The Social Media Offensive: HR tackles the online sphere

Firms adopting social media tools are no longer a new proposition. However, an increasing number of companies are utilising social media techniques for more unorthodox purposes, in a bid to stand out from the pack

In today’s digitalised and highly-connected world of social media and Web 2.0 technologies, it is no secret that firms are devising social media strategies and platforms to engage with stakeholders, including in talent recruitment.
However, a new KPMG report titled, “Human resources and social media” sheds light on several newer practices companies are increasingly utilising via social media outlets.

While talent management and acquisition have long been championed as hallmarks of businesses’ social media policies, the KPMG report highlighted that “increasingly, social media is being offered as an innovative solution for internal effectiveness”.

“Internal effectiveness” refers to how firms’ strategy and governance are aligned with social media tools.

In addition, the KPMG report heralded the rapid rise of social media tools to engage in mobility and collaboration, as well as acknowledging that “social media tools make true 360-degree feedback a reality.”

Miranda Lee, director of People and Change Management at KPMG in Singapore, says social media is redefining the way organisations interact and engage with their employees.

She says they are designed to help engage employees and customers on key aspects such as performance, collaboration, culture and values. “This collaborative approach of social media will further enhance employee engagement and help drives up the effectiveness and productivity of your business,” Lee says.

“In order to effectively manage the risks and maximise the rewards of social media, policy, governance and tools should be seamlessly integrated within your corporate strategy.”

Telecommunications giant Nokia is a prime example of how firms can assimilate social media into their internal communications.

Nokia’s Social Media Communications team was formed in early 2008 with the aim of improving inter-company communications and engaging employees.

Three major social media tools of the Finnish telecommunication conglomerate include its BlogHub, VideoHub and Infopedia.

Molly Schonthal, who worked on the company’s Social Media team in North America, says BlogHub is Nokia’s most efficient and powerful social media tool for internal use. This platform allows employees to comment on blog posts and bounce off ideas and expertise on matters that are important to them and the company. It also acts as a powerful collaborative tool and increases awareness of what employees are working on.

“The BlogHub lowers barriers for employees to find conversations relevant to them,” Schonthal said.

 “In a massive company like Nokia, people can find out who inside this large organisation is doing something beneficial to them to make their jobs easier, and likewise, which colleagues can benefit from their own knowledge and experience.”
Expanding the social media scope
“Internal Social Media” (ISM) is now a key buzzword among firms looking to exploit the spurt of social media tools.

APCO Worldwide, an independent, global communication, stakeholder engagement and business strategy firm, together with Gagen MacDonald, a strategy execution consulting firm, polled adults in the US who work at businesses comprising of more than 1,000 US employees.

The report revealed that 58% would prefer to work at a company that uses ISM, while 61% of workers said their firms’ social media tools allowed them to effectively collaborate.

Reinforcing this notion that social media has extended beyond the usual platforms, the report highlighted that besides the internet, the most used tools are blogs, wikis and “Facebook-like” sites.

Closer to home, firms are broadening their social media horizons to beyond only recruitment aspects. It is no surprise that telecommunications firm SingTel is at the forefront of those actively championing and implementing the use of best social media practices.

For example, it has introduced “Espresso”, an internal knowledge platform for collaboration and communication across the group with blogs, wikis and communities of practice, says Cara Reil, Vice President – Talent and Leadership Development, SingTel.

Reil says that with SingTel operating in a fast paced industry, the telecommunications firm “actively leverages the contributions of the 22,000 employees across the globe”.

“It not only keeps colleagues updated on what is happening across the business, but they can also search for people with knowledge or skills they may need and collaborate on projects through the site,” Reil says.

SingTel recently won the coveted “Best Use of Social Media” prize at the recent HRM Awards 2014.

At genetic research firm Illumina Singapore, social media policies are closely streamlined towards talent performance and management. Foo Wah Teng, Associate Director – HR, Asia-Pacific says that social media has great potential to transform talent management and performance management “as it focuses on niche recruiting”.

The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) first started adopting social media platforms to attract, retain and develop talent in 2010, says Zareena Brown, Vice-President – HR, Asia, Middle East and Africa. She says Instagram is the most recent platform to be launched “as a way to recognise and celebrate IHG colleagues who had completed courses we run in partnership with Harvard University”.

“Since then, our Instagram page has grown to become a platform where IHG colleagues share and celebrate each other’s achievements and initiatives, no matter where they are across our Asia, Middle East and Africa region,” she says.

Over at Red Hat, a multinational software firm, the social media programme is embedded in a plethora of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Weibo. LJ Brock, Vice President – Global Talent Acquisition and Infrastructure says Red Hat is engaging in a variety of social media platforms geared at enabling its associates to share and discuss via blogs, documents, video and comments. “Interaction is key – people want to forge real relationships and feel a connection to others,” says Brock.

“Red Hat is set up and operates as a community – we have a lot of communication and feedback, but that doesn’t mean we’re not always looking for new and better ways to encourage collaboration and sharing knowledge.”
360-degree feedback
Companies are also using social media to provide 360-degree feedback and enhance communication with both internal staff and external customers. Illumina’s Foo says, the company’s sales and commercial colleagues are utilising a business app to manage the communication and feedback channels with customers.

“We are certainly keen to explore using social media tools as one of the feedback channels from our candidates or potential candidates as well,” says Foo.

Reil says that SingTel has also made 360-degree feedback a core aspect of its communication frameworks.

“We have very active discussions with our customers on Facebook where we have 260,000 followers,” explains Reil. She cites an app called “Starfish” which enables employees to become true ambassadors for SingTel.

“If they meet a friend or family member who has a question on SingTel, they can log the details in the app and the customer service team will quickly contact the customer,” she says.

Reil believes that employees and managers appreciate it when technology can be utilised to simplify a process and allow people to engage more effectively with each other.

However, while she affirms that SingTel uses social media to improve this experience, she believes that “nothing can replace a face to face discussion” when it comes to notions such as talent and performance management.
Brock agrees that 360-degree feedback is an essential component of Red Hat’s communications arm.

He says it can see in real time what customers think of their products and gauge how they are using them, before giving them the priceless opportunity to zoom in and demonstrate a commitment towards delivering a superior customer experience via different ways of engagement.

“In a company like Red Hat, where open source is a way of life and collaboration with our customers is highly valued, it is necessary for our company to be able to interact with our customers in an open, real-time way through our multiple social channels,” Brock says.
Social recruitment: the proverbial agenda
While firms are admirably delving deeper into seemingly endless realms of social media, it is no secret that perhaps the most common objective of adopting such platforms constitutes the need to recruit highly-skilled candidates.

A Social Recruitment Poll 2013 conducted by the Institute of Systems Science at the National University of Singapore, lends credence to this theory.

The survey found that a sizeable 63% of firms polled utilised social media for recruitment. For firms that did engage in social media for recruitment, LinkedIn was the most popular platform used. A staggering 73% of surveyed firms had successfully hired candidates from social media platforms.

The power of social media to drive recruitment is certainly not lost on Reil.

She says SingTel launched its “Robo G” app as part of graduate and scholar recruitment last year.

“It is an app that enables us to create awareness about our graduate and scholar programs and to keep candidates informed and engaged throughout the recruitment process,” she says.

“Within the company, we have also gamified learning and have launched Robo apps for a number of programmes.”
Reil says the company has been pleased with the results, with both potential candidates and staff, and it is now actively sourcing for new ways to use the app.

LinkedIn has also struck a chord with SingTel in its social recruitment strategies: Reil says SingTel has been successful in recruiting qualified candidates via that channel. Adding that the company has also set up LinkedIn groups to engage with alumni of SingTel, Reil says it has close to 70,000 members on its group sites.

Brown says IHG received 5,000 applications directly via the company’s social channels last year, with figures increasing year-on-year.

“Our dedicated social team also uses these channels to tell our employer story and engage people in why we’re a great company to work for and the right place for them,” she says.

She adds that IHG talks about its new hotel openings across the world, the extensive number of employee engagement activities taking place across that network, and the real-life success stories of colleagues who have built their careers with IHG.

Brock says that Red Hat’s use of social media in hiring is “multifaceted”. He estimates that about a third of applicants find the company through outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

“The other side of this equation are our referral numbers and we’ve consistently had over 50% of our hires come as a referral through a current associate,” Brock says. “The way Red Hatters share open jobs and get their contacts to apply relies heavily on social media – using those tools to make the application process accessible and easy.”

According to Foo, Illumina is also ramping up its efforts in social recruitment, particularly in “niche recruiting.”

“We use social media to mine data in order to determine exactly what we should be looking for in a potential hire, and then use social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to find candidates that match that,” says Foo.

Adding that about 10% of Illumina’s recruitment is done through social media, Foo explains that the company is at the early phase of “riding on this social media trend”.

“We will be embarking more actively given the sophistication and dynamism of the talent pool,” he adds.

Reil concurs that SingTel sees its social media recruitment numbers increasing year over year, saying it is a particularly effective way to attract and engage with the younger generation.

“We all have our mobile devices with us all the time, by using social media, you really can connect with candidates anytime, anywhere,” she says.

The boom of crowdsourcing
In the midst of enhancing collaboration via social media tools and techniques, a new phenomenon known as “crowdsourcing” is increasingly taking precedence on social media platforms. Crowdsourcing is the process whereby ideas, knowledge, services and practices are exchanged and contributed from a plethora of people, particularly within the online sphere.

According to Epi Ludvik Nekaj, founder and CEO of Crowdsourcing Week, social productivity is no longer about having a presence online. “We are moving away from the world of simply being on social media and saying who you are and what your actions are,” he says. “It’s about the work on demand, the types of talent such as coding, design and development and the different standards of how they have built their social currency.”

Epi says crowdsourcing completely eliminates the notion of exclusivity and champions participation of the masses. “The whole supply chain is changing and there is no more mass production,” he says. “You can have the best skills but if you cannot belong to the environment and if you are not a collaborator, you are going to screw up the cycle.” Epi adds that firms must focus on adopting a “culture DNA”.

“Companies must understand the culture very well in order to understand the complexities of crowdsourcing,” he says. Epi brainstormed the idea of crowdsourcing in New York in 2011 and Crowdsourcing Week was founded in 2012. Since then, it has grown into a leading global conference, facilitating crowdsourcing conferences across three continents and championing the global phenomenon.


Nokia: In a league of its own
In its attempts to collaborate and nurture knowledge among its estimated 125,000 employees globally, Nokia has fostered several tools into one of the world’s most envied internal social media juggernauts. Three of Nokia’s more famous tools are BlogHub, VideoHub and Infopedia.

The BlogHub is primarily the voice of employees, with staff at Nokia allowed to communicate with anyone within the company and learn new ideas and information. This adds a sense of dynamism and creates a powerful collaborative tool. From a management viewpoint, the BlogHub serves as a valuable method to collate employee feedback and monitor conversations that are occurring within the company. One of the major ways that is done is through a built-in voting system, whereby employees rate blog posts, with the most popular blogs reaching the top.

Externally, the Nokia Conversations blog is also an efficient way to enable workers to be aware of the latest Nokia product news. “We track the number of readers who read the blog at work and there is a substantial amount of people who are reading it,” Phil Schwarzmann, Editor-in-Chief, Nokia Conversations, has said. “To see what’s going on in company, there is no better way than to read the blog. What we do is give a big overview of all the topics going on at Nokia.”

Internally, the company has unveiled VideoHub, an outlet that has quickly struck a chord with employees, with postings able to be updated every day. Furthermore, Nokia’s Infopedia wiki also facilitates easier collaboration and knowledge empowerment among workers in the firm.
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