Social media as facilitator – Focus on the outcome not the usage
Social media and people-related outcomes
In my piece in the CIPD report ‘Harnessing Social Media for Organisational Effectiveness’ I focus on social capital and the opportunities social media provides to create this type of people-related outcome. I thought it might be useful to post here about why I think this is an important focus.
In particular, some people who know me, or read my blog etc, may be surprised by my suggestion in the report that social capital is probably a more important focus than human capital. After all, I am mainly known for my strategic thinking on human capital management (Strategic HCM)
However, I am increasingly convinced that social capital is the most important thing. And in fact my main reason for writing about HCM has only ever been to help shift the focus of the profession to outcomes (organisation, human and social capital) rather than just activities. (For me, strategic HCM has always been about managing people to accumulate human capital – it’s about managing people for human capital, not as human capital!).
Technology is a particular case in point. We should know by now that focusing on using technology, and the use of technologies to automate activities, just because we can, is seldom a good idea.
Take the history of e-learning. I was working as an HR Director at the start of the e-learning boom and I remember the firm I was working for committing to move 90% or more of its training provision onto e-learning within the next 10 years. Lots of other companies made similar sorts of plans. The result: a lot of poor delivery and bored, under skilled employees. What made e-learning work more effectively was when we started to think more about blended learning – and I think part of what helped us make this sort of shift was a change in focus from activities to outcomes – ie on building capable people, and then thinking about the best way to do this.
Social media is a particularly disruptive type of technology, but even so, I still think the same principle applies.
Please note however that I’m not saying you shouldn’t experiment with social technologies. These systems do often provide emergent benefits which you won’t be able to identify in advance of using them. It’s just that in my experience, these benefits usually pale against those you can achieve by more focused, outcome-based planning.
So just taking recruitment as an example, organisations can use a range of social media applications in what’s being called social recruiting. And there are a range of benefits for efficiency and effectiveness that organisations can get from this. But the real, transformational benefits come from creating social capital in the form of external pools and communities of individuals an organisation might want to employ, and can tap over time.
The same applies for HR’s support for organisational effectiveness (communication, collaboration etc). Once HR and business leaders have decided what sort of organisational outcomes will be most valuable, they will be better placed to decide on the forms of social media which will be most helpful to creating them.
In both of these cases, it’s the development of relationships / social capital / other outcomes which provide the important areas for focus – rather than implementing social recruiting, social communication etc just because you can.
When I started working independently I didn’t want to follow the traditional consultancy model and spend lots of time writing tender documents etc. Instead, I decided to focus on relationships, believing that if I did this, work would come. Fortunately the social media wave was just getting going and I was able to use this to my advantage. I still mainly measure success through relationships that social media creates rather than anything else.
So think about the outcomes you want to achieve. And then consider how social media can help you accomplish them. (And a hint: it will very often be able to play a very significant role.)
Jon Ingham - Consultant, Strategic Dynamics Consultancy
CIPD’s new Insight report Harnessing social media for organisational effectiveness is only available to those members who complete their membership renewal early (by 22 June) or who renew by Direct Debit. So if you have not already done so click
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