Kick-Start Your Digital HR Strategy: Social Networking

Part 3

By Deborah D. Waddill, Ed. D. September 6, 2018
Kick-Start Your Digital HR Strategy: Social Networking

This article is the second in a series of excerpts from Digital HR: A Guide to Technology-Enabled Human Resources (SHRM, 2018) Deborah D. Waddill, Ed. D. 


Part 1: Mobile Learning

Part 2: Information Systems

Part 3: Social Networking 


The social network has completely changed the way people interact. With a tool that powerful and undeniably appealing, that engages millions of people in one place, at one time, with common interests—organizations need to understand it and join in the conversation.

Social networks can be used for strategic planning. Organizations may use social networks to create contacts among employees, form teams, or staff new projects. They are also valuable for staffing unique skill sets. Recruiting, organizational branding for marketing, and building customer relationships can be done using social networks.

For knowledge management purposes, social networks can be used to connect employees and facilitate information sharing or knowledge transfer. Some organizations use the social network to blog and generate innovative ideas, which can be captured and shared through the KM system. Most organizations are using social networks to make information accessible, in which case you could call the social network a knowledge-sharing network.

Social networks can also be used to find translators for transactions with customers who speak other languages, as substitutes for internal emails, and to connect new hires during onboarding with other new hires, mentors, managers, and team members. Dialoging about common issues and innovative ideas and sharing documents between project team members or others within the organization are also positive uses for social networks.

Interestingly, many organizations are turning to their portals to enable social networks. The advantage of the Facebook-like directories available through the portal and internal social networks sits is that employees can share expertise, join CoPs, or simple connect with each other. The advantage is that the internal social network is more private and organization specific, and can be controlled by the organization to some extent.

Cloud and mobile social networks harness and disseminate information. Social networks are becoming a personal job agent that captures an individuals' digital footprint and exhibits their profile on the web. Mobile access to social networks through the cloud easily facilitates the network's power. The mobile computing aspect contributes to the workforce trend toward job hopping. Conducting business using mobile social networks enables individuals to constantly be looking for new opportunities online. With regard to the propensity to job hop, technology companies such as TalentBin by Monster, Entel, RemarkableHire, and Gild can track an individual's social history to evaluate them as a candidate. They can then mine that candidates online social information to create a profile. These are particularly helpful programs for companies with open positions in hard-to-fill areas. Social networking communities also become feeding grounds for e-recruiting, talent hunters who leverage the communities where talent congregates in order to identify new hire prospects.

Mobile sourcing hinges on social networking. Since most adults in the United States have mobile phones, mobile social networking is the primary platform for job candidates and organizations. The obvious advantage is that organizations that adopt a mobile-optimized career site put themselves in advantageous position.

A Case for Social Networking

Financial services organizations typically resist the allure of technology. There are many compliance challenges that hamper the use of cloud-based tools and add extra complexity to technology innovations. One financial agency, however, decided to break out of the mold. The financial services organization (FSO) started a digital journey into employee social networks using Yammer. For this organization the challenge was to create a cultural change that embraced the new digital tools. Thankfully there was a real appetite for social and mobile collaboration, making the cultural shift easier to navigate. The goal was to create digital and social capability in order to provide the cultural context for use of other new tools.

The organization chose to follow best practices to implement the new social network. First, the HR department created a vision for the digital workspace. Second, they ensured compliance with all legal restraints to cloud-based technologies. The goals were to make the social network—in this case Yammer—an extension of accepted communication channels. Third, video case studies were used to engage the employees and a request for stakeholders was issued. There was an overwhelming response to the latter, an indication of organizational readiness for the new technology. Fourth, the FSO created a pilot for Yammer. Then, fifth, using Yammer as tool to shift the culture toward a different working paradigm, there was a campaign to enroll people in Yammer. The goal was to portray digital technology as an enabler of business behaviors like collaboration and innovation for the end goal of building a social culture where employees are empowered to participate in the digital workspace.

  • Yammer guidelines for feedback and collaboration included the following:
  • Encourage employees to discuss news and issues
  • Crowdsource information to get answers to questions
  • Get the word out by posting answers to annoying technology problems and frequently asked technology questions.
  • Generate conversations by offering information only available through Yammer.
  • Connect people
  • Be professional, sensible, polite, and constructive.

The result of this effort is that the Yammer pilot membership includes over one-third of the organization, and that number is growing. Ultimately, the organization inculcated Yammer into their digital channels. The pilot was very successful and engagement persists as people use Yammer for unique, creative business applications. For-profit, government, and nonprofit organizations are instituting similar programs with equal success. 

Deborah D. Waddill, Ed.D., is an HR leadership and technology expert with extensive consulting and business experience with government, academic, nonprofit and for-profit clients.

Please visit the SHRMStore to order a copy of Digital HR: A Guide to Technology-Enabled Human Resources by Deborah D. Waddill, Ed. D.



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