The Relationship Between Social Media and Human Resources

social media HRAdvancements in information technology like the widespread use of social media platforms have affected businesses across all industries.  Social media has dramatically changed the way HR professionals do their jobs. Human resource management involves more than just planning a good benefits package for company employees; HR managers are responsible for knowing and following laws regarding discrimination and privacy protection. An HR professional is also expected to help build the company’s brand and reputation using their industry knowledge and expert interpersonal skills. Here are some of the ways HR professionals are challenged and significantly thrive by online conversations using social media.

Screening and Hiring Applicants

Even in the Information Age, privacy rights are still cherished by many. As today’s children complain that their parents violate their privacy, parents gleefully remind them that they have no private lives when they post everything on social networking sites like Instagram. Sadly, human resource professionals cannot adopt that attitude when it comes to screening job applicants and hiring new employees.

The laws regarding equal employment forbid discrimination for factors like age, gender, or national origin.  These laws have not changed even in the age of social media.  Through social media, a human resource professional may view pictures and text that would raise red flags about an otherwise qualified candidate. The Society of Human Resource Management offers advice on social media for HR to prevent this from happening.  The SHRM suggests that human resource managers create policies to protect themselves and their organizations from allegations of discrimination.  One way to accomplish this is by assigning a third-party person to screen applicants based on specific criteria for jobs. In this way, hiring managers can make their decisions about job applicants without knowing characteristics about them like”

  • race
  • ethnicity
  • marital status

HR professionals can boost recruitment efforts using social media.  Social media recruitment efforts are used to reach a wider audience than traditional means.  HR social media efforts can attract candidates from around the world.  By leveraging social media, an HR department can also improve brand visibility.  They can share engaging content or employee testimonials that can attract candidates who resonate with the brand.

A human resources social media strategy should include posting accomplishments or interesting facts that outsiders might not be aware of.  Highlighting a positive company culture on social media is a great way to improve employer branding as well.  Passive job candidates who are not currently job-hunting may be intrigued when viewing positive company reviews on social media.

Social media platforms are also a cost-effective way to post job openings.  With affordable advertising options, there is a real cost saving in utilizing social media.

Training and Developing Talent

Thanks to technological improvements, there is no longer a need to travel to multiple sites to deliver training material.  Training and development staff can now create customized, computer-based training modules and deploy them online for the benefit of current employees around the world. Online social platforms expand learning options because they create collaborative environments for students and instructors to share and discuss knowledge informally.  Virtual training also saves money.

Announcing Corporate Changes

While company executive officers love to share good news with appropriate stakeholders, it is the human resource manager that is usually responsible for announcing bad news or other significant organizational changes to individuals and business divisions. Social media sites like Twitter allow human resource managers to efficiently broadcast announcements to large groups at once.  This cuts down on rumors that create temporary anxiety among employees. A social networking site can also help facilitate question-and-answer sessions.  These sessions are always needed when companies roll out:

  • new policies
  • procedures
  • systems

Obtaining Feedback About the Company

Human resource professionals primarily care about measuring and improving employee performance. However, modern managers are also concerned with how their companies are perceived in the marketplace. When social media sites are fully exploited, human resource managers can glean candid, positive and negative feedback about company policies, hiring practices, and culture from sources like:

  • current staff
  • job applicants
  • former employees

The National Labor Relations Act and Implications for Social Media in Human Resources

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was created to protect the rights of employees to engage in collective bargaining and other concerted activities.  There are also implications for social media in the context of employee rights that HR departments need to be aware of.  Some of these include:

  • The right to engage in protected concerted activities (including those online) without fear of retaliation from employers.  Employees have the right to share concerns and even criticize their employers on social media.
  • The right to be free from unfair labor practices for engaging in protected concerted activities taking place on social media.  Employees are protected from being terminated or disciplined for discussing wages or working conditions in an online environment.
  • The right to be free from restricted employer policies related to social media use in the workplace.  HR leaders must be careful when drafting social media policies to avoid being overly broad or vague.

Employers have the right to balance their own interests with the rights of their employees.  They should be careful to implement reasonable restrictions that do not infringe upon employee rights.  Usually, HR works closely with legal to remain in compliance with the NLRA or other applicable regulations.

There is no doubt that information technology products and services have improved efficiencies for all business functions in such a way that no viable company can afford to ignore them. For this reason, savvy human resource managers must strive to legally harness the power of social media through a carefully crafted social media human resources policy that protect the rights of job applicants, employees, and the companies for which they work.

Related Resource: 20 Companies With the Best Benefits