Football and the Social World

I’ve blogged before about where the law and practical reality are far apart when it comes to the subject of social media.

This caught my eye this morning on the same topic.

The Premier League are warning fans that posting videos of goals via Vine, Instagram and the like is illegal and breaks copyright law.

Now I know very little about football, and care less about finding out. However, I did a little Googling about how many people are actually interested in watching grown men run up and down a bit of green turf kicking some round leather. It turns out, quite a lot. Who’d of thought it?

Take the final weekend of last season, just for league games. Apparently, there were 36 fixtures that weekend, and over 430,000 tickets were sold. Now let’s assume that about half of those attending have a smart phone, which is line with the general population statistics. Then let us further assume that just 1% of those who have a smart phone, want to snap a quick video and share it on twitter. That is over 2000 potential shares via the social media of the supporter’s choice. In just one weekend. My figures are imprecise but you get the point.

According to the Director of Communications at the Premier League they don’t want to be killjoys. But they are looking at how they can develop technologies to stop it. Good luck with that.

Let’s look at this practically. 500 million tweets sent every day. 1.1 billion Facebook users globally. Over 100 million people using Instagram every month. 40 million registered Vine users.

Whatever your view on copyright law, whatever the statute book and the case law might say… exactly how can this ever be effectively policed? How can you find every Vine, every Tweet, every Instagram picture in the vast, global, social world in which we live? That assumes that the social media platforms will even play ball (no pun intended).

And even if you can, what is it really achieving anyway? Most of those football supporters that share something socially are going to have a very small follower base in real terms. Unless they happen to catch Rooney (whoever he is) doing the world’s most awesome touchdown (?) and subsequently going viral, then it isn’t going to have that much reach in any event. And if you really want to watch a full game, then catching a poor quality 6 second vine won’t discourage many from buying the full Sky package.

So what we have is something that is technically illegal, but a law that will almost be impossible to enforce, and will surely be largely ignored. The Premier League appear to be fighting a losing battle. Social is just too big. How we communicate has fundamentally changed. It’s just that everyone hasn’t figured that out yet.

Time for a rethink?

Note to readers: this will probably be my only ever post about football. Which is probably a good thing.

In praise of blogging

Once upon a time, published content was the preserve of journalists or academics. Paid writers.

Not anymore.

There are something like 60m WordPress blogs out there. People blogging away, putting their thoughts out into the world. All for free.

I started blogging a couple of years ago. My early posts were very well received by my mother. Over time, my blogging has developed, and developed me. The process has made me more creative. Made me think harder. More reflective. But before I started my own blog, I was reading those written by others. And there are some amazing bloggers out there, writing about the people stuff. This particular blog post was prompted by a 24 hour period where I read three fantastic blog posts. All very different, but each making me stop and think in their own way.

Blogs are a rich stream of learning. I read them everywhere. On the train, in the bath, walking from one meeting to the next. Ideas, challenges, learning. Straight to the device in my pocket.

How awesome is that?

I go to plenty of events and conferences. I read as many books as I have time for. I listen to speakers. And I will say simply this. A lot of what I read in the free and accessible HR blogging world is better than paid for content.

There are the blogs that I learn from, like the ones written by Kate Griffiths-Lambe and FlipChartRick.

There are the bloggers that challenge me to think, even if I don’t always agree with everything that they say, like the ones from Barry Flack.

There are the bloggers that are brilliant at events, as they capture it all and get it out to you in the moment, like Ian Pettigrew and Helen Amery.

There are the bloggers that take me say ooooh, like Simon Heath, Perry Timms and Neil Usher.

There are the bloggers that post about things that aren’t my main field of people stuff, so have become my more knowledgable others in that space, like Sukh Pabial, David Goddin or Jon Bartlett.

There are the ones that are beautifully written, like those by Julie Drybrough and Megan Peppin.

There are the sometimes irreverent and funny ones, like those by David D’Souza.

There are the blogs that I look forward to landing in my inbox, like the fantastic annual advent series by Alison Chisnell.

There are the posts from the global HR community like those from Steve Brown, Richard Westney, Christopher DeMers that tell me how our challenges are shared, everywhere.

There are the ponderful, personal posts.

A global community of bloggers, sharing generously. There is power in this stuff.

The one thing that bothers me about HR blogging?

It’s a small world. Not enough HR folk are seeing it, benefiting from it. Finding the learning. It has much to offer, but is not yet delivering. There are ideas here, opportunities here, but unless we help get them out to the mainstream, the every day HR professional sat in their office wondering how to tackle the stuff on their desk, we will never realise the potential of social HR, and blogging in particular.

So I’d like to pose (or maybe post) a question to my blogging, social HR colleagues, writing about people stuff. What can we do about it? How do we make this stuff real, useful, accessible?

This is the social world

My love for all things social media is well documented in this blog.

Social has changed, is changing, will change some more, the way that we work. How we communicate and collaborate, at a fundamental level. No longer are we limited to or by our own team, organisation, locality, time zone. Because social blows the bloody doors off.

Here is just one small example of how social makes new possibilities. Last year I participated in the CIPD Hackathon. The output was a hack called ‘Chuck out Your Chintz’, focusing on those unnecessary but value poor activities that you often find carried out in HR departments.

A few weeks ago the hack was mentioned by Richard Westney in the weekly #nzlead HR twitter chat. Someone suggested that the chucking out of people related chintz was a good topic for a future discussion. And on Thursday this week Richard and I will co-host this chat together. You can find the link here.

But here’s the thing. I have never met Richard. Not in what we still call real life that is. Never even spoken to him outside of a social network. He lives on other side of the globe. Operates in a different time zone. As I write this on a lazy Sunday afternoon, he is probably fast asleep. If we had wanted to collaborate face to face on this little project, one of would have had to travel for over a whole day to do it. Not to mention spend a whole heap of cash.

But who needs to do that when you have social technology? During the chat on Thursday I will be sat at my desk, probably eating my breakfast, with my first coffee of the day. Those people that chip in from the UK might be doing that too. Or maybe they are on their morning commute into the office checking their timeline on the train, or getting in a tweet while getting the kids off to school. As for some of the other folks taking part in New Zealand? Their working day is done. They might just have had their evening meal. Maybe they are tweeting with one hand and a cheeky vino in the other.

HR folks, separated by thousands of miles but not by shared experiences, ideas, energy. Geography and timezone rendered irrelevant just for one hour. Collaboration on a project by people who met on twitter, but have never met face to face. Would never have engaged but for the tech in our pockets.

This is the social world.

Not the future, the now.

This afternoon, I’ve been talking to a room full of HR folks about social media.

We had a tweetalong.
We had a game of social media bingo.
We took a look into the possible near future.
We looked at now.

The world of work has changed, is changing, will change some more. And guess what? HR will have to change with it.

Because we know what happens to the organisations, functions, professions that can’t, don’t, won’t. We have all seen the case studies, the corporate corpses stinking up the joint.

So to those people who don’t get social, don’t like social, think it isn’t relevant to them, their career, their organisation, think Twitter is about telling people what you had for breakfast, I said simply this.

Does a black and white television set still take up space in your living room?
Do you long for your original, big, old Nokia mobile phone, so you can play just one more game of snake?
Do you lament the lost days of the manual typewriter and the carbon copy paper?
Do you still get good value from your fax machine?

I’m guessing not. Because the world moved on and we moved with it.

This isn’t generational, millennial, science fictional.

We have social, connected, mobile, digital employees. So we must be social, connected, mobile digital employers, organisations, HR professionals.

Seth Godin said that social media is the biggest shift in this generation. I said that it is a big fat gift to our profession. Because social media is people stuff, and people stuff is what we do.

For every company embracing the changes, breaking the rules, making the HR headlines, there are others stuck, trapped, denying, head in the sand burying.

Whether you like it or not, this is the new HR landscape. Social media used to be disruptive, different, new. But now, just normal. So to those who are late to the party, who are quickly catching on, I say it is time for HR to understand, embrace, lead. Help your organisations take the step, make the change.

Social is the future of work.

And the future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed.

So hang back, or get ahead.

You still don’t get social media? Good luck with that.


LinkedIn – employment law v reality

I came across this article recently on the issues of ownership and social media accounts, primarily the professional contacts made during the course of employment through LinkedIn.

The law and the practical reality aren’t meeting anywhere close on this issue.

Let’s take me, as an example. I have around 1500 LinkedIn connections. Some of these are people I know really well, I work with them closely now, or they are former colleagues. Some of them I’ve met just once or twice. We’ve met at a networking event or they have heard me speaking at a conference and one of us has pinged over a follow up connection request. Some are connections from other social media networks like twitter. Some of these connections I have never met at all, but I’ve LinkedIn with them anyway because we share something in common, usually HR stuff. Some of them I connected with online because of a shared interest, and we are now friends. About 1000 of these connections I had before I joined my current employer. The rest are more recent additions. I’m pretty sure these are my connections, and not my employers.

Of course you can try and build something into the Contract of Employment about ownership. By all means start a debate about what is the property of the employer, what is in the course of employment, what amounts to confidential commercial information. Or even as this article suggests, some restrictive covenants are now being drafted to include reference to a change of LinkedIn status amounting to solicitation of clients.

Whatever the law says on restrictive covenants, whatever the contract of employment seeks to enforce, this is a losing battle.

There are simply too many practical issues to get over. How do you define who owns which connections when they have been made spanning more than one employer? What amounts to solicitation when you can tweet everything about your products and services in less than 140 characters and anyone can follow you? How can you restrict people from updating their status any more than you can updating their paper copy CV? How can you actually stand over someone and make them block their followers, delete their connections, unfriend people on Facebook?

Yes, there is recent case law on the ownership of LinkedIn connections, but before all the HR folk rush to update the Contract of Employment, it was about the ownership of a work related group, rather than an individual account which is very different.

Make me delete a LinkedIn connection before I leave? Fine. I’ll find them on Twitter or Google+ instead, if I’m not hooked up with them there already.

Make me set up an employer controlled account and hand over the password? Fine. I will just set up another one when I leave and just connect with people all over again.

Because you can’t stop people knowing people. Just like you couldn’t in the days when employers worried about the sales guy stealing the rolodex (if you remember what one of those is, of course).

We live in an increasingly open and transparent world. We think nothing now of putting our entire CV online for people to view. We think nothing of tweeting or sharing our thoughts with the world. Or our followers at least. Work and personal is increasingly blurred.

Today, you can find pretty much anyone you want to find. You can connect with them in multiple ways. Because we are all social now.

Employers – I’m sorry but you are just going to have to deal with it.

You don’t get me I’m part of the Facebook?

I don’t like generalisations about generations. But one thing about young people at work today is a fact. They are not joining trade unions.

The latest available figures suggest that less than 10% of trade union members are aged between 16-24.

Why is this? The truth is we really don’t know. There is of course high unemployment within this age group. Some of them are still studying. But as far as I can ascertain, no one has really researched the question. One union did look a few years ago at why younger workers weren’t engaging with lay or formal roles within unions, but this is just researching the views of those who are already within the organisation.

Trade Union membership has been on a downward trend since the 1980s. Around 6.5m members in the UK today, down from the heady days of 13m in the late 1970s. The reasons for this decline are complex and interconnected. There are the obvious factors; the decline in the traditional industries in which trade unions flourished like coal, steel, manufacturing. There is the impact of legislation that has reduced trade union power. Even us HR people have a role to play. Hard to imagine now that 30 years ago there were many organisations in which you would never speak to your employee directly. You would never conceive of such a thing as Internal Communications. You talked to a union. And they talked to the workers. Now we have this fancy thing called Human Resource Management instead.

Back to young people for a moment. If you are a teenager today, entering the workforce, what is in it for you to join a trade union? If you join a business where there isn’t a union, if it’s not part of your family history, if you don’t feel you need any protection, your company isn’t doing collective bargaining, and crucially a trade union is not reaching out to you and making a case for membership, then exactly what is going to encourage you to pay your dues? In your eyes? I actually explained the concept of a trade union to a young teenager recently. He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. He just didn’t get it.

Jon Bartlett published an interesting blog post recently. He was reflecting on an article that suggested social media networks are the trade unions of the future. Well it is true your network can help you find a voice. It can help you find like-minded people. It can help you find support when you need it. The network of both contacts and friends that I have through social media has been invaluable to me. But it ain’t going to pitch up and sit beside you during a grievance hearing. Nor is it going to fight for your rights, if you need it.
36% of trade union members are now over 50. So add these trends together and it makes a difficult picture for the future of unions, unless they begin to act – fast.

I have been involved in programmes about the future of work. There are many interesting reports written about it, notably the recent report from UKCES. But here’s the thing. There is plenty written about the future of work. Globalisation, technology, flexibility…. But trade unions feature nowhere in this debate right now.

Is the age of collectivism passing? And could it be that somehow, social media is its replacement?

As much as I am an advocate of all things social, I’m not convinced. And I am not sure I want it to be, either.


For many of the people who read my blog posts, I’m guessing social stuff is nothing new. After all, you probably need to be on twitter to see the link. But it’s easy to forget that for some in our profession and community, it’s still an unknown thing, a not too sure about this thing, maybe even a scary thing. There is certainly a packed room here at the HR Directors Summit to hear from Perry Timms about what it’s all about, and how HR people can use it to make a difference both at work, and for themselves.

So here is a quick summary of what he had to say:

I am only as good as the people I’m connected to.
The news finds me. People ask how I’ve got time to do all this social stuff. And its because it is coming straight to you wherever you are.
If you build it, they will not come. People need someone to help them take the first step.
You’ve got to practise to realise the benefits.
Find your purpose for being social.
Sometimes when you are trying to launch social in an organisation you have to hold your nerve.
Someone will ask you what the ROI is. Take an example from Seth Goddin and ask them what is the ROI is of their mum.
Within an organisation you need a backer. Make friends.
People will try and ban stuff. You need to open up the platforms. And tell them to use them wisely.
Focus on the impact. Are you quicker, leaner, more connected? It’s not about the stats, the likes, the number of followers.
A little personal stuff is fine. It all helps to create social fabric within your organisation.
You will learn as you go. And that is just fine.
Multiple channels are fine. Allow people to fall over content rather than have to search for it.

And a final slide, and definition from Perry.

social is a convenient shorthand to describe a new way people at work are being liberated and that knowledge and skills are utilised in an individual and collective level.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Today I heard a great presentation from Rob Jones of Crossrail. He was talking about his organisation’s experience with social media, and he said something important for anyone looking to introduce or develop social media within their own company. He said this: social media tools won’t change your culture. It is not a miracle cure all for your organisational ills.

My own experience tells me this is true.

If you have a culture now that doesn’t value team work, social media won’t change this. If you have a culture adverse to risk, inflexible in the face of change or unwilling to share, social media cannot sweep this away overnight.

If you have employees that routinely complain, then they will complain about social media too, or they’ll complain through it. The same people who used to say they haven’t time to read your emails, the monthly newsletter, check out your intranet, won’t see they should make time to be social all of a sudden either. If employees don’t tend to collaborate, then they will exclude themselves from these channels.

Social media cannot solve your culture problems, but it will hold a mirror up to them. Non-adoption of social internally is telling you as much about your culture as those who are actively sharing.

Social media is just a vehicle, a method, a mechanism. A technology that can enable, but not wholeheartedly solve. It is no magic wand.

But it will help you look in the mirror. Understand your organisation. Know how people are thinking and feeling. What they value and what they don’t.

Are you the fairest of them all?


You say collaboration, I say conversation

I’m at the CIPD social media conference today. In itself it’s a great example of social. There are tweeters and bloggers here pushing out content. Tweets are coming up on a feed live in the room. There’s a hashtag, a tumblr curation and a scribble live (new to me I confess). You can follow the day and engage with the content without even being here.

We’ve heard talks about how social media can support collaboration. We’ve heard about the links to employee engagement. We’ve talked of how it can reflect your culture. How it can help you recruit, improve your internal communications, enable change.

Social media is and does all of these things. But at its simplest it is just a conversation.

Listening. Exchanging. Sharing.

A chat. A dialogue. A debate.

A little more conversation, if you please.

Social HR and Me.

Next week, I am attending the CIPD social media conference, and have the pleasure of being part of a panel discussion about being a social HR practictioner with very cool tweeps Mervyn Dinnen, Tim Scott and Neil Usher. You can see Tim’s take about being a social HR type, here:

I’m passionate about social HR. If you follow me on twitter then you’ll probably already know this.

Social media is a great place, a challenging place, a fun place. A place where I have made professional contacts, a place where I have found collaborations, a place where I have made genuine friendships. A place where I can seek advice, find insight and ideas, share, converse, engage. A place to talk to HR professionals all over the world, or just down the road.

On twitter I chat to people I’ve met, people I’d like to meet, people I’ll probably never meet. We connect, we engage, we discuss. It started online, and then moved to the real life.

Over in the blogging world, I find things I agree with and things I don’t, things that make me laugh and things that make me angry. I find ideas I’m going to remember, to try, to share. I find ideas I would simply never have thought of. I’ve read blogs that literally make me stop in my tracks, take my breath away. I find writers I admire, writers I respect, writers I would like to be as good as. My own blogging has defined my thinking. Given me a place to think, to be the real me.

One of the things that I value most about social HR, is that what happens on social media, doesn’t stay on social media. This year, just through relationships from my social media engagement, I’ve done a whole host of things that without social media would never have happened. I’ve blogged from, and spoken at, the national CIPD conference. I am writing a book with someone that I met on twitter, through someone else that I met on twitter. I converse with HR professionals on the other side of the world. I’ve met some wonderful people that I have gone on to work with, and hope to work with some more. I contributed to a crowdsourced book. I visited CIPD Towers and hung out with Peter Cheese. I even adjudicated an arm wrestling contest in a chip shop following a tweetup (please note: to the best of my knowledge this is not a typical outcome from joining twitter).

Other things in my life changed around the time I started to get social. Sometimes it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins. But I know that I am changed, from the person and the professional that I was, because of this social thing that I do. It has given me a confidence that I didn’t know I had. It has given me a community. A voice.

Above all, with social HR, I’m part of something. Something kind of amazing.

So why don’t you come and join us? I promise you won’t regret it.

A few photos from my social HR year:




MJC and PT

chip shop