HR, Human Resources, Personnel and blogsI was interested to see two opposing views expressed recently in Personnel Today of whether blogs and social media were of use in general and particularly whether they had a role to play in the area of company HR (Human Resources).

On the one hand, there is the take that blogs and social network sites are nothing more than gimmicks and toys used by the younger generation and for time wasting by chatting with friends. The other view is that they are tools which have real potential to help HR managers in their work by improving internal communications and employee engagement, as well as changing how recruitment is carried out.

As you might imagine, I am hardly an unbiased observer but I will try to give an objective overview of the value of blogs and social networks here.

Using online Social Networks

When we consider “social networks”, there is a range of different ones that we need to consider. These vary from primarily social to business social and through to purely business networks – examples being MySpace, Bebo and Facebook to eCademy, Xing and LinkedIn. The relative value of each from an HR perspective will vary, but I believe that when it comes to recruitment, the use of the internet and hence these networks is a legitimate (and increasingly important) method to identify potential candidates as well as gather additional information about candidates. Therefore my advice to individuals looking to use these networks for business purposes, either now or in the future, is to remember that you should never say something online that you wouldn’t stand by and be quoted on. The internet doesn’t forget and is seldom forgiving! Recruiters much less so!! ;)

Using Blogs: external and internal

In terms of blogs, they can be used in a number of different ways from an HR perspective. On the recruitment front once again, from a Researcher angle, an HR manager interested in recruiting a candidate can get a much more in depth and rounded view of an individual’s knowledge and general suitability via a blog rather than simply from a traditional CV. This approach may also help with the anticipated skills shortage which seems to be expected by the majority of companies. If the company is open to embrace the use of blogs (as a ‘Builder‘) in their own recruitment process, then using them to demonstrate how current graduate recruits view working for the company, as Cadbury Schweppes did, is certainly an excellent option.

However, perhaps the biggest gains can be made through the use of internal blogs on general HR issues and the opportunities that they provide to open up the channels of communication within an organisation. Improved internal communications, dissemination of important HR information, better team working opportunities, improved employee participation in the company are all benefits that have been reported by companies such as Allen & Overy, Dresdner Kleinwort and Microsoft. They are also all benefits which are available to companies of all sizes through the planned use of blogs internally which can be combined with other collaboration tools such as Wikis.

Safety Measures

Of course, as with anything, this is open to abuse. It is possible that employees spend too much company time on social networks or in writing either their own or company blogs. It is also possible that there may be inappropriate posts made by employees on blogs which could lead to problems or even legal issues. For these reasons, it is always advisable that a company has a blogging policy, whether they are actually running a company blog or not. (For help in drafting one, contact details here.)

Just as important is the employees’ education in the whole area of blogs and online communications. Running workshops which help employees to understand where blogs can be beneficial and which also outline the corporate lines which should not be crossed will often be the best way to approach this matter. They should give clear guidelines without stifling the benefits that blogs can accrue.

Conclusion

So which view of the interaction between blogs and HR do you go with? Well, for me, without doubt, there are potential issues raised by the use of blogs and social networks within a company. However, it is clear that trying to suppress this is unlikely to work and dismissing it is simply handing a golden opportunity to your competition to steal a march on you.

Instead, I believe that embracing these communication media will reap rich rewards for companies though I’m also all in favour of ensuring the confidentiality of company information through education of potential bloggers among the workforce. Harness the energy, passion and ideas rather than try to suppress them and you’ll be onto a real winner!

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