Human ResourcesThe effects of rapidly-evolving technologies are radically changing the modern working landscape, bringing with them not only new capabilities, but also more technologically-dependent working practices. In particular, many organisations are already noticing that the use of social media and networking, as well as the adoption of hand-held devices, is becoming ever more present – and accepted – in the business sphere.

According to Gartner, by 2014, internal social networking utilities will replace email as the primary form of communication in 20 per cent of enterprises. The analyst also expects that worldwide mobile connections will this year [2011] reach 5.6 billion, up 11 percent from 5 billion connections in 2010.

Next-generation cloud-based technologies are also, for many organisations, opening the door to business-focused remote working possibilities, as well as speeding-up day-to-day transactional activities and replacing paper-based documentation and other manual systems with time-saving, automated processes.

The additional capacity these efficiencies bring present a significant opportunity for the HR department to spend less hours engaged in time-consuming day-to-day activities and more time supporting the overall business agenda in a more active and strategic way.

Strength in Numbers

The potential value of collaborative technologies is considerable, particularly in providing a means to unlock the innovation process and improve the execution of work processes internally and between partners across organisations.

In this respect, as well as becoming an accepted alternative to – and even a replacement for – internal and external email, for the HR department, social media also holds great potential as a platform for driving employee engagement, as a talent acquisition tool and as an enabler of open communication and collaboration within an organisation.

Growing Influence

A new study conducted by the independent research specialist Fast Future further underlines the expectation that many businesses will continue to turn to technology. In the broader business agenda, this is likely to be with compliance and accelerating activity in mind.

Of the 200 professionals who worked across a range of business functions surveyed in the research, 90 per cent said that they expect, over the next decade, concerns over cost control, efficiency, compliance, data protection and records management to drive automation and rapid adoption of document and workflow management solutions.

Yet the growing popularity – and importance – of social media in the professional sphere was also highlighted strongly by 70 per cent of respondents who said they believe that firms will, in the near future, pay increasing attention to a candidate’s social media ‘influence rankings’ when recruiting.

In addition, 38 per cent also said that social media would be used internally to build employee engagement and increase retention over the next decade and beyond, while 32 per cent felt a key HR priority would be to use social media externally to promote the ‘employer brand’ and attract talent.

Social Media Equality?

As social media and collaborative technology grows in prevalence as a recognised and important part of day-to-day communication and activities, the challenge for HR teams now lies in preparing for the impact it may have on everything from culture and internal communications to recruitment and peer appraisal.

The fact that, in many organisations, the use of social networking tools by employees is still prohibited by company policy shows that there is still some way to go before the medium achieves widespread adoption. Despite the fact that they may be talking about reaching out via social media, denying employees the ability to do the same could be seen as a contradiction. And in this way, failing to implement a forward-thinking approach and strategy for social media may well prevent businesses and HR teams from exploiting its full potential.

Stephanie Bird, director of HR capability for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), agrees that not exploring the potential opportunities the medium brings is a mistake. “Social media are here to stay,” she says. “HR departments must embrace the Web 2.0 advances as an opportunity and not see them as a threat.”

Yet, while it’s clear that social media channels can and should be utilised by HR teams, in the recruitment process they could potentially pose a legal risk which personnel managers and corporate recruiters should be mindful of if they use social media to gather information about a candidate which could be viewed as confidential.

In future, professional use of the medium is likely to see greater legal guidelines and documentation requirements. These developments may well, however, result from legal actions taken by dissatisfied professionals who feel that their privacy has been infringed.

Mark Greatorex

Mark Greatorex


Mark Greatorex is a Software director at Hyland Software.