Entries Tagged 'Recruitment/Retention' ↓

Is social media “stupid and vainglorious?”

In response to the last post, challenging Barclay Communications’ rationale for blocking employee access to social media, a blogger named Jeremy Probert, on the wordmonger’s blog (lower case is his, not mine), declared social media to be “stupid and vainglorious.” He wrote:

It’s been a long time, gentle readers, since I came across something that deserves an award for its icky, sticky, company hippy nature, its inherent stupidity and intellectual laziness and its truly horrible smug and self-satisfied tone. But today is the day – it chills my very soul to introduce this, the Stop Blocking website and it disheartens me even further to link to this, a piece entitled ‘Demolishing Barclays Communications’ Blocking Argument Point-by-Point’.

At first, I dismissed this as just another business pundit whose worldview hasn’t shifted since “The Organization Man.” But Jeremy does make points that are worth addressing debunking.

Most of Jeremy’s challenges are based on the fact that he read just this post, and didn’t bother with the rest of this blog where his arguments have been addressed repeatedly. Still, there’s nothing wrong with reiterating and reinforcing these points (which Jeremy generously calls “idiocies”):

Apparently, all workers, regardless of status or paygrade, put in extra hours and therefore compensate for any time that they may waste using social networks. Of course they do. In the same way that they all love the company that they work for, its senior management and its brands

We’re mostly talking about information and knowledge workers. And no, not every one of them put in extra hours. However, there is clear evidence from substantial, empirical, comprhensive research that Millennials do. As for those who don’t (and this point will re-emerge repeatedly), clearly communicated and enforced policies will deal with abuse.

Monitoring and addressing productivity is a supervisor’s job, not a IT’s. The consequences of blocking everybody as a means of addressing problem workers is a great way to kill engagement and drop employee trust to zero. As American Express’s vice president of communications James Lynch said yesterday at the Ragan Social Media Summit here at SWIFT headquarters in Belgium, blocking access is not a smart risk-mitigation strategy.

By the way, I’m a believer in public execution. Reward and recognition are the only way to drive culture and behavior change in organization. Announcing to the entire organization that an employee was terminated for violating the company’s policy can do more to keep employees on the straight and narrow than blocking policies that employees can override as easily as pulling out their smart phones.

Productivity suffers if employees can’t connect to social networks at work (thanks, University of Melbourne!). Apparently use of social media ‘resets an employee’s concentration’. How DID we manage to concentrate before?

First, the University of Melbourne didn’t produce the only study to reach this conclusion. Independently, for example, MindLab International conducted research that arrived at the same results. Jeremy can sniff at these results all he likes, but until he can produce research results to the contrary, I’ll continue to point to these studies.

As for how we managed to concentrate before — we didn’t. A colleague of mine — who manages a team at a global consulting firm that produces technology solutions — told me he and his team are under intense pressure to produce a high number of billable hours. Yet after five or six hours of continuous work, concentration slides so badly that work produced after that needs to be redone, so the pressure to put in the hours becomes counterproductive. And he lauds his team as the cream of the coding crop. It’s just, he says, that at a certain point without breaks, concentration declines.

If anyone believes that the workers sitting in rows of desks begins supervised by stern overseers to make sure they didn’t waste time were more productive than today’s workers who do take breaks and visit their online communities is simply deluded.

Because the US Department of Defense has opened its networks to social media, does not mean that LargeCorp Industries LLC (in the business of profit, not homeland security) should – it’s not a question of risk from cyber-attack, it’s a question of perceived need and value. (In any case, I would ask whether the ‘private in the field in Afghanistan’ is free to change his status willy-nilly (‘Safe behind a wall’ to ‘In a ditch with blast concussion’) or to share any sort of geographic or temporal information)

Jeremy, I have to ask if you read Barclay Communications’ argument at all. The very point they made is that opening networks to social media puts networks at risk to cyber-attack. That was their entire point. That’s what I was responding to.

And no, Jeremy, of course not: The Department of Defense, once it decided that social media was a “field of maneuver” rather than a “fortress to be defended” implemented training to ensure soldiers kept both themselves and the unit safe. As DoD senior strategist Jack Holt put it, the military teaches soldiers to be safe in the desert, on the seas, in the skies; they can train them to be safe online. Should you be interested, Jeremy, you can listen to my interview with Jack here or his interview with Eric Schartzman here.

Clearly, I never suggested that companies should simply open their networks. They need to implement policies and guardrails so employees can protect both themselves and the company, and the organization can ensure that they reap the benefits of employees’ online activities while mitigating the risks.

(Doesn’t all of this just sound like common sense? Somehow this escaped Jeremy. Sadly, he’s not alone.)

Company ‘confidentiality can be violated anywhere, even an elevator’. True – but your average elevator holds 12 people and Facebook holds a potentially eavesdropping audience of 450 million. Go figure

I’m not aware of any Facebook account with 450 million friends. Are you? And a privacy violation is a privacy violation. The HIPAA fine won’t be any larger for violation on Facebook than it would be for a violation in an elevator.

The point is that closing off access to Facebook doesn’t solve the problem; educating staff about privacy does.

Of course, Jeremy ignores the rest of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center President and CEO’s larger point: blocking Facebook shuts down the ability for employees to build community, and it closes off the communication channel of preference among younger employees. Paul notes that he often gets useful suggestions and ideas from employees who don’t use email. (If you have children who are teens or in their twenties, you know this.)

‘Many employees carry smartphones – or they can (access social media) from home after work’ – again, true. But what they do on their own time is their own business – unless it contravenes company policy on how they may represent themselves as employees, or the laws of the land – in which case they get fired. In the workplace – well, the clue is in the name – ‘work’place. Not ‘fun’place or ‘do-your-own-thing’place

I am frequently accused (as Jeremy does) of being some kind of employee rights advocate. I’m not. I’m a business advocate. Understanding that Millenials (and, to a great degree, GenX) operate in what they call the “weisure” world — the cross-over of work and leisure — is vital. Work happens where it makes sense, whether it’s in an office or at the beach. Why? Because they have grown up as hyperconnected individuals where proximity is not required for work to be done. The idea that proximity is a requirement for knowledge/information workers is a relic of the era from which Jeremy has failed to move.

A study noted by American Express’s Lynch noted than39% of Millennial employees won’t work at companies that block Facebook — or will leave if a new block is implemented. That’s not because they want to have fun, but because Facebook is how they communicate and collaborate. Consider, for example, the results of the study, “The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks,” conducted by SAP in conjunction with the Society for New Communciation Research (SNCR). The study found that organizational decision-makers who have access to their social media peer groups make better and faster decisions. Where, primarily, do those professional peers reside, according to the study? Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Seventy-six percent of those professionals visit these networks once or more per day, where they…

  • Access thought leadership and information unavailable inside the walls of the company
  • Showcase the company (building brand recognition and supporting organizational goals from recruiting to sales)
  • Increase the speed of collaboration
  • Research business decisions

Another study showed that 40% of IT professionals use social networks to seek advice from peers on technology purchases. Clearly a stupid and vainglorious activity.

As for the whole “fun” thing, no, the workplace doesn’t need to be fun. But employees do need to be engaged (which means they make discretionary effort on the company’s behalf). Companies with large populations of highly engaged employees produce greater growth by far than others. It’s hard to imagine engaged employees in organizations where the first message they hear is, “We don’t trust any of you as far as we can throw you.” It’s also hard to imagine companies blocking access showing high levels of job satisfaction.

As for “do your own thing,” perhaps you’ve heard of a concept called “innovation.” Google practices it, with employees required to spend a certain amount of time innovating based on their own ideas. Have you checked Google’s valuation lately? I’d also point you to the book “Empowered,” by Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, which promotes the idea that employees “own thing” ideas of how to use social media to better serve customers can produce a significant marketplace differentiation.

‘If normal use of bandwidth (this refers to employee use of social media) is slowing (your) network to a crawl, get more bandwidth.’ Just go to your finance guys and ask them to approve an increase in your budget, to purchase bandwidth to allow your employees to update their Facebook statii. That’s bound to work. Job done

Jeremy, please allow me to introduce you to the notion of “making a business case.” This concept involves demonstrating that the investment will produce results that exceed the cost.

All of this is hopelessly Utopian – the ideals of an imaginary world where everyone is nice, contented, loyal and trustworthy. Well, here’s the wake-up call. They’re not, and you need to bear that in mind when thinking about social media use in the workplace.

If your hiring practices result in bringing in employees who don’t embrace the preferred culture of the organization, that’s your fault. You can dismiss all this as “utopian” all you like, but companies like Cisco Systems and zappos.com seek culture fits above all else in their recruiting, and they reap the benefits. Hiring people you don’t trust is an archaic practice. If you engage in it, you have nobody but yourself to blame. To suggest that it’s simply not possible is nothing more than lazy.

Social media is wasteful and vainglorious.

First, this seems odd coming from somebody writing on his blog. But still…

This is the lynchpin statement that showcases the author’s stupendous ignorance. I hear it repeatedly from people who have not made the slightest effort to explore the research that proves precisely the opposite. General Motors is selling cars by allowing employees to talk about their driving experiences on Facebook from work. Sprint is solving customer problems it identifies through employee volunteers on Twitter. Best Buy is driving customers to its stores via 2,500 employees who answer consumer product questions posed on Twitter — from the floor store. Home Depot’s staff can produce videos or test results to respond to home improvement questions posed through social media channels. Through the employees’ social networks, companies are improving recruiting, identifying competitive intelligence, sourcing subject matter expertise, obtaining training…the list goes on.

There are thousands upon thousands of case studies, and hundreds of research studies, that prove the stupidity of such throwaway statements as “social media is wasteful and vainglorious.” The simple fact is, supported by policies and processes, employee engagement in social media can drive growth and profitability.

What is stupid and vainglorious is leaders who dismiss social media despite the avalanche of quantifiable evidence to the contrary.

Recruiting scheme has employees add jobs widgets to Facebook profiles

Despite the fact that most companies still block access, and you still routinely read about business leaders who insist that lost productivity is the only conceivable result of employees spending work time on social activities, it is time to move beyond the arguments against blocking. There are eight distinct ways organizations can benefit from their employees’ social connections if only they will develop models and processes to support the extraction of that value.

Recruiting is one of those categories. According to a June 22 article appearing on recruiting site ere.net, several organizations are already figuring out that employees’ networks can prove far richer sources of referrals than traditional recruiting channels.

Article author Todd Raphael lists several companies that have turned to employees’ social networks to identify top-shelf candidates. While my thinking on recruiting has been focused on querying employees about whom they know based on their involvement in online peer groups, Raphael points to the development of widgets employees add to their Facebook pages. The widgets contain lists of open jobs. The vacant positions are seen by employees’ friends visiting their pages. In most cases, if an employees’ Facebook friend applies for and gets the job, the employee earns a referral fee.

The idea of paying an employee for a referral is hardly new, but the analog version of the concept required an employee to tell someone, one-on-one, about the job. That process mostly limited employees to sharing the information with people they knew well and with whom they interacted regularly. A widget on an employee’s Facebook pages exposes the job to those connections with whom employees don’t have strong relationships, expanding the reach of the information to those with whom the employee has weak ties.

Among the examples…

  • Staff at Virginia Mason Medical Center can add a widget to their pages that lists jobs like a director of nursing informatics and a range of IT jobs. Developed by recruiting firm Bernard Hodes, the widget has found its way onto a few employees’ pages. Once the Seattle-based organization formalizes a social media policy, it will roll the program out to all employees.
  • Some Enterprise Rent-A-Car employees have already received referral payments for jobs filled based on the widgets they added to their Facebook pages.
  • Employees from Hyatt will also have the opportunity to list open jobs on their Facebook pages and distribute the information to their friends.
  • Using a utility from a company called Referrio, Cisco Systems listed 11 jobs that would each pay $2,500 for the employee who referred a candidate sourced through his or her social networks.

Recruiting agencies — whose business models are threatened as employee networks become better sources of candidates — are shoring up their value by developing the products and services to support employee social network referrals. There’s Hodes, noted above. And a company called Select Minds is developing a service that will notify targeted employees by email of open jobs. For example, writes Raphael:

Let’s say hypothetically we’re talking about a software job at Nationwide, and that the job is in Dayton, Ohio. An automated email about the job opening might go out to 1) Nationwide employees in any region who are in IT jobs, and 2) all Nationwide employees in Dayton. The SelectMinds email allows employees to either email selected contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to tell them about the job, or update their LinkedIn and Facebook statuses (and soon Twitter, just not on the demo I saw) with info on the job. The chain of link-forwarding gets tracked as it moves around online, and the employee either gets the whole referral kitty, or can share part of it with a second person, depending on how the company sets it all up.

The employee who’s doing the referring can tell their company, via a short form, how well they know their friend, and what they think of them. The referring employee also gets emails notifying them if their contact has expressed interest in the job.

Meanwhile, recruiters view a dashboard listing how many times a job was referred, and how many applications came in for it. A recruiter can drill down and see who’s referring who.

Needless to say, the notion that companies will turn to their employees to help fill important jobs — but expect them to do it only from home — is absurd. In order for employees to help the company recruit needed talent, companies will increasingly turn to their employees’ social networks, which had better be wide open from work if companies are going to derive the greatest possible value from the effort.

At-work online shopping as an employee benefit

While so many companies worry about the productivity issue with access to online content, consultant David Gammel wonders if allowing employees to use online shopping sites at work might not be better approached as a benefit:

Announce that each employee is encouraged to spend up to 2 hours shopping online for the holidays. Tell them they have to work out coverage and scheduling with their bosses but that you want to recognize all they do for you year round by making their shopping a bit easier. You gain good will and scheduling efficiency while losing nothing that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

The shopping thing has always rubbed me the wrong way. As one CEO put it to me, would you rather have your workers spend 30 minutes on the web doing some shopping, or have them take a three-hour break to go to the mall? With the kinds of hours companies are demanding of workers, if they can’t shop while working they probably won’t have much of an opportunity to shop at all. (Remember the days when you couldn’t make personal phone calls from work? When, exactly, then, were you supposed to call your doctor, who worked the same hours you did?)

Gammel’s idea is a good one: Build employee loyalty by letting them know you expect them to bring their lives to work just as much as you expect them to take their work home.

Give staff Facebook or risk losing them.

Thanks to Tony Molloy for pointing me to a post by Ross Dawson pointing out an article in Australia’s Daily Telegraph headlined, “Give staff Facebook or risk losing them.” Here’s a taste of the article (and huge kudos to John Holland for recognizing the anti-access hype for what it is, correcting a mistake, and recognizing some of the value the accrues from open access):

John Holland, which employs approximately 4000 people nationwide, recently locked out its employers from Facebook, but after several weeks decided to restore access.

“It got closed down because there was this fear in the market that it was going to destroy the whole world,” Mr Stewart said.

“Yet, they let people talk on their phones, and let them go out and have a cigarette and talk on their mobile phones, but they closed down what is a fundamental communication tool to probably more than half of our workforce.”

Mr Stewart said issues such as internet access and monitoring were crucial when it comes to attracting employees.