. Or they may respond twenty days later. By then it’s too late.
You’ve got to embed social into everything you do – it’s not just an add-on.
“You find a lot of recruiters whose last fifty tweets were all job postings. I call that a glorified job board.”
What about HR professionals and recruiters who make an effort to build their social presence but have trouble getting their audience to engage? They post and post and post, but no one is responding?
Jeff: With social media, there is push and pull. Push is pushing content out, whether it’s original content or curated content. Pull is actually engaging with people. You need to have a balance between both.
What does that actually means? Well, it’s dependent on your audience. You need to get to know your audience.
For me, my social channels are always open. And I try and target content; when I come across somebody that I think would fit well into a certain interest area or group, then I put them into a distinct category and connect with them separately on that topic.
From an HR perspective, you’re trying to build followers and brand loyalists. Why? To create a community around your brand. How do you do that? You talk to them.
That’s why I hate job boards. The whole objective of social media is to engage with people. Why would you just keep posting stuff at them? Social media should be changing your process. Changing how you actually conduct your business.
“That’s why I hate job boards. The whole objective of social media is to engage with people. Why would you just keep posting stuff at them?”
How should the recruitment process change?
Jeff: Well, HR needs to think and be proactive, not reactive.
A really good example of how to do that would be Zappos. I know people talk lots about Zappos, but there is a good reason for that. They are building communities. They don’t go the reactive route. They know what kind of hiring they’re going to be doing over the next number of months, so they’re building a talent pipeline now. When they do have to hire somebody they’ve got warm bodies in place, ready to go.
I always hear HR practitioners saying “Oh my God, I don’t have time for this,” but if part of your mandate is to recruit and hire people and build your employer brand, then social media needs to be part of your job. You have to make the time for it.
Has social media changed what talent expects from the recruitment process?
Jeff: There are two things that have changed.
One: social makes it a lot easier for candidates to research you. Whether it’s on LinkedIn, a Google search, or your career site – it doesn’t really matter – there are more opportunities for people to find out about you. That means if you’re going to be on Twitter, for example, you’d better actually use it. If you’re not really using it candidates will know – and it’ll reflect badly on your employer brand.
Two: Digital natives actually expect organizations who use social and mobile tools externally, for marketing and recruiting, to also use them internally. For example, last year I was approached by an insurance company with a potential project. They wanted me to help their recruiters use social technology to attract better candidates. I asked them about social media use internally, and they said “well we don’t allow employees to use it.” I said “so why would you want to use it externally?” And they said “well, for brand building.”
That won’t work.
How you operate on the outside can’t be different from how you operate on the inside. If you block social media in your workplace, you’ve cut off your access to a big chunk of talent.
“If you block social media in your workplace, you’ve cut off your access to a big chunk of talent.”
In HR and recruitment we talk lots and lots about how to use social media, how it’s changed our work. But what exactly is it?
Jeff: There’s a misconception that social media means just Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and Google+. But that’s not it. There are a whole variety of emerging platforms out there that leverage social technology but aren’t just new versions of Facebook or Twitter. These are HR tools – things like social recruiting platforms, collaboration tools, cloud feedback applications – based on social principles.
Social principles mean you can work simultaneously, with multiple other users; collaborate and converse; engage with information in real-time; collect and analyze data; and use it anywhere on any device.
Examples of these new platforms include:
- WIRL, which enables employers to request and analyze continuous employee feedback;
- 7Geese, which is a social performance tool that fosters continuous feedback, coaching, and goal tracking; and
- Talemetry, a platform that integrates with your applicant tracking system to enhance engagement.
What the HR community needs to understand is that there’s a whole burgeoning industry out there of emerging technologies that will continue to change the way we work and the way we interact with employees and talent.
Jeff Waldman’s 5 Social Principles
That define the next wave of HR technology
- Work simultaneously, with multiple other users
- Collaborate and converse
- Engage with information in real-time
- Collect and analyze data
- Use it anywhere on any device
Vancouver, BC / January 31, 2015
SocialHRCamp loves to push boundaries and shake things up. This Camp will be no exception – the event will be right on site at Hootsuite, one of the biggest brand names in the social media world.
Connect with Jeff
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By Christian De Pape, Communications Consultant