As companies identify more areas where social software can be put to use, the push to launch social software solutions from IT departments and specialty departments grows stronger. Many IT directors see social software as an opportunity to raise their profile, and departments from marketing to product development push adoption driven by their basic goals and responsibilities.
But one department is missing from this clamor, even though social software adoption would appear to be in its best interests. I’m talking about Human Resources (HR).
HR departments have to deal with a number of challenges. On the one hand, they have the Facebook generation employees who automatically bring their social web behavior and work styles with them to the company.
On the other side is a sizable number of 40- to 55-year-old employees. They are part of the email generation and it won’t be long before they retire. It is important to preserve their knowledge and expertise for the company’s future. A 2012 study by Initiative D21 and TNS Infratest identified this generational division and showed that this is exactly what distinguishes how these two age groups work. The first camp wants and demands social software on the job and is used to transparent sharing. The second often refuses to use the social web, even outside of work, and has always relied on e-mail to meet its needs.
Preserving employee expertise is going to be a challenge in both cases. One is moving towards retirement and the other is far more willing to change employers -- unlike their older colleagues, who often stayed with the same company for their entire career.
I see this where I work too. A lot of young coworkers say, “I’ve been here for three, four, five years and I’m ready for something new.” And then they’re gone -- just when they’ve learned the ropes and become productive.
Preserving employee knowledge is not the only area where these rapid turnover rates present challenges for companies; they also need to quickly bring new hires up to speed so they can become productive (a process known as onboarding). And to hold on to them, they need to continue to motivate and educate them. The longer the qualified employees stick around, the more the company will benefit and profit from them. Keeping the most talented workers on board for the long term is becoming one of the most important jobs of HR departments.
HR has to address these issues and social business tools can help them meet the requirements of the modern working world. Social businesses put employees at the center -- and that is one of the oldest and most essential jobs of the HR department. It’s not hard to think of many different areas where HR can leverage the work styles and communication styles of the social age: