Social Media – getting HR on the front foot? #CIPDLiverpool

Tonight my chief collaborator Tim Scott is presenting to CIPD Liverpool on our favourite subject, social media. And just ICYMI (as they say on Twitter), here is a blatant self-promotional link to our book on the subject: A new one from us will be coming very soon too so watch this space…

His question tonight is this. In an increasingly social and digital world, where we see new technology emerging constantly, where brands are evolving and taking advantage of all that social and digital technology brings, can HR really get on the front foot? Can we as a function meet the challenge? Can we be sufficiently innovative and agile, or will we just keep on writing all of the policies and become increasingly irrelevant?

These are our thoughts…


There are some truly fascinating developments happening in consumer technology at the moment. Take for example the new Amazon Dash. A generation ago, when you went to buy your groceries, you’d walk into a shop and tell the guy behind the counter what you wanted. He’d get it for you, put it into a bag and you’d pay him. Then the self-service supermarket was invented. We picked our own groceries off the shelves and put them in trolleys and went to pay the cashier. Then came online shopping and when we went in-store we got “unexpected items in the bagging area” and self-scanning. Now Amazon Dash offers a small wi-fi connected button that you stick near your consumables. When you’re getting near the end, press the button and it connects to your Amazon app and orders a replacement. In some parts of the UK, it may even be delivered within the hour.

We’re also seeing companies like Uber challenging what everyone thought they were – namely a taxi service – and moving into food delivery.

Technology is about connecting people and what they want. This might be a refill of shaving foam, or it might be instantly connecting them to their friends and/or the news, media and information they want to consume. Remember how revolutionary it felt when you first realised you could Google anything and pretty much always find the answer. Now you don’t even have to fire up a computer to access that information, it’s on the little device in your pocket. For now. Many see wearable tech as the next bold frontier…

We know that what begins in the consumer world often up in the workplace. This is exactly what the consumerisation of IT, a phrase made popular a few years ago, was all about. People’s expectations of their corporate IT have increased in line with their own experience of using smartphones and tablets, as well as cloud storage and instant messaging.

So what lessons can we learn from the consumer world? Firstly, in 2016 it’s all about speed, convenience and responsiveness. Having food from your favourite restaurant delivered to your home. Companies delivering their products to your door within the hour. Controlling your heating and cooking from an app when you are on your way home from work. It’s also about brands challenging the old ways of doing things. If want a holiday or a hotel, you can still walk into a travel agent, or alternatively you can just check your Air BnB app.

Of course, with these new approaches come new demands. When consumers tweet a brand they expect a response. Fast. And not something auto generated either.

But where is the relevance in all this stuff to HR?

Simple. These will increasingly be the expectations of our own consumers. Can we rise to it?

Over to Gem….

The truth is…. I don’t know. I want to say yes. I really do.

It will require us to think very differently. To move out of our traditional roles of policy creators and enforcers. The role of HR that adds more value is not the reactive one; it is the one that not only responds to the changes taking place in the organisation but is part of them and leads from the front. The part that isn’t off to an employment law seminar to assess the risk and advise accordingly but who is part of creating the future of work.

HR can be a leader and an innovator. But it will need to strive far harder to do so. There are still too few practitioners on social media, leading to some accusations of it creating an “echo chamber”. But there are some challenging voices. There are people that share their work openly. There are those that debate and put their ideas out into the world. But still, there are too few. My own feed, tells me so. I still meet so many HR professionals who ask me how to send a tweet. Or what the point of Twitter is. I have to assume therefore that not only are they not on social media but neither are they particularly digitally savvy. And they may not be up to date with the technological advances that are already here, never mind what is on the way.

So the question remains. How do we get on the front foot? How do we help other HR professionals move outside the traditional and get this social and digital stuff? How do we create a culture of innovation within our own house? For us it is about HR helping HR acquire the basic skills. Digital mentoring… We have learned new skills before – we’ve moved from welfare, to personnel, to HR – and beyond..? It is also about stepping out of our traditional boundaries of just the people stuff. Because it cannot be done in isolation, separate from marketing, from sales, from the consumer brand.

We’d love to hear your ideas about both the future of social media at work and how HR can get on the front foot…….

Please feel free to comment either here or on Twitter using the hashtag #CIPDLiverpool. Tim will be using some of the thoughts we get live in the session on Monday night and we can almost guarantee that there will be a Storify…!

2 thoughts on “Social Media – getting HR on the front foot? #CIPDLiverpool

  1. One area that we also need to be thinking about from an HR perspective is the “dark side” of this shiny new technology. In particular how do we recruit, motivate and manage people who are contingent labour. Your restaurant meal delivered in an hour is brought to you by a zero-hours (or even self-employed) Deliveroo cyclist who has probably ridden through heavy traffic quite recklessly in order not to miss the delivery deadline (and hence be financially penalised). There is an excellent article by Sarah O’Connor of the FT called “When your boss is an algorithm” which looks at a few of these issues.

    • I’ve been talking to a lot of people about this recently. Alan Winfield and Tom Chatfield are both worth looking up. I’ll write up the Social Robotics and AI conference I attended last week at some point…

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