The #SocialLeaders Series – Tom Riordan

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The time for social leadership is now.  To engage with customers and employees alike, to create a personal brand, to lead authentically and openly. To share and collaborate in a different way. To role model the digital skills that all organisations need now and tomorrow. We need social leaders.  But they are still few and far between.

This is the first in a series of conversations with leaders who already get this stuff.  Who are effectively using social media as part of their leadership role to engage and connect with employees, customers and service users.  We have asked a range of leaders from different industry sectors exactly why they use social media and how do they feel it benefits them in their role – as well as to share their advice to anyone who thinks they should be getting a little more social.

First up is Tom Riordan.  Tom is CEO of Leeds City Council, and an active Tweeter – he has even got himself a coveted blue tick.  He uses Twitter to share news about the Council, its work and its people.  He engages with followers and isn’t afraid to bring his whole self to Twitter, including pictures of his family, and a bio that tells you about him as a person, not just a CEO.

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This is what Tom had to say about leading socially….

What is your social media platform of choice and why?

Twitter is my platform of choice. I was quite an early adopter because I like its mix of brevity, openness, wide reach, content and security (i.e. unacceptable behaviour can be blocked).

How do you believe that your use of social media has benefited you in your leadership role?

It’s allowed me a direct communication route to the outside world from a big organisation and to “walk the talk” of one of our main values of openness and honesty. I’ve tried to give more of a human face to a CEO role often seen as distant and protected, and to champion Leeds, public services and local government.

How engaged do you find the rest of your organisation with social media? 

Increasingly. Social media has become much more central to people’s lives over the last five years, and in that time the organisation has engaged with it more and more.  There are some great role models within the council, such as Phil Jewitt an excellent social media user who recently won a lifetime achievement unconference award. Many of our councillors now use social media widely now, which also helps.

What, if any, downsides do you see to being a leader on social media – and what do you do to avoid them?

99 percent of people are great to engage with on social media.  You have to take care at times not to be provoked by the 1 percent who, often anonymously, just want to cause trouble.  Never tweet when you’re angry is not a bad rule of thumb.

How have you used social media to connect with customers/service users/key stakeholders?

I’ve used it to get more direct messages out to a wider audience about what the council does, especially those front-line workers who make the city tick. Twitter has allowed me to contact a wide range of innovators both in the city and across the world and led directly to inward investment, new approaches on open data and great new ideas from people within and outside Leeds. I also get a pretty good idea of what people think about the council and the city!

What advice would you give to other leaders who want to use social media?

Don’t see it as a panacea but do treat it as a vital communication and engagement mechanism. Only do what you’re comfortable with and what suits your own personal style. Make sure your priority is enhancing the city or organisation, not your personal image or standing, because you’re almost bound to trip up if you think it’s all about you.

We’d like to send a big thanks to Tom for his insight.  If you are a leader who wants to use social media for their role then check out his Twitter feed for a great example on how to do this social stuff well.  And if you want to know more about social leadership – both the why and the how – then we’ve just released our latest book on Putting Social Media to Work – a version dedicated to just that subject.

Next time on the #SocialLeaders series…. Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD shares his thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recruitment & social media – how far is too far?

I got into a Twitter chat recently about social media and recruitment.  Specifically, whether or not it is okay to check out people’s social media feeds during the recruitment process.

Now I’ve seen some fairly risk-averse advice on the subject that cautions you on the risk of (among other things) discrimination claims.

My view on it is simple.

It depends where you go.

On my CV, I am open about much of my social media.  There are links to my Twitter bio (hoping that prospective employers or clients will overlook my frequent Prosecco references), my LinkedIn profile and my blog.  When it comes to applying for jobs, my blog is going to give anyone reading it a sense of who I am and what I believe about my work more than a 2-page CV ever will. What isn’t on there is a link to either my Instagram or Facebook profiles.  The reason for that is that they aren’t about work.  They are for family and friends, or at the very least people I know, sometimes through other social networks.  My regular selfies of me and my significant other (#sorrynotsorry) are not for strangers… or employers.

Those sites that are professional should expect to be reviewed.  When I have been hiring, it is the first place I go and I would expect anyone thinking of hiring me to do the same.  If someone wants to scroll through my unlocked Twitter feed, fill your boots.  You will find a few mentions of One Direction too.  But the other stuff… not so much.

In our social world, platforms are ever-evolving.  There are no rules, apart from your own, about what is public and what is private.  There are fewer expectations of privacy than those of previous generations.  Even if you opt not to use social media, or are even too young to do so, you can still very much have a digital footprint.

So to job seekers I say this… expect to be looked for and at.  Google searched.  If you want stuff to be private, set it that way.

And to employers… if you are going to search people’s social media feeds then say so up front.  Put it on the ATS or the job advert.  Better still, openly ask people to send you their online stuff.  Allow links on your system.  Actively encourage it.  Go to the professional networking sites and read what you need to. But you don’t need to, and should not, trawl through what is clearly something else.  Personal photos.  Shares from many years ago.  Student day stuff.  What someone intends to be personal, platform aside, is probably obvious.

You wouldn’t follow someone down the pub and listen to their conversation before deciding to give them a job.  So leave their social social media alone.

 

The time for #SocialLeaders is now

Tim Scott and I have written a third version of our practical guides to using social media.  This time, it is aimed at the busy business leader.

The time for social leadership is now.  To engage with customers and employees alike, to create a personal brand, to lead authentically and openly. To share and collaborate in a different way.  To role model the digital skills that all organisations need now and tomorrow.

It is still a rare thing to see leaders using social media really well.  There are some excellent examples but they are  few and far between.  Previous research into Fortune 500 CEO’s found that whilst most of them could be found on LinkedIn, they weren’t exactly active.  Those that had managed to find their way to other platforms like Twitter still weren’t really all that social.

This book is, as with all of my books with Tim Scott, about practicality. There is advice on picking the right platforms, getting started, taking your organisation with you, and how to avoid social media fails.  We hope that it also makes a compelling case to why leaders should use social media and encourage their organisations to do the same.

Next week, to complement the book, we begin a blog series on social leadership, by interviewing examples from a range of sectors and organisations – talking to the people that already do it well in order to find out why and how they do it.  Look out for the hashtag #SocialLeaders on Twitter.

You can follow the series here and if you want to read the book, here’s the link!

Happy reading!

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Lessons in Leadership

I was once asked these questions:

Who is the best leader you have ever worked for?  How did this person make you feel?

They are good questions.  And I had an immediate answer.  Being led by someone that you like and respect is of course a memorable thing.  Perhaps because, sadly, it is all too rare.

As a subject, vast numbers of words have been written about leadership.  Traits.  Qualities.  Theories.  A trawl through professional networking sites will provide you with a plethora of clickbait on the subject, often offering contradictory ideas about what good leadership is all about, what successful leaders do every day, and so on.

When I was asked these questions, we were using the appreciative inquiry model.  Naturally therefore, they are constructed positively.  A valid and useful technique.

But it occurred to me that there is much too that we can learn from poor leadership.  If you flip the questions that were posed to me, I reckon that most people have an equally easy answer.  Who is the worst leader you have ever worked for?  And how did they make you feel?

Ask questions like these and most people have a story; one about something that they have experienced or witnessed.  I know that I do.  Heck, I have worked for an organisation that reserved certain toilets for the bottoms of the Executive team, lest they had to share the seat with the hoi polloi.  That was one interesting piece of internal comms.

For me, some of my biggest lessons in leadership came from observing the kind of leader that I didn’t want to be.  From reflecting on how those people had made me feel, and resolving never to do the same to someone else.

I didn’t want to be the kind of leader who didn’t respond to the needs of my team, or their emails or holiday requests.  It taught me the importance of dealing with the hygiene stuff.

I didn’t want to be the kind of leader who didn’t care about the professional development of the people that worked for me.  It taught me how much this really matters when it comes to engagement and motivation – mine and everyone else’s.

I certainly didn’t want to be the kind of leader who forgot what it was like to be earning the minimum wage but was happy to talk about their executive package in front of others. A lesson from my very first job….. and I have never forgotten exactly how that made me feel as I worried about my student loan repayments.

There is learning in all our experiences, the positive and the less so positive.

As leaders (official or otherwise), we must never underestimate the power we have to be a role model – for good or other.  Which one are you?

 

Out of Office?

This article gained some traction over the bank holiday weekend.  From 1st January, workers in France will have a so-called ‘right to disconnect’.  Companies with more than 50 employees will be obliged to draw up a code of conduct, expressly stating when employees are not required to answer their emails.

Now I am all for life work balance.  Equally too I believe in the importance of organisations taking wellbeing at work seriously.  But I am a little less convinced we should  legislate for it.

Legislation and employment policy have something in common.  If you need to write them, sometimes it means you have failed.

Here’s an example.  I heard of a manager who had spent thousands of pounds of his budget introducing a corporate uniform for a back office team that never came face to face with customers of visitors.  When I asked why, I was told that some of the employees in the team weren’t dressing appropriately for work.  So instead of talking to those few people and quickly sorting a problem, a dress code was written and communicated and expensive uniforms purchased and enforced.

Going back to the French example – if people are working late into the night, if people are checking their emails excessively, if people don’t have a healthy work life balance, then this isn’t about formal documents, it’s about your organisation culture.  Someone, somewhere, somehow, has said that this is expected.  Or at the very least tolerated.  Maybe there isn’t enough dialogue about wellbeing and balance in the organisation.  Maybe there aren’t enough resources to do the job properly.  But something is wrong and the starting point for addressing issues like these is rarely more policy, documents or legislation.  Instead these should only ever be a last resort.

We have all worked with one of those email people.  Who sends messages late at night, or at a silly time in the morning, or at the weekends.  Leading to everyone else jumping onto their emails to respond.  And so on.

This stuff spreads and it only takes one person to start it.  The more senior they are, the bigger the problem.

I often used to work in the evenings.  It suited my lifestyle, and I often found that if I went home at 5pm and let the day settle in my mind I’d have ideas or new insights whilst at home.  Sometimes they came in the shower or whilst in bed waiting for sleep.  Let’s face it, no one has their best ideas sitting at a desk in an open plan office.  But I made a conscious choice; I would write emails and leave them in my drafts file, ready to send in the morning, when no one in my team would be disturbed.

What we need isn’t even more written documents or employment policy.  Most companies have already got more than they need of that.

Legislation can help to change attitudes and beliefs.  But it is not a quick route to tackling bigger issues.  The Equal Pay Act tells you so.  More than 40 years on from the legislation, we are still waiting to see enough change is this space.

What we really need in the workplace in simple.

Less policy. More talking.

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What a candidate wants

It’s that time of year again, when organisations and people start to think about recruitment and job hunting.  A few years ago, after securing my last permanent position, I wrote about the candidate experience.  About how often, it leaves much to be desired.

On returning to the job market a few years on….  nothing much has changed.  More companies are doing good social stuff.  You can get an insight, to some extent, into an organisation’s culture through sites like Glassdoor, but that’s about all that is new.   Much of the bad stuff I experienced still seems to be hard wired into the system.

Applications that take hours to complete, pointlessly requiring you to type in information that is already available on a CV.  Systems that are supposed to upload the information from your CV into their database but which never work properly.  Poor communication.  Lack of any sort of real feedback.  Clunky Applicant Tracking Systems.  Entirely automated processes lacking any sort of human touch.

If you haven’t heard from us in 14 days……..

A black hole of applications and expectations.

The candidate experience is an opportunity.  It is your employer brand.  It is your opportunity to engage with someone who may come and work for you….  or certainly talk about you.  A consumer of your products or services perhaps.   It is the start of that thing we call the employment life cycle.  So why do so many get it so wrong?

Perhaps, in 2017, we could do better.  So here is what I think the candidate really wants.

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Candidates don’t want to have to create an account for your ATS.  Most likely, they want to apply for one job and only one job.

If you have a system candidates want it to be easy to use.

Candidates would like the ability to engage with the recruiter.  Just for question or two. A live chat, an email address or even a Twitter handle.

Candidates would really like their time not to be wasted by advertising jobs that don’t really exist, or haven’t yet been fully thought through.

Candidates very much want an email (or something) to tell us that they aren’t being considered.  An email at the start of the process saying that they will hear in so many days if they have been successful simply isn’t good enough.  If people take the time to fill out what are often lengthy applications, the very least a company do is automate another “thank you but no thank you” email.  It’s just one more button to press after all.

Candidates don’t want to have to give you loads of personal information at the first stage.  Of late, I have been asked for my National Insurance number, sexual orientation and marital status as part of an initial application. There did not appear to be a ‘actually that is none of your business’ option on the drop down menu.

A question I have always asked recruiters is this: when did you last apply for a job at your place?  When did you last go onto your careers site or ATS from the outside, and experience it as a candidate does.  When did you last review your careers site to see if it is interesting, useful or easy to navigate?

If the answer is either ‘never’ or ‘not lately’ then just go do it. Challenge every part of the process.  Is it necessary? How will it make people feel?  Is it adding value – and to whom?  Is it more about the candidate, or you?  Too many recruitment processes are designed with the recruiter and the organisation in mind – not the candidate.  In my last HRD role, we launched a new recruitment system.  Applying for jobs with candidate eyes was how we refined it; how we made it work for both us and the people who were interested in working with us.

Applying for jobs doesn’t need to be a dispiriting experience.

What candidates want is really quite simple.  A straight forward, user friendly application process.  A little bit of timely communication.  The opportunity for some personal interaction.  Just because you can automate every single bit of the process doesn’t mean you should (nod to David D’Souza). Finally, some useful feedback.

That’s all folks.

 

Why no one cares about your internal social network

I love a bit of social media.  No surprise there then to any regular reader of my blog.

Only when it comes to internal social media networks, Yammer and the like, many of them end up being underused.  Unfulfilled potential.

Sometimes this is acknowledged.  Sometimes not.  See this great slide share from Paul Taylor detailing the signs that you are not a social business.

Like with any people stuff, there are some great examples of organisations that have made their internal social networks really deliver.  But many places are not even close.

Why? There are lots of reasons.  And many of them aren’t specific to social networks either.

Sometimes it is about employee’s engagement with the broader organisation. Or lack thereof.

Sometimes it is about a lack of digital and social skills generally.

Sometimes it is about having the time to engage in anything other than the immediate task at hand.

When it comes to the social network itself…..

Sometimes it is about employees not having a clue what the heck it is for or what they are supposed to do with it.

Sometimes it is about practically not knowing how to use a social network.

Sometimes it is about the network being seen to be Somebody Else’s Problem.  HR or Internal Comms being top of the list of suspects.

Sometimes it is about line managers not letting people use them because they think it’s proper work. Whatever that is.

Sometimes it is that the organisation hasn’t launched it properly, given people a reason to go there, given it a focus or purpose – or perhaps even more importantly, it hasn’t given people the right sort of permission.

It isn’t unusual in my experience to find that social networks have a small cohort of regular users, sharers and commentators.  And then the rest of the organisation is either all so-what or oblivious to its existence.

Get it right, and social media networks can be game changing.  They can open your organisation right up, getting over the age-old complaints about communication and silo working and not knowing what is going on around here and never seeing any of the leaders. It can be a real driver of change.  Of transparency.  Of innovation.

But otherwise, it is just something else on the to-do list, something else for people to complain about, something else that there has to be a policy for.

Employees won’t care about your internal social media network unless you give them a reason to care. And even then, they still might not.  Of course, a social media network does not stand alone within an organisation, it is part of the system.  Often, what occurs (or doesn’t) on an internal social network is representative of what takes place within that wider system.  So going back to that earlier point; if employees aren’t willing to engage on your internal social media platform, if they aren’t willing to share, to communicate, to collaborate, recognise and discuss…. just what does that say about your organisation, its leadership and its culture?

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