Is HR Afraid Of Social Media?

by Etienne Besson on 12 September 2011

in My musings


With the rise of social media HR is once again confronted with a new technology. And many HR professionals seem to be less than enthusiastic about it.

I’m aware that many of my HR colleagues are not interested in techie things. And that’s okay.

But unfortunately many of us often focus first and foremost on dangers and ignore the opportunities that new technologies can bring.

Social Media Has Created A Minefield

The other day I received an email from the European Human Resources Summit 2011 (10-11 November in Berlin). The message mentioned six key topics and “Personnel Marketing and Social Media” was featured prominently as number two.

But here’s the description (I’ve cut out some parts):

The explosion in the use of social media by employees has dramatically increased the level of exposure to issues such as reputational risk, IP leakage, and copy right infringement for organisations.

Social media has created a minefield [..]

Now that every employee has a virtual megaphone, allowing them to share confidential information across the globe [..]

I was a bit shocked, but mostly saddened by the very FUD-like approach (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt).

To be fair, three of their keynotes will be about or at least mention social media.

And they’re certainly not entirely opposed to social networks as they have a Facebook fanpage and a (currently inactive) Twitter account.

But I assume that they can sell more tickets with the “watch out it’s dangerous” approach.

Why Is HR Scared Of New Technologies

As an HR professional it’s part of our responsibility to detect possible dangers in order to protect our employers from legal liabilities and other harmful things.

This is also why I sometimes jokingly say that I’m a “worst case scenario guy”. It’s simply part of my job.

So it’s not surprising that HR practitioners are uncomfortable when it comes to new technologies, especially when many of us don’t understand them and aren’t all that interested in finding out what they’re really about.

Yes, there are dangers

Of course there are dangers with social media. But employees can also use a telephone, a fax machine or email to harm their employer. And I’m sure that back then the introduction of these technologies had HR worried as well.

The big difference is probably that social networks make it very easy to spread lots of information almost instantaneously to many people.

But at the end of the day social media is just a tool and our honest and loyal employees will continue to do what’s in the best interest of their employer.

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

I’m certainly not saying that everybody must become active on social networks. But I’m sure that social media is here to stay.

Maybe Facebook won’t exist anymore in ten years and Twitter will be something for hardcore geeks like IRC. Who knows?

But I’m convinced that the underlying principles of social media will change the way people share information and communicate online.

And since this concerns our employees and potential future employees, shouldn’t we at least try to understand what it’s all about?

Previous post:

Next post: