HR Begins to tap the Potential of Social Business Software

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  HR Begins to tap the Potential of Social Business Software  
  By Namrata Murlidhar, Jive Software  

Social business software increasingly serves as the enterprise's real-time business hub, delivering the velocity, authenticity, engagement and transparency required to compete in an economy that has gone global and social. No longer just a tool for sales enablement or marketing and corporate communications, social business software has become a tour de force for recruiting, employee onboarding, employee engagement, human capital management and employee communications. In this article, we will talk about how social business software can empower HR organizations to manage the entire employee lifecycle, from cradle to grave, attracting top talent, accelerating the onboarding process, engaging employees and effectively capturing "tribal" knowledge from separating employees.

As business networks go virtual, social networking sites such as Linkedin, Twitter, JobVite and Facebook are reshaping the face of recruiting - leveling the playing field for talent and democratizing the buzz about companies. Human Resources organizations, some more willingly than others, are jumping feet first into this new technology, which represents an increasingly attractive alternative for both active and passive recruitment of job candidates.

In parallel, lines of businesses are bringing the business version of social networking - social business software - in-house and reinventing the work environment. The most essential characteristics of this software - which incorporates features of social networking, collaboration and community development - are transparency and the free flow of information. Enterprises embracing social business strategies create an open workplace environment that emphasizes employee trust and autonomy as an alternative to hierarchical command-and-control management. It serves to align employees across teams, departments, geographic locations and time zones around common business objectives and imperatives, encouraging engagement and improving productivity.

Social business strategies are driving a tectonic shift in HR management practices - and not just because the enterprise needs HR's help to drive adoption and establish policies and procedures. Over time, the power of social business software to address HR's key challenges will make social business software HR's new best friend.

The HR Conundrum: Workforce Mobility
Workforce mobility has reached new levels: more than 25 percent of all workers in the United States have been with their company less than one year and more than 33 percent less than two years. On average, American workers will change jobs 10 times between ages 18 and 37, according to the Babson Working Knowledge Research Program. Clearly, this impacts every facet of HR's job, from attracting talent and onboarding employees through building a productive, engaged workforce and capturing institutional knowledge before it walks out the door.

Let's look at how social business software can address HR's key challenges in this new, breakneck environment. Attract and hire top talent. Every day, professionals bypass corporate websites and look to people like themselves on social networks for referrals and recommendations about companies and employment. It's a fundamental shift in how people connect and how they look for work. Social business software helps HR organizations take full advantage of this shift by adding a social dimension to the corporate website and allowing recruiters to monitor social networking sites and engage with candidates in real-time. As a valuable differentiator in the workplace, social business software also helps HR win the talent war for the best Gen Y candidates, for whom it is a real selling point.

Efficiently onboard new talent.
Onboarding processes have become woefully inadequate under the strain of today's high employee churn; it takes six months in most organizations for employees to become productive - and often longer for employees of acquired companies, who need to be onboarded en masse. Social business software raises organizational awareness and helps new employees find and connect to people, information, and processes quickly, significantly accelerating their time to value.

Surface resources.
The difficulty in surfacing valuable skills and expertise has grown exponentially as enterprise footprints expand globally. The robust profiling, tagging, and search features offered by social business software simplify the planning and deployment of resources locally and globally and help employees connect with specialized resources. With social business software, enterprises have a centralized platform to find expertise, people or content, and unlock years of knowledge in minutes.

Engage your employees.
Industry-leading executives understand intuitively that employee engagement - feeling connected and personally invested in making a contribution - is the lifeblood of a productive organization. Social business software offers a high-discourse, high-visibility work environment that increases employee engagement by breaking down silos, encouraging cross-functional collaboration and aligning efforts to help employees perform as a single, cohesive company. All you need to do now is start a discussion thread or an idea or poll to hear what your colleagues have to say.

Capture institutional knowledge.
The inability to transfer the wisdom of seasoned knowledge workers to the rest of the organization before they separate from the company is a major issue as the world shifts to a knowledge-based economy. Systematically capturing the information in people's heads is no easy task. Social business software uniquely streamlines this effort by capturing documents, discussions, ideas, meeting notes - most day-to-day business operations - on a central, highly searchable online platform.

Social Business Software at Work
Today's HR organizations are more influential than ever in the enterprise roll-out of social business software, playing a key role in encouraging a broader culture of collaboration while setting up a framework that respects privacy. Let's look at a few real-world examples of social business at work for a broad range of organizational and strategic goals dear to the heart of HR.

CSC is a consulting, systems integration, and outsourcing company with over 92,000 employees and customers in over 90 countries. In a six-month pilot of their social business software platform, CSC demonstrated a clear linkage to their strategic objectives, which included:

  • Establishing new employee "buddy" and onboarding programs,
  • Greater ease in locating and engaging internal experts to facilitate collaboration,
  • Collaborating more broadly to drive process efficiencies, and
  • Reducing cycle time for proposal development to reduce customer acquisition costs.

Sprint Nextel, who serves more than 48 million customers worldwide, launched a social business platform to achieve the following business objectives:

  • Educate employees about new products, services and pricing plans, and the nuances of the wholesale business model;
  • Build grassroots support for changes to the customer satisfaction survey in their retail operations; and,
  • Educate and engage employees in a dialogue about their corporate strategy.

Swiss Re deployed social business software globally to improve collaboration, increase the cohesion of their matrix organization structure and deal with the complexity of combining diverse expertise in the design of products and solutions. They established a governance and policy framework to mitigate risk by emphasizing code-of-conduct compliance and instructing that business records and private data are not to be stored in the new system.

Social business software is a powerful platform that HR can apply to the employee lifecycle - from attracting talent, onboarding, engagement, communication, and retention to the sharing and storing of knowledge. Social business software truly has the power to change HR's role within an organization and become the enabler of a motivated, engaged workforce.


About the Author
Namrata Murlidhar is a senior product marketing manager at Jive Software, responsible for marketing the company's employee engagement platform. She has five-plus years of experience in the social media, collaboration and enterprise software industry. She came to Jive from EMC Documentum, where she was responsible for marketing seven products that generated US$16 million in revenue annually. Namrata has been quoted in the Financial Times, eWeek and related content management and technology publications. She has also spoken at several conferences, including Enterprise 2.0, EMC World, Gartner PCC and, soon, JiveWorld 2010. She has an M.B.A. from Boston University and is a member of the American Marketing Association, Silicon Valley. Her Twitter handle is @NamrataM.

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