A decade ago, social media was predicted to be a passing craze that allowed teenagers to share what they had for breakfast. Today, it’s one of the most important factors employers consider when deciding to offer a candidate a position. No matter what size your association, it’s impossible to deny the massive impact social networks have had on today’s labor force. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are changing the way employers communicate with and evaluate their employees.
In a study conducted by CareerBuilder.com, 2,303 hiring managers and human resource professionals were surveyed, and 37% said to have used social networks to screen potential candidates. Compare that number to only 14% of employers who consider a cover letter to be important when evaluating someone for a position. By conducting a quick social network scan, associations can evaluate a candidate’s communication skills, interests, social activity, and past employment history. In the same study, 65% of employers said they use social media to see if the job seeker presents himself or herself professionally, and a whopping 34% claim they have found content that has caused them not to hire a candidate.
As social media networks have grown and become an even bigger influence throughout the corporate environment, some organizations have attempted to take drastic measures on the issue. Over the past couple of years, certain organizations have gone as far as requesting applicants’ and employees’ usernames and passwords to their personal social sites, such as individual Facebook accounts. Since this occurrence has been deemed a huge violation of privacy throughout the country, several states have passed legislation preventing employers from demanding access or passwords to personal social media accounts.
For job seekers, social media has become more than just a way to connect with others. It is now a way to portray themselves professionally to appeal to potential employers. However, using social media as an evaluation tool is a two way street. Job seekers use company Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts as a way to assess the legitimacy of an organization. Many young employees who belong to the millennial generation use social networks as a way to gauge how connected an association is within their industry. Smaller social networks such as Indeed, Vault, and Glassdoor.com allow users to rate and review organizations based on their employment experience.
Social media is not only affecting the job search process, it’s also starting to change the way we work. According to “Social Media in the Workplace Global Study,” 90% of companies now use social media for business purposes. What exactly those purposes are varies from organization to organization. For some it means creating profiles to establish a digital community with their members or customers. By doing this, associations are able to connect personally with their members and prospects. Other organizations see social networks (Twitter in particular) as a way to conduct customer service. By interacting with their members in real time they are able to provide more attentive customer service than ever before.
Zappos, a company recognized for their impressive Twitter customer service, has a reputation for going the extra mile by offering tips for customers and issuing refunds for defective items. By offering customer service via social networks, organizations are able to display their attentive service to their followers, a strategy that improves PR and builds member and customer loyalty. In addition, to keep staff aligned with the brand and principles, Zappos insists that all employees embrace the social culture as well. If, after starting their job, someone decides that they cannot align themselves with the culture, Zappos will pay them to leave their job. Amazon has followed suit and enacted a similar policy.
Larger organizations of all industries are beginning to spend significant resources on hiring “social media experts” that will work within their marketing department to use social networks to shape their organization. What was once designated to interns or entry level employees is now being taken on by high level marketing associates. But while many associations encourage the use of social media during work hours, an increasing number of organizations are beginning to establish social media policies that prohibit the use of certain (and in some cases all) social networks. According to “Social Media in the Workplace Global Study,” 57% of organizations prevent their employees from accessing one or more social media sites. This has sparked a management debate of policy that is leaving many organizations unsure of the correct strategy to implement. While many managers see social media blocks as a way to ensure productivity, data from the University of Melbourne suggests that employees with access to social networks are actually more productive than employees in organizations that block access.
Many employees see the activity of checking social media as a way to reward themselves in between tasks and admit that even when working under social media restrictions, they still find ways to circumvent them. Shel Holtz, co-author of Tactical Transparency, argues that social media policies are useless due to the fact that employees typically own tablet devices and mobile phones and are able to avoid the blocks.
So what can HR/Management do to make sure employees are able to use social media productively instead of wasting time? Shel argues that instead of blocking social media sites, organizations can take measures to encourage appropriate use of websites such as Facebook and Twitter during the work hour. Shel encourages organizations to offer social media trainings so employees understand the right way to utilize these sites. She even encourages organizations to provide grammar and spelling training to ensure that their employees are portraying their organization properly in the digital realm. This allows employees to establish digital relationships with other professionals in the industry and improves the overall connection of the organization.
With so many people on social media, it’s no wonder social media is starting to change the work force. The idea of digital privacy for both associations and employees has disappeared for better or for worse. With new social media websites that allow users to share their personality and experiences popping up every day, it is a safe assumption to say social media will continue to play an even larger role in the work force in the future.