CIPD Conference: Social media can't be controlled, so embrace it, HRDs urged
David Woods, November 10, 2011
Social media is here to stay, Neil Morrison, group HR director at publishing company Random House Group, told delegates at the CIPD Conference in Manchester. He added: "My personal view is that you can control social media no more than you can control what people think and say. There is no plan B - technology is going to progress, but social media is here to stay: the only choice is how to manage it."
Morrison explained that, during his one-hour address, five million 'tweets' would be uploaded onto the social media site, Twitter. He pooh-poohed the idea that using social media at work could lead to an IT breakdown, explaining more viruses are spread through email than social networks.
He added: "Why would you want to police social media? Policies don't work. People want to prevent what they don't understand – and what they fear. But a news report about a sacked employee will reach hundreds more people than a Facebook update.
"The options are to ignore social media, fruitlessly resist it or engage with it. There is a huge opportunity for HR departments to lead the conversation on social media. But do we have the confidence? Do we have the influence?
"In the US, HRDs are far more visible on social media and I have found it invaluable for my development, improved thinking, business leads, recruitment and networking. None of this is rocket science.
"At Random House, we encourage the environment and educate on it. Across Facebook and Twitter, more than four million people 'like' or follow us worldwide and we can engage with people in a way that was cumbersome – if not impossible – before."
Closing, Morrison said: "Inevitably, sometimes staff will use social media for personal use – and we are OK with that."
Following Morrison, Matthew Hanwell, HR director, community and social media at mobile phone manufacturer Nokia, added: "We have 60,000 employees across the world. We wanted a dialogue between employees and HR and I wanted to respond to staff questions within 24 hours.
"Now, using social media, employees say what they think and we know about it. It allows leadership to understand and address the strength of feeling. We want to move to openness and transparency, encouraging a challenging mindset – the bottom line results will come after."
Follow HR magazine on Twitter @hrmagazine and keep up to date with the news from the CIPD Conference at #cipd11.