HR – social or anti-social?

It is the time of year that many HR people dread – party season. We see the inevitable articles advising everyone how to behave at Christmas functions and agonise over whether we should attend the staff party.

And if we do attend, what is the right strategy? Do we:
• Make a cursory appearance and slip away early back to the cats, the knitted cardigan and an organic salad without being noticed?
• Stay to the end to make sure no one does anything silly while avoiding getting cornered next to the stale French sticks and cheese by some drunken idiot who wants to re-litigate his recent written warning?
• Party hard with the best of them? Or,
• Simply not attend at all because it’s not really appropriate for HR to socialise with the staff?

HR by its very nature is inherently anti-social. We don’t hog the limelight, we tend not to get singled out by the leadership team for our great project delivery, we choose our friends very carefully and try not to get too close to people in the organization so that we aren’t conflicted when we have to do bad stuff to them.

For every ten good things we do, it all gets overshadowed by that one payroll cock up, the disappointing salary review round or those unavoidable redundancies. HR are crap and can’t be trusted, right? No wonder we lack confidence in our profession.

There has been a lot of debate recently about “social HR” and what that means. As more and more HR people embrace social media as a networking and learning method, we’ve become obsessed with words like community and collaboration and, as humans tend to do, we develop a need/sense of belonging with these online communities.

UK blogger Neil Morrison has recently suggested, and not for the first time, the social HR community is somewhat smug and that we need to be taking the debate beyond how many interesting people we’ve connected with and the community feel it all has. And you know what, he’s quite right in many ways.

He says we need to “start talking about how social tools can be used to better engage with employees, better engage with job seekers and create value within the organization. We need to be innovating, piloting, experimenting and seeing how we can harness the technology that is being placed in our hands.”

Like Neil perhaps, I have started to think a lot more lately about what “social HR” actually means or could mean.

For example, it has become apparent to me recently that many people in my organization actually read my blog. I know because they’ve told me. This shocked me initially because I always assumed my audience for this stuff was just fellow HR and recruitment types. And other than LinkedIn, I’m not posting links to it where most staff would see it. 12 months ago the thought would have horrified me.

But then, why would they not read it? Why should staff in my organization not be interested in my views on things? This then begs the question of how HR comes out of our collective shell to embrace and engage in a more social way with our internal stakeholders.

Like social HR itself, my thinking on all of this is still evolving. I see there is an opportunity to position HR differently and lead on developing a social media culture that is internally focused. I just don’t know yet what that that looks like or how it can work beyond the “but we’ve introduced Yammer” mindset.

Is it about communication, is it about social tools, conversation, meshing it seamlessly with your external SoMe branding? All of those things? I don’t have the answers yet, but I’m thinking about it.

In the meantime, I will keep engaging, interacting and networking with people externally who I think will help me get to the answer through whatever means I can, and calling out HR bullshit where I see it. I don’t care if it comes across as smug, I get a lot more out of it than warm fuzzies.

And yes, if you are wondering, I did go to the staff Christmas party. I socialised until late and did shots with the best of them. It was a great night. But then I don’t own a cat or a cardigan.

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