Social media benefits are not reaching HR

HR departments are not reaping the benefits of the growing popularity of social media as a communication tool, research has revealed.

In a survey of 2,600 internal communications professionals by consultancy Melcrum, more than a third said social media had helped marketing and advertising become more effective, but just 11% said HR had benefited the most, with 9.9% citing recruitment.

Victoria Mellor, chief executive at Melcrum, said social media has prompted a “turf war” as corporate functions vie for ownership and control, but stressed that no one group can “own” social media.

“If this is the key focus of debate, then they’re missing the point,” she told Personnel Today. “The more enlightened companies – Axa, for instance – have formed a steering committee of key functions, such as IT, internal communications, HR and marketing, to work in partnership.”

The biggest barriers to implementing social media tools highlighted by respondents included management fearing a loss of control and reputational damage (64%), legal concerns (58%) and inadequate metrics (51%).

The study also showed that more than half of the respondents did not have a social media policy in place.

Among those that did have a policy, there were wide variations in how the guidance was implemented: 43.7% said their company did not include clauses on how employee comments can be used against them 29.3% admitted there was no link back to the organisation’s corporate strategy and values; and

28.3% had no guidelines on the use of social media platforms during working hours.

A lot of what needs to be included in a social media policy has already been drafted by HR in existing guidance, but it just needs to be brought up to date, according to Mellor.

“I do see emerging issues that HR needs to be thinking about now,” she said. “For instance, if sales people are using LinkedIn as a tool for networking and lead generation, then who owns those leads if the employee leaves the business? I can see potential conflicts ahead without clear policy in place.”

There is a “growing need” to educate and inform people on how best to communicate at work, whether that’s face to face or online, Mellor said. “The best way to make this happen is for HR and internal communications teams to work together,” she added.

For comprehensive analysis on the benefits social media can bring to HR, see our series of articles published during Social Media Week.

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