Putting Social Media to Work….

Blatant self-promoting blog alert!

Last year Tim Scott and I published ‘Putting Social Media to Work, a Practical Guide’.  The book was largely focused toward those working within the Human Resources profession, and was all about how HR can get social for themselves and lead it within their own organisations.

But the more we talked to people who work in smaller organisations, or who were self-employed and independent practitioners, the more we realised that there were other folks that needed some help getting social too.  Whether it is help with professional social networking, building a social brand, connecting with others or just a simple ‘how-to’, there was clearly need for practical advice just for these readers.

So, there is a new and updated version of our book now available via Amazon. If you are wondering what social can do for your small business, how you can find the time, which social platform to use, or even just what all the jargon means, then this is the book for you.

Coming soon there will a third version too…. A practical guide (obvs) to getting social for the busy leader. Watch this space!

Kindle version

IRL version (Note. Makes excellent Christmas present for all the family.)


PS. If you were kind enough to buy our first book, then you might find you don’t need to buy this one too.  Unless you want to contribute to our swimming pool fund of course. 


Wot, no cat pictures?

I had THAT conversation again yesterday.

The one where, following my confession to loving all things social, someone replied:

Urgh. I can’t be bothered with all that. It’s just cat pictures and what people had for their breakfast.

Here’s the thing.

It really isn’t.

Here’s the second thing.

If you are on social media and that is actually your feed, then my advice is follow better people.

Find some more interesting friends. Hit your unfollow button – that is what it is there for.

If you are however saying this and you are not actually on social media then I am going to suggest trying it for yourself. To establish whether or not this is reality or just a belief.

That is all.

5 ways to stop employees stealing your Rolodex

Organisations have always been worried about their employees taking with them valuable contacts and information when they leave.

In the old days, it was mostly about taking the hard copy lists; names and addresses of leads and potential leads, customers past and present.  What now exists within an App, somewhere in the Cloud, and on the device in our pockets, used to be in a Rolodex*, a book of business cards or in a lever arch file.  Or of course inside someone’s head.  We haven’t found a way of downloading that.  Just yet.

Now, the issue has moved to social media.  The challenge presented by LinkedIn, and indeed any social media platform used for professional purposes, is no different from the one that has always been with us.  Employees leave, and they take stuff with them. Sometimes what they take is knowledge and information.  Sometimes, it is copies of documents. Sometimes it is other people, and occasionally, it is the stuff from the stationery cupboard.  But the real concern for most organisations is still the customer information.

If the clickbait advice genre had been around in the 1980s, you can bet that there would have been a headline just like the one at the top of this post.  Maybe some internal guidelines suggestions too, about how employees within their notice period should not be allowed within 15 feet of the photocopier, just in case they run off one extra to take home.

Unfortunately the topic of social media in the workplace, and LinkedIn in particular, continues to generate advice of a risk averse and impractical nature. Advice that, if applied, does the reputation of HR no favours.

Let’s play this out in real life for a moment. I turn up on day one at my new company.  I have an established network across several social media platforms, including a healthy number of connections on LinkedIn.  My new employer then declares that anyone I might connect with in the future ‘belongs’ to them, and, as I have recently seen suggested, I am required to delete these connections when I leave the business, at some unknown future point.

Such advice is as unworkable as it is unreasonable.  It shows a fundamental lack of understanding about how the social world actually works.

On the practical front, what is going to stop the future me from reconnecting with these people all over again once deleted?  What stops me from following them on Twitter, adding them to a G+ circle or sending them a friend request on Facebook?  And why single out LinkedIn?  Much of my own HR networking is on Twitter.  If we take this argument forward then should I record everyone who follows me during the course of my employment and presumably ask them to unfollow me upon my resignation?  An employer would have an almost impossible task of proving when connections had been made.  And so on.

Here’s the thing.  In the social world, you get the benefit of the connections made by your employees, within your employment and elsewhere.  Social has by its very nature blurred the lines between work and personal.  Taking an overly restrictive approach fails to recognise the many benefits of social business and social employees.  Social can support your brand message and your marketing activities, as well as engage with your customers. Social can help with your talent acquisition.  It is a place of learning for your employees. It is part of  your employee voice.  If you want the benefits and the rewards that come with all things social, then you need to balance a little risk too.

I would suggest that if connections are so fundamental to your business, the matter either will already be, or should be, addressed within your contracts of employment and your restrictive covenant clauses in particular.  Contrary to popular belief, restrictive covenants are worth the paper on which they are written.  They just need to be well drafted and reasonable.  And of course enforcing them can be expensive.  But they can prevent your former employees from soliciting customers or current employees perfectly well, without resorting to an additional policy that can never be effectively enforced.

Trying to control social is like chasing the clouds.  Unintended consequences will likely follow.  Your employees are social, so they will do this stuff anyway, with or without your permission. Better that they do it with your encouragement and guidance and for mutual benefit, than under the radar (or more likely, under the desk).

I would suggest to those writing this sort of advice, that there is stuff that you can own, and stuff that you cannot. Knowing someone falls into the latter category. In the social world and the real life one.


*Note for younger readers.  This is a Rolodex.  You can still buy them.  But most of what you would use them for is already in your phone, in one App or another.

Where not only the birds tweet…..

This is the title of the session I’m attending by Ryan Cheyne at the HR Directors Summit.  He is HR Director for Pets at Home – number one in the best companies to work for list.  And he is talking about social media.  Sounds like my kind of session……

Here is what Ryan has to say about taking an organisation social and how it has helped move their organisation forward.

They didn’t see the opportunity to begin with. He was on LinkedIn because you kind of had to be.  He was on Facebook because his kids were but now they have gone somewhere more cool that their parents don’t hang out.

Social got on their radar when people started doing things that they shouldn’t.  Then a shop manager showed him how he was using Twitter to communicate with his team. After some initial panic about the need for a policy, Ryan had a lightbulb moment; that this could be a really powerful tool for them.

They realised that pet owners are social. 88% of pet owners post pictures of their pets on social media. 92% of people have had their pet as their phone wallpaper. 15% of people even Skype or FaceTime their pets when not at home. If customers are there then they should be too.

Pets at Home use social media to recruit. Share content about their stores and their vacancies. They are also moving more of their training online. Their vision is to have people learning socially, anywhere and any when.

Crucially, their social media policy is about what you can do rather than what you can’t. Stores are empowered to do their own social stuff with support and guidance.  Few rules. It’s not mandated, and neither is any particular platform specified.  Deal with those who misuse appropriately – but if they are then that’s not the real problem.

Social media is also part of their reward and recognition practices. She the good stuff that their employees have done openly and socially.

Ryan’s ponderings: Social is here to stay. Ignoring it is akin to denying the existence of the phone. But you don’t have to overthink it. We love a rule and a policy in HR. It can’t be controlled. Just get on with it.  Great opportunity to get your brand out there.  Powerful tool for engagement. Social is short and sharp. Different from our normal approach to internal communications. Use simple messaging.

Their latest advert was socially crowd sourced via social media. Socially engaged customers and socially engaged employees coming together.

Sounds kind of awesome to me.

And here’s the video….




Stuff people say to me about social media

Anyone who reads my blog or follows me on twitter will know that I am passionate about the opportunities that social media brings to us, both professionally and personally.  Being active on social media has developed me, challenged me, connected me, and helped me make some wonderful friends.

I have noticed lately that when I meet people who know I’m actively social, they keep saying the same things, asking me the same questions.  So I thought I’d share them, and my usual responses.

How do you find the time?

The answer to this one is simple.  If you want to do something enough, then you will find a way and make the time.  And as the saying goes, if you don’t, you will find an excuse.  That is why there are usually more people down the pub than in the gym.

I know I should give it a go.

Usually said in the same tone of voice I use when I am pondering tackling my ironing basket.  See above comment.  Here’s the thing – if you are thinking about getting social, you have to know why you are doing it.  Because if you don’t have a good why, an aim, then you will find it hard to be motivated to get going or keep going.  My why is simple.  I use social media to learn from others, to make great connections, and to get updates on One Direction.

Isn’t Twitter just about people saying what they had for breakfast.


I don’t know what to say.

Don’t worry about it too much.  You are not crafting a novel. Just stay away from the obvious inflammatory stuff.  If you worry about it, overthink it, you will never do it.

How do you cope with the constant stream of stuff coming at you?

Cognitive overload is a real thing.  And it’s not just about social media.  Emails, phone calls, text messages, voicemails, instant messages, alerts, notifications.  We are constantly connected, constantly interrupted.   You can find a way to manage the social stuff just like you do with the rest of it.  In Twitter, I use lists.  I have ones for all the people who I really want to keep in touch with, be able to check at a glance if they’ve got a new blog post out.  Some people use apps or feeds.  You also have to be selective on who you follow and what you read, or you could easily be overwhelmed.  You can’t catch every tweet so don’t even try.

If we open all this stuff up to our employees, won’t they abuse it?

Possibly.  Or possibly not.  There will always be an employee or two who time waste, or who push things a little too far.  Your probably know exactly who they are at your place.  And if people want to waste time, they will.   They will take an extended smoke break.  They will stretch their lunch hour out a little.  Meander around the building.  Deal with them as you need to, for social stuff or that stuff.  This is the same argument that people made when email and the internet was first introduced.  Someone probably sat around a meeting table when Alexander Bell invented the telephone and discussed whether or not employees would make too many personal calls on it.  Employees timewasting on social media is an outcome of another problem, not the cause.

What if our employees do things that they shouldn’t on social media?

They probably will.  As I’ve blogged before, employees have always done stuff that they shouldn’t, but we deal with it.  If you close social media down for this reason, you will lose all the potential benefits too.

I don’t know how to do it.  There is all this terminology that I don’t understand. 

It takes a little getting used to, just like anything new. But it isn’t all that hard, if you want to learn it.  See earlier comments.  When it comes to HR in particular, there is a welcoming community who will help you along the way.

Isn’t it a bit sad? 

This all depends on your point of view.  Nothing is sad if you get some benefit from it or enjoy it.  Can you take it too far?  Yes of course you can. I was mindful of this recently.  Visiting Las Vegas, I stood to watch the fountains at the Bellagio.  They are truly a fantastic sight.  But was I struck by how many people were engaging in the experience through a lens, rather than being sufficiently present to truly appreciate it.  I tweeted a photograph with the caption ‘watching the watchers’.  There is balance in all things, including social media.  But to me, there is nothing sad about learning, reading, collaborating, chatting to my friends.


Isn’t it just for the younger generation?

Nope.  It is true that the younger you are, the more you have grown up with this stuff, the more it is second nature. For those currently at school, there is no time before the internet or the mobile phone.  But writing it off as something for those pesky kids is dangerous and inaccurate.  The evidence points to the fact that it simply isn’t the case.  It looks like you can teach an old dog new tweets.

It doesn’t apply to us / me / our business.

Whether we like it or not, believe it or not, social is the new normal.  This is the world that we live in, today and tomorrow.  It isn’t going anywhere.  The individual platforms might come and go, trends will rise and fall, but we live in a  mobile, connected, digital world.  Your customers are there, your employees are there, your friends are there.  You can choose if you want to be there too.  And it is a choice. But there are risks with not engaging too.

When I have answered all of these questions and comments, I usually say simply this.  Just give it a go. Dive in, be you, share stuff.   And if you have any more questions, tweet me.


And thank you to the lovely people at @IIPtweets for this image:


social is the new normal

Employees will do dumb stuff on social media (shock)

I had that social media conversation a few days ago, with a fellow HR professional. You know the one. About risk. About whether or not employees would do dumb stuff on social media if you gave them access, encouraged its use.

My answer was this. Yes, employees will definitely do dumb stuff on social media.

Why? It’s simple.

Employees have always done dumb stuff at work, and social is no different. And if you have been in HR for a while, you’ll know exactly what I mean. I know I have seen my fair share of dumb stuff over the years.

There was the employee who decided to smoke a special roll up in his car on his mid shift break. Only his car was parked directly under the car park CCTV camera and we got the whole thing on film.

There was the employee who came to work still drunk from the previous evening, and was found fast asleep on his desk, using the Yellow Pages as a pillow.
There was the one who made a lengthy call to sex chatline, whilst working in a call centre. Where calls were monitored and recorded for training and development purposes.

There was the employee who took a photograph of a certain part of his anatomy, and emailed it to several of his colleagues via his work email address.

There was the employee whose ‘trousers fell off’ whilst visiting a female customer’s home, while he was also rummaging around her bedroom.

Then there was the group of employees who filmed themselves causing damage to company property, whilst wearing their branded uniform, and then uploaded it to You Tube. With their faces on full view.

And then there was the employee who threw a Satsuma at the head of the call centre causing him to fall of his chair and split his head open on the corner of the desk.

Employees will do dumb stuff at work and on social media, because they are human beings, and sometimes, human beings are dumb. We do things that don’t make sense. We do things that are not good for us. We are not always rationale or sensible.

Here’s the thing. When it comes to social media at work, all the restrictions and the policies and the surveillance in the world won’t stop it. But on the way to trying, you might just lose something. So on balance, if employees do something dumb on social media, it really isn’t the end of the world.

And just as with the employee caught stealing, or over-claiming expenses, or misusing any of the other technology they have access to, or indeed any of the other things that fall under the scope of the disciplinary policy (up to and including dismissal) then we will deal with it. Just the same as in HR, we always have.

Note to readers: all the above examples are over ten years old. So anyone I have worked with recently can stop wondering who had the trousers incident.

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.

Chips Shops, Orang-utans and Trade Unions

This blog was prompted by a great conversation with the wonderful  Perry Timms and Julie Drybrough in a chip shop, late one evening in Manchester.  I’ll not lie, there was a drink taken.  Damiana Castle was there too, although once I started talking about the miners’ strike she arranged a lift home.  Funny that.

Before I tell you about the chip shop chat, I want to share something said to me recently by a long standing trade union official, a man for whom I have the utmost respect.  He said to me that trade unions were like Orang-utans.  Years ago, people started to attack their territory, but they did nothing but hang on to the same trees.  Time went by, and more trees were cut down.  Now they are just hanging onto the last few tree tops in the forest.  They are now critically endangered, and only time will tell if they can avoid becoming extinct.


Whether you agree with his sentiment, I think this is an interesting metaphor.  In some ways it echoed the chip shop conversation, although I recall we stopped short of likening trade union officials to primates.  We talked about the employee voice.  Where is its future?

Rewind a decade or two, and the trade union movement was the voice of the working man and woman.  Trade Union leaders were household names.  Their influence on the political agenda was significant.  I’m not going to tell you things you probably already know about the decline of TUs, changes in the 1980s.  But we sit here with today TU membership hovering around the 6m mark, a big chunk of which is in the public sector.  Underneath that top line number, there is the interesting but unsurprising statistic that only 10% of all 16-24 year olds are members of a trade union.

Think of the business scandals of late.  Where did the pressure come from to make Starbucks put their hand in their pocket to pay some tax?   Where was the noise?  Answer: Social Media. It came from the consumer voice (idea © Perry Timms).   If the employees or unions did voice an opinion I will confess to having missed it.

Everyone knows I don’t have much time for the age stereotyping that we call #generationblah, but if you are 18 years old today, entering the job market for the first time, what would make you join a trade union?  If the unions fail to make themselves relevant to this cohort then my union colleague might well have a point about extinction.

I am offering no answers in this blog, only posing questions, but I hope to start some debate.  Hopefully it is topic that Perry and I are going to do some further work on in the future, along with a few others we have strong armed along the way.  So here are the questions:

  • What are the wider societal implications of having a declining trade union voice?  It is easier as HR practitioners to enjoy the day to day ease of a weaker TU, but what of the bigger picture?
  • Do you agree that trade unions are critically endangered, like my friend suggests?
  • How can trade unions make themselves relevant to young workers entering the job market?
  • If the Trade Unions stops, or has stopped, being the voice of the worker, then what replaces it?  Is the consumer voice taking over?

I can’t claim all of these questions and ideas.  I think they were generated by the chips.