shutterstock_77242135.jpg Is the point of becoming a Social Business really just about supporting Millennials and breaking down silos or is there more to it than that?

When social media and social networking initially entered the workplace, managers wondered how to effectively integrate these technologies into their standard work processes. Even as companies successfully used blogs, wikis and activity streams to accelerate information sharing, they struggled to effectively use these semi-structured and unstructured communications within applications that typically required data fields that were structured and defined.

As companies think about the future of social business, they must start to think about how social tools can be integrated with their existing applications and processes. Let’s think about what it really means to embrace the concept of the Social Business by looking at the one of the most social departments in a business: Human Capital Management.

Human capital management has become an important test case for the value of social technologies, since it combines highly sensitive information, tactical data used for payroll and other transactions, and holistic evaluations used to understand individual and group performance in context of other internal personnel and the external talent market.

Social platforms have been integrated with Human Capital Management solutions with mixed results in the past. The Successfactors acquisitions of CubeTree in May 2010 and Jambok in March 2011 hinted at a future where the entire value chain of human resources would gain a social component. However, these acquisitions ended up adding specific social features to Successfactors rather than an integrated social layer.

More recently, there have been additional market indicators that the HR software market is now truly ready to engage in a more social fashion. Salesforce has launched Rypple as a social performance management tool. Saba launched Saba People Cloud to integrate talent, learning and development, and collaboration.

Although these product launches show how areas of human capital management can be socialized, no HCM suite has truly provided a social layer that permeates throughout every level of functionality to improve organizational performance. What would social HCM truly look like as an integrated suite?

Talent Acquisition

As applicants enter the corporate evaluation process, they could become the hub of a social conversation revolving around each interviewer’s perspective and opinion. By integrating resume information, on-site and remote interview content, and any prior working experiences associated with each candidate, organizations could use activity streams, wikis and polls to provide more immediate and collaborative feedback regarding an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. This information could then be formatted into both a summary and dashboard of the applicant for further consideration.

Nucleus Research has found that hiring software can provide over 1,000 percent Return on Investment by reducing churn, improving candidate screening and increasing productivity with automated processes. Through social talent acquisition that takes all relevant quantitative and qualitative factors into account, the ROI associated with new talent solutions could be even higher.


Once an employee comes on board, she must learn how to work with appropriate contacts, access the right information, and learn new processes to get work done. Although a formal learning and development program is helpful, social communities can also identify informal communications habits and off-site activities that are necessary to effectively network within the company.

In addition, the employee could be “assigned” a social network based on the social maps of peers and comparable employees within the organization. This map could include recommended contacts, online teams and frequently used documentation to give an immediate head start rather than go through a weeks or months-long discovery process.

In essence, the network can come to the employee. This knowledge and network building could improve their retention rate in key roles by setting new employees up for success based on best practices that have been developed throughout the life of a social network or collaboration platform.

Learning and Development

How can organizations ensure that course material is remembered after the test? With a social approach, employees could be given reminders of key points or even get short pop quizzes that a community could engage with.

Social tools should not replace formal classes, but they can provide interstitial and frequent reminders without taking up an excessive amount of time. For instance, employees who are unable to provide the correct answer for a core compliance or security issue could potentially be reminded on a monthly basis rather than simply be tested once a year.

These frequent reminders are especially important as companies increasingly allow policies such as Bring Your Own Device, which often require voluntary employee compliance to keep corporate data safe.

Based on whether employees remember the right answers or not, companies could also provide immediate links to relevant policies. And if companies find over time that employees consistently do not remember core lessons, it may be time to re-think or strengthen the L&D approach.

Performance Management

One of the core challenges of social HR is in determining the efficacy of employee work. This input is often handled through 360 degree reviews or performance meetings on an annual basis where managers and employees struggle to remember accomplishments, struggles or lessons learned. As a result, one of the most important tools for nurturing and uptraining key employees is wasted because of inadequate inputs.

Typically, the only daily inputs associated with performance are from workforce management solutions. Nucleus has found that workforce management vendors have been advancing past simple time clock capabilities and have made a number of investments associated with mobility, workforce productivity and satisfaction, and analytics. However, these changes do not fully meet the need for comprehensive performance assessments.

Rather than continue this practice where substantial performance inputs may not contribute to employee evaluation, a social performance management effort would include continuous feedback, a clear definition of key performance indicators (KPIs) or management by objective (MBO), and a real-time view of performance based on current inputs and outputs.

This way, any noticeable differences between perceived and measured performance could be considered immediately rather than waiting for an annual or bi-annual meeting where positives and negatives could be tallied up. Although tools such as Rypple will help provide immediate input that can be saved for performance reviews, a fully social use of these comments would include project or work context, sentiment analysis and ways to grade or quantify the value of these comments.

Workforce Compliance

In laying down the law, employees may often be unaware of every rule in the HR handbook or employee employment agreement. To aid employees, key words or culturally inappropriate work topics may be automatically detected with an appropriate corporate response to remind employees about corporate expectations.

In addition, employees with specific governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) knowledge are more easily accessible in a social environment, which provides better answers when employees or departments are in questionable situations such as potential whistleblower situations. By combining social media, social networking and social analysis capabilities, workforce compliance becomes more transparent.

In each area of Human Capital Management, there is still room for social technologies to lead to substantial improvements. As companies seek to become Social Businesses, they must not be content to simply seek adoption of social tools or to make social platforms ubiquitous and easy to use.

Ultimately, they should have specific corporate goals in mind, such as those outlined here from a Human Capital Management perspective, and a defined course of action associated with deploying social tools and monitoring social information within the enterprise. By taking a focused and practical approach to the deployment of social networking tools, companies can start achieving real and measurable benefits as they become Social Businesses.

Title image courtesy of Michael D Brown (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Hyoun Park's thoughts on Social Business: