May 7, 2010

How Social Media Can Revolutionalise Your HR Department



Guest Post by Arthur Clyne , a Montreal-based web and technology consultant for several local area businesses. He currently consults for Halogen, an HR software company that specializes in employee performance management programs.

The development of social media sites like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn has completely revolutionized the world of human resources. Previously, human resource departments were forced by necessity to put out job offers and then winnow down who arrived. This of course results in large amounts of time wasted in interviews which go nowhere and in employees who later need to be fired due to a lack of real competence. It also means that HR departments are limited to those persons they can find out about, which often means relying on the recommendations of coworkers and employees to determine who or who isn’t worth hiring. This is not only inconvenient for the human resources department, it means that many people who are talented and hardworking yet lacking in contacts end up being unemployed for extended periods. Fortunately, much of this wastefulness is slowly being eroded by the development of social media, which enables human resources departments to know more about the people they might hire or even are currently employing.

Social media now allows human resource departments to aggressively seek out potential applicants. This is particularly true on LinkedIn, which is a site that revolves around one’s profession and professional training. Almost all LinkedIn members have their resume prominently posted on their personal webpage, as well as a listing of their employment status and history. Sites such as LinkedIn permit human resources departments to quickly determine if there is anyone they should extend a job offer to immediately, without the need to resort to expensive headhunting services. It also enables a human resources employee to quickly and efficiently determine if a person is worth hiring after they have submitted their resume. Though one might think that job applicants would be smarter, all too often applicants who exaggerate on their resume fail to do so on their LinkedIn account, or are unable to do so due to the verification process involving other previous and potential employers. This enables HR departments to quickly eliminate liars, as well as find out about relevant facts that may have been left off the resume.

The use of social media also allows for a certain degree of vetting when it comes to new applicants. A strong resume and good recommendations can often conceal a person who is lazy, shiftless or untrustworthy. It can also reveal when a newly hired employee is failing to apply themselves, or is so caught up in other projects and moonlight employment that they are unable to concentrate on the job for which they were hired. Revelations to this effect were once limited to hushed conversations in crowded bars, but they are now quite common through the use of Facebook. An employee who keeps taking sick days due to “headaches” or “allergies” yet posts a large number of photographs of them partying in their Facebook account may thus reveal that they are unprofessional. The new nature of Facebook means that many people are, as of yet, not quite used to how much personal information they post on the web, and thus they may incriminate themselves when a trip to grandma’s funeral yields nothing but photographs of the Bahamas. Facebook can also have a positive aspect as it permits HR personnel to determine that a particular employee is genuinely having certain concerns that could be addressed by the department. An employee who complains about a terrible boss or unfair working hours may have legitimate concerns, and an applicant with a clean Facebook page that is devoid of incriminating photos is probably a cleaner, neater and nicer person than an applicant who has otherwise.

Social media has revolutionized the way that HR departments do business, in that it allows them to seek out and find people instead of just resumes. By looking around on various webpages and determining who and what is available, they can narrow down their application search and send out job offers to people who didn’t even know they were available. The use of social media also allows human resources to eliminate employees with a history of lies or malfeasance, since it is often harder to hide statements online. By being picky, HR departments can get the best possible candidates, as well as eliminate liars and cheats.