Category Archives: social media

The Blessing/Curse of Social Media

Anyone who’s been following coverage of Tropical Storm Harvey’s rampage through Texas and Louisiana knows the invaluable role social media’s played in helping victims get the word out to rescuers. The advent of social media has brought us many gifts — and curses. Witness the effect it’s having on our children, as documented by researcher Jean M. Twenge in her new book, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–And What That Means for the Rest of Us.

Social media can — as Twenge and others have pointed out — both infantilize and enlighten us. And it can also have interesting effects on organizations, as a new survey out today from the Northern California Human Resource Association reminds us. That survey, which queried 20,000 HR professionals about social media and transparency, reveals that 59 percent agree with the statement that “The rise of social media has made my organization more transparent.”

“Transparency” isn’t always a good thing, of course — the good folks at Google could certainly tell you that, as they continue dealing with the fallout from engineer James Damore’s memo arguing that fewer women than men hold technical positions because of biological differences, not discrimination, and the company’s subsequent decision to fire him. The memo, which was posted on an internal company blog, was widely disseminated via social media, as was the reaction to it by other Google employees and Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s stated reasons for firing Damore.

The Google episode (and an earlier episode at Uber) were addressed in NCHRA’s survey, which asked respondents whether their organizations have changed their views/philosophy on how employees should utilize social media in light of those events. Only 24 percent of respondents said they felt their organizations had changed.

Another interesting finding: 68 percent of male respondents feel their organization has become more transparent due to social media. but only 54 percent of female participants said that was the case. And, while 69 percent of respondents from large organizations with 10,000 or more employees say their organizations have become more transparent thanks to social media, only 50 percent of those from organizations with between 201 and 1,000 employees say the same.

“Within the HR community, transparency is usually regarded as a positive attribute within the organization, because it can be used to cultivate trust,” says NCHRA CEO Greg Morton. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen several instances in the news recently that illustrate how that transparency can backfire if the organization has underlying cultural issues that haven’t been addressed.”

Well said. In other words, it’s probably best if HR be vigilant about listening carefully to employees and addressing any issues that are uncovered first, rather than waiting for transparency to do the job — and cause plenty of avoidable problems.

A Call for Digital Mindfulness

Is social media ruining our lives? I guess ComPsych would say so — gone unchecked, that is.

That’s why the Chicago-based employee-assistance-program-services provider is offering a new training course to its more than 33,000 organizations covering more than 89 million people worldwide focused on tackling the problem.

The course is designed to enhance people’s “digital mindfulness,” which suggests — in the words of Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, founder, chairman and CEO of ComPsych — that “people examine priorities and set limits around time spent on social media so they can be more effective at work, and also find more satisfaction in life overall.”

In a survey of more than 1,200 respondents, ComPsych asked employees how many times, per day on average, they checked social media while at work. The telling result: Almost 20 percent said they check it more than 10 times during their workday. Specifically, their answers were:

  • “0 times per day” — 12 percent
  • “1-5 times per day” — 60 percent
  • “6-10 times per day” — 10 percent
  • “10-plus times per day” — 18 percent

This, according to Chaifetz, is no light-hearted or laughing matter. As he puts it:

“Social media can be a significant distraction both at work and during personal time. This leads to lack of focus and a constant changing of gears that can negatively impact performance, relationships and the ability to be fully present.”

Those taking the course, he says, will come out able to understand the impacts of consumer and digital overload, identify priorities and ways to simplify their lives, and recognize how becoming digitally mindful can lower stress and improve their well-being.

Granted, many of us need to be using social media as part of our jobs. Here at HRE, we’re tweeting, sharing stories and posting on LinkedIn, and checking our Facebook site or others’ for pertinent news.

But the message of the survey and course is a good one and shouldn’t be ignored: Keep it under control lest it control you. In the words of the course description:

“In today’s digital age, people are exposed to a vast number of choices about what to read, watch, listen to or purchase. The result is that people often are more distracted, confused and stressed by the increasing complexity of consumer choices and online social-media activities.”

Whether I do anything with its course or not, I’m glad ComPsych is raising this red flag.

On Social Media and Return to Work

Employers are understandably worried when workers use third-party social media sites such as Facebook to communicate with each other about work matters.

A recent personal experience has given me a different perspective. In some cases, I believe, these social platforms can provide benefits for both employers and workers.

I was diagnosed with a brain tumor late in November and had surgery on Dec. 2, followed by intensive physical rehabilitation to restore nerve-muscle connections on my left side.

I immediately used Facebook and LinkedIn to update my professional contacts. And I have reaped big benefits from support offered by colleagues at HRE and from former co-workers at other publications around the nation.

That support helps me tap into the power of my network for encouragement and will speed my return to productivity. That suggests to me that these social-media tools may have real value to employers who want to support sick and injured workers and help them quickly get back in the saddle.

Ratedly Review-Tracking App Rates

I guess my biggest surprise after speaking recently with Joel Cheesman — creator of the new Ratedly anonymous employee-review monitoring service for employers that launched in May — is that competitors don’t seem to be furiously chasing or even nipping at his heels since the launch.

Joel Cheeseman and his Ratedly app.
Joel Cheesman and his Ratedly app.

Equally surprising is Cheesman isn’t that concerned about competition or heel-nipping at all. He’s doing just fine with the 10 primary review sites he spiders to — including Glassdoor and Indeed — and Ratedly’s slow-but-steady clientele growth.

But the app — which he was good enough to demo for me — is so simple and straightforward, and the most logical next step for helping employers through the employee-review revolution, you’d think other vendors would be clamoring to partner with him or give him a run for his money. If either of those things happens, he tells me, “we’ll welcome it.”

Bottom line, he adds, “we want to be the best at what we do, so we’re not against people looking into what we’re doing and trying to take us on.”

At the same time, says Cheesman, without giving away too many numerical specifics, “there’s no pressure to make a ton of money real fast here. We’re building customers at a rate that I’m comfortable with. It’s all going well, and self-funded, and I’m going to keep it that way.”

It didn’t take long for Cheesman, a 20-year veteran of the recruiting and employment industry, to walk me through his brainstorm several days ago. It’s really that basic. Resembling a Twitter feed, if you will, Ratedly is, in essence, a mobile-enabled real-time index for iPhones, iPads and iPods that constantly checks for subscribers’ company pages and or company mentions on anonymous employee-review sites.

“Employers waste so much time these days hitting the refresh button to track reviews about them online,” he says. “We saw a real need out there to take that task off the plate of HR professionals across every industry category. No one is immune to anonymous reviews.” He adds:

“The days of putting your head in the sand are over. Companies NEED to know what’s being said out there. If you have someone flaming your company and you don’t know about it, you’re at a real disadvantage. People you’re interviewing are going to these sites. That’s your brand … not what you’re spending on your website. If the community at large says you ‘suck,’ all that [other] branding stuff [you’re doing and paying for] doesn’t do any good or make any sense at all.” 

Anyone who signs up for the $150-a-month service gets automatic access to the data Ratedly’s bot scrapes every day from the 10 main review sites in its arsenal. Clients can also ask that custom feeds be added if their company happens to be showing up regularly on an additional site as well. They can bookmark whatever comments they choose and/or share them with whomever they want.

They also get push notifications whenever their company is mentioned so they can get on with the work they’re supposed to be doing, as opposed to constantly watching and waiting for what employees and job candidates think of them. Or worrying about missing another anonymous review. In addition, Ratedly will warn them if their reputation appears to be trending up or down on any given week.

Next on Cheesman’s to-do list is enhancing the analytics and metrics with word-search capabilities, being able to tie an organization’s trending reputation to stock fluctuations and company news, and getting more consultancies and agencies involved with the product.

“A lot of agencies are being sought right now to help employers with their reputations and employer brands,” Cheesman says, “so working more with and in that space will be our next big thing. That will be huge.”

He also plans to work harder with clients’ CEOs and other top leaders such as CHROs to get them more personally and regularly involved with social media, especially as it pertains to employee-review sites. In his eyes, this will speak volumes to younger workers and job candidates. Think about it, he says:

“You’re a CEO. You go out and find a positive comment posted by one of your younger employees on Glassdoor. Instead of moving on, you take the time to post [to Twitter, Facebook, etc.] something like, ‘Hey, another happy employee!’ with a link to Glassdoor. That shows that young person [and all his or her friends] that you’re a CEO who’s on top of social media and took the time to notice someone’s post; that looks really, really good in the public eye.”

What’s Digital Media Doing For Your Workforce?

I’m going to go far out on a limb and say that digital media has drastically changed the way we work.

The ways in which technology has transformed and benefitted the workforce are too many to mention here, and are fairly self-evident anyway.

Participants in a recent Willis Towers Watson and World Economic Forum study acknowledge as much.

In Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society, the organizations polled more than 5,000 employers and individuals between the ages of 18 and 69. Overall, 56 percent of these respondents said that digital media has indeed altered the way they work.

At least to me, the only somewhat surprising thing about that figure is that it’s not higher. Really, whose job hasn’t been affected in some way by digital media?

In my mind, the more interesting finding from this study was how individuals’ view of digital media’s impact on their jobs varied greatly based on where they live.

For example, roughly two-thirds of respondents in Brazil and China said they think digital media has improved the quality of their professional lives. Just over half of the participants from South Africa (52 percent) felt the same way, while just 24 percent of those from Germany and 23 percent of respondents from the United States reported feeling that digital media has enriched them in a professional sense.

(About 1,000 digital media users from each of these five markets were polled, according to the report.)

A Willis Towers Watson summary of the findings doesn’t delve into why these U.S. and German respondents may feel this way. But Ravin Jesuthasan, a managing director of the organization’s talent management practice and co-author of the study, offers some insight into how technology may actually be limiting some workers’ opportunities, particularly those in low-skill positions.

“Despite the productivity gains and opportunities of digital media to actually bridge economic gaps and reduce inequality, potential downsides still exist,” says Jesuthasan.

For example, he says, digital media and related technology may drive near-term inequality as innovations such as talent platforms “increase the productivity and rewards of highly skilled workers while simultaneously cutting the cost of low-skilled work.”

In addition, digital media “has the potential to diminish work effectiveness and productivity,” continues Jesuthasan.

The multiple platforms and vast qualities of information and content at employees’ disposal “may distract workers and disrupt work,” he says. “In addition, as more people work remotely, valuable face-to-face time is reduced, which can weaken understanding and collaboration, and potentially hinder innovation.”

Considering that digital media’s role in the workplace is only going to expand—seven out of 10 respondents agree on this point—Jesuthasan urges employers to consider initiatives using technology to “more accurately match an individual’s skills to a specific business need.”

Rather than thinking solely in terms of “traditional jobs,” he says, companies should take a “more nuanced approach to how work should be conducted; using social media tools to build communication and engagement within the organization; sourcing and building digital skills; and developing digital leadership.”

Using Social to Find Passive Candidates

Employers prize passive job candidates and are turning to social media to find them, according to a new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. Eighty-two percent of HR professionals are using social media for this purpose, according to the survey, titled Using Social Media for Talent Acquisition — Recruitment and Screening.

The survey finds that most organizations use social media to find managers (82 percent) and other salaried employees (87 percent); however, the use of social media to recruit for hourly positions is on the rise, with 55 percent of respondents using it thusly. Although LinkedIn is used by 96 percent of respondents for social recruiting, Facebook (66 percent) and Twitter (53 percent) are also becoming popular, according to the survey, based on responses from 410 HR professionals.

Although most organizations (84 percent) are using social media for recruiting, only a tiny minority of organizations (5 percent) use social media as their primary recruiting tool, the survey finds.

Mobile is, not surprisingly, a big focus for companies using social media for recruiting: 39 percent have optimized their careers site for mobile users, while 36 percent have optimized their application process for mobile. I actually found these numbers to be surprisingly low, considering the sheer number of folks these days who search and apply for jobs using their mobile devices. Regardless of whether you’re seeking passive or active jobseekers, once you’ve gotten their interest it’d be a shame to just chase them away with a careers site that looks clunky and inaccessible on a smartphone.

Legal concerns are one of the biggest inhibitors for organizations that don’t use social media for recruiting: 46 percent cited legal risks and concerns about discovering information about protected characteristics as the top reason. An equal number cited not having enough time as the top reason for not using social media for recruiting.

Social media can indeed be a powerful way to engage passive candidates with your organization. As I wrote in this piece last year, some companies are using social media to form online communities that give employees the opportunity to talk about interesting projects they’re working on. This way, even if you don’t have an opening that matches up perfectly with what a potential candidate is looking for, you can hook their interest for future opportunities and maybe even encourage them to spread the word themselves about what you have to offer.

Beware What Constitutes Concerted Activity

You may not “Like” this much, but the warning shot from a recent ruling broadening the definition of protected concerted activity is 179693002 -- Likestill reverberating and worth keeping front of mind as you go about your 2016 planning when it comes to social-media approaches and policies.

In the ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals — covering Connecticut, New York and Vermont — upheld the National Labor Relations Board’s finding that two employees at the Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille in Watertown, Conn., were wrongfully terminated after one posted on Facebook, and the other “liked,” a disparaging criticism of the company’s income-tax-withholding policies.

An NLRB judge found, and the Second Circuit agreed, that both activities were protected and concerted under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act  because they involved multiple employees and were related to workplace complaints.

“It didn’t matter that there was no union to be found on the premises,” Carmon Harvey, a shareholder in national law firm LeClairRyan’s Philadelphia office, writes in a blog post at EPLI Risk.

“It also didn’t matter that customers could see the public employer-bashing,” she writes, “because the content wasn’t directed at customers, was not defamatory and did not tend to disparage the employer’s brand, products or services. This meant that their subsequent terminations were a big NLRA ‘no-no.’ ”

To top it off, the court also affirmed the NLRB’s ruling that the employer’s expansive Internet and social-media policy went too far, unlawfully prohibiting activity protected under the NLRA.

Brian Hall, writing on the Employer Law Report, highlights two interesting points about the case: that the comment and “Like” were protected because they both related to ongoing employee concerns over their employer’s workplace-tax withholding and their resulting tax liabilities, and that the Facebook communications “were not so disloyal or defamatory as to lose the protection of the Act.”

“Specifically,” he writes, “the court found that the employees did not disparage the employer’s products or services and their communications were not ‘maliciously untrue.’ ” He continues:

“The court was not swayed by any profanity contained in the one employee’s comment because it was not made in the presence of or directed at customers and did not reflect the employer’s brand. According to the court, accepting Triple Play’s argument that the Facebook discussion took place ‘in the presence of customers’ could lead to the undesirable result of chilling virtually all employee speech online. [As the ruling states,] ‘almost all Facebook posts by employees have at least some potential to be viewed by customers.’ “

As a result, the court upheld the board’s order requiring the employer to offer reinstatement and full back pay to the terminated employees. It also, as mentioned above, called into question the company’s social-media policy, which states that:

“[W]hen internet blogging, chat-room discussions … or other forms of communication extend to employees … [by] engaging in inappropriate discussions about the company, management, and/or co-workers, the employee may be violating the law and is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”

So what are the takeaways for employers and HR? Hall says they’re twofold:

“To help avoid liability, employers should:

  • Have their social-media policies reviewed by experienced counsel to eliminate provisions that can be reasonably misconstrued to restrict employees from discussing the terms and conditions of their employment with others; and
  • Understand, before disciplining employees for any communication or activity on social media, that otherwise protected communications or activities will not lose their protection under the NLRA simply because they disparage or are uncomplimentary [to] the employer, [and] contain statements that are not true, or contain profanity.”

Is it just me or has social media made it exponentially harder for employers to protect their reputations and brands? Even if you can’t comment on an employee’s disparaging private Facebook discussion, you’d better start arming yourself with strategies for getting your good word out online, as this recent HRE feature by Staff Writer Mark McGraw explores.

Employees as Social Ambassadors

Though the 2015 18th Annual HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas is behind us now, and early plans are already under way for next 488576383 -- social mediayear’s conference in Chicago, one session from Las Vegas that didn’t get written up on this site deserves to be.

In a Tuesday (Oct. 20) afternoon session, titled Tapping Employees as Social Ambassadors to Strengthen and Grow Your Workforce, Laurie Zaucha, vice president of HR and organizational development for Rochester, N.Y.-based Paychex; and Joe Schaeffer, Paychex’s social-media program manager, double-teamed on a pretty interesting story about how their company turned its employee-engagement levels and employer-brand awareness around with social media.

About five years ago, the term “Paychex Proud” was a little-known theme of an internal company meeting, one intended to grow engagement levels — or at least start the conversation about doing so — but one that wasn’t getting enough attention.

That all changed in early 2014, when Paychex’s HR and marketing forces launched their first small-business jobs index by taking over the Times Square Nasdaq tower in New York and asking employees to do simple show-and-tells (postings that were then aired) on the tower about what made them “Paychex Proud.”

The effort, said Schaeffer, required a good bit of encouragement. Like in many companies, he said, “people didn’t even think they were allowed to go on social sites,” let alone submit posts during business hours.

But submit some did. And as more caught on, and saw the images of Paychex employees broadcast for all New Yorkers to see, posts started flowing in, resulting in 200 overall and reaching 300,000 users.

“The goal was to get that word out,” said Zaucha, “that people at Paychex truly do have fun, that we’re a fun place to work.”

Next on the agenda was the company’s 2014 Paychex Sales Conference, where Zaucha and Schaeffer and their teams were able to enlist the social-media posting energies of HR and marketing staff, and attendees — again, to tell their stories and champion their company as a fun place to work — to the point where, by week’s end, the campaign boasted 2.5 million impressions and more than 1,400 posts.

By encouraging postings about Paychex on all social-media sites, including even Pinterest, said Schaeffer, “we’re seeing our sales people actually becoming more educated about our company; they’re now following us on Twitter and it is a happening.”

Through these two efforts, not only have engagement figures skyrocketed (from 56 percent of people saying they were highly engaged in 2012 to 63 percent saying the same in 2015), but the company’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter followers have also multiplied exponentially.

“If you can figure out a way to harness the art of marketing [into your HR efforts] and have highly engaged employees,” Schaeffer said, “they really can be ambassadors for the company.”

 

HCSC Drives Change with Relationship Data

Social diagramming and relationship analytics at Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC) was on a pretty fascinating display Tuesday at the HR Tech Conference.

HCSC Social-179275875Speaking on behalf of the Chicago-based, 14.7-million-member organization handling Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans in five states, Steve Betts, HCSC’s chief information officer, told a very different kind of social-transformation story at his session, titled Why HCSC Thinks Relationship Analytics Are the Next Big Thing in Talent Management.

Looking to make hefty changes after he came on board about a year ago, he sought the help of Syndio — also Chicago-based — to, first, solidify his case for change and, second, determine his best drivers for that change through all the social-graphing relationship data Syndio could offer.

Key changes in the company’s scope, considered most crucial due to the fast-paced changes in the healthcare industry overall, were its needs to go from siloed teams to a highly matrixed organization, to go from a more traditional hierarchical structure to one with many points of interaction and to go from an organization with limited innovation to one that would be extremely focused on driving innovation with business partners.

“Essentially,” said Betts, “HCSC needed to change and technology was right in the middle of all of that.”

But not just any technology, mind you. What Syndio brought to the process was a robust and well-populated social-diagramming and graphing process based on employees’ answers to specific, academically validated questions that would then plant them on that diagram in terms of their strength of connectivity to everyone else in the company.

As Syndio’s senior vice president of customer success, Andee Harris, described it, “we combined the HR data and [our] relationship data to tell the full story of how work gets done at HCSC.”

Included in that “story” were pockets throughout the organization where departments were maybe siloed and autonomous, “and essentially not effective,” Betts said. The data also told him how people interacted, who they collaborated with, who had more meetings than necessary with no real leaders, who the “bridgers” were and who — all through crowdsourcing data — people went to for what.

Additionally, included in what the Syndio tool captured were several characterizations about each individual, as well as where they fell on the social-networking map — such as if they were collaborators, change agents, innovators, leaders and/or listeners.

Sentiment data combined with relationship data also helped pinpoint people and departments within the organization where support for the transformation would likely come and where more focused communication would be needed. “These aspects and characterizations could truly identify change agents who could help drive [this] transformational change,” said Betts.

The data, analyzed in Syndio’s cloud base, alerted Betts to key connectors in the company who might not have the skills necessary to drive the change he was looking for, but who could potentially bring the organization to its knees because of his or her social-connectivity strength.

“We were able to work with those people” for the good of the company and its goals, he said, “rather than let them go, which could have been devastating,” as opposed to highly successful in helping exact and promote the desired changes.

“We wouldn’t have known this without this data,” Betts said. “It really has helped me see who talks to whom, and how we interact — and how we should interact — across the states.

“It’s very addictive,” he added. “Very action-oriented.”

Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ Comes Tomorrow!

It’s hard to say exactly what’s all in store for employers when Google unleashes its massive search-algorithm update tomorrow, but from 178976393 -- mobile technologythe buzz out there about it, sounds like everyone will be impacted.

For the record, here is Google’s official announcement on its site about its new mobile-friendly-ranking system starting April 21 — complete with a helpful guide toward making your website mobile-friendly. Though … in all honesty, of course … if you haven’t started this yet, you will definitely be behind the eight ball when it comes to website user-ability and “bites.”

In short, Google’s algorithm change is tailored to favor sites suitably optimized for mobile use by increasing the search engine’s emphasis on mobile-usability as a ranking factor.

In super short, if you are not a mobile-friendly site, ranked thusly by Google (mind you, the company is not exactly forthcoming about how this will be measured), you run the risk of getting bumped down in search-result stacking.

Advice out there for employers is a bit scanty, since this is posting a day before update launch, but I did find this piece from iCIMS, stressing just how imperative it is for all career sites to take this mobile-friendly ranking — and mobile-friendliness altogether — very seriously. It quotes Chuck Price, founder of Measurable SEO:

“Because you don’t have a mobile-optimized site, you’re going to get bumped down from position one or two to the third page, and suddenly you’ve lost all of your organic traffic. That’s a big deal.”

Perhaps the best analysis of what this update means comes from this recent piece by Jayson DeMers on the Forbes site. In it, he makes no bones about its potential impact:

“The search giant seems to make near-constant updates to its search protocols. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this upcoming April 21st update is something like the last few we’ve seen—a data refresh or some small tweak that leads to almost imperceptible changes in search rankings for only a handful of businesses.

“Unfortunately for currently non-optimized businesses, this doesn’t appear to be the case. With one of Google’s own recently explaining that this latest algorithm rollout is set to have a bigger impact than either Panda or Penguin, and considering Panda and Penguin are the biggest algorithm updates we’ve ever seen from Google, this new mobile update could completely change how we look at search.”

This, from Search Engine Watch, lays out many particulars all companies should keep in mind when it comes to mobile-friendly modifications you should have made by now, but better late than never. I especially like its reference to “Mobilegeddon.”

Kind of says it all.