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Two reasons why HR needs to invest in social collaboration

By Angela Ashenden posted 06-19-2015 10:07


With its benefits including more effective and streamlined communications throughout the organisation and better connecting staff, it's perhaps not surprising that in many organisations a social collaboration initiative begins in the internal communications department; often it's in conjunction with a need to overhaul or reinvigorate the corporate intranet, or to support efforts to unify a disconnected and siloed organisation, perhaps following one or more acquisitions or mergers.


However, the benefits of social collaboration also offer great opportunities to the HR function, particularly in the context of driving better employee engagement, and supporting more effective sharing of knowledge and skills across the organisation. There are a couple of key use cases where social collaboration and HR have particular synergies - firstly around employee onboarding or induction, and secondly around social learning.


Onboarding is the most discrete example of the two, whereby organisations can accelerate and improve the time to effectiveness for an employee joining the organisation, by providing an explicit community-style environment where the new joiner can learn about his/her new role, find out more about the organisation and its culture and processes, and start to build a network of contacts throughout the organisation. Crucially, this process doesn't need to wait until the new joiner's first day as an employee; increasingly, organisations are building communities for employees to join as soon as they get confirmation that they are joining the firm. This pre-joiner community again provides information about the company and the processes the individual will need to go through when they join, but it also allows them to get to know others who may be starting at the same time - either in the same part of the organisation or elsewhere - and who will have similar questions as them, and helps to build reassurance to support the employees through their onboarding transition. Once they formally join, they transition into a second community which takes them through the next stage of becoming a live employee, while bringing that existing knowledge and network with them.


In contrast, social learning - which aims to enable ongoing learning through observing and questioning others and addressing the need for knowledge in a timely, pragmatic way - has the potential to leverage social collaboration technology in a much more open-ended manner. In the first instance, it provides a way to connect people to people, but in the second instance it creates a live, constantly updated knowledge base of information about processes, skills, opportunities and ideas that can be tapped into by everyone. Creating this network of people and information which spans the organisation allows individuals to learn, adapt and tune their abilities according to the needs of their current role, the evolving needs of the business, and their own aspirations for growth and career development.


Recognition of this opportunity among HR executives is really only just beginning, but this has the potential to become a key growth area for social collaboration, for one very good reason. One of the biggest challenges with social collaboration is measuring success, but when you approach its opportunities from an HR standpoint, there are actually some really obvious metrics you can start to consider. Staff retention is a great example; can you reduce employee attrition through improving employee engagement? Can you reduce the number of new joiners that leave within their first year by improving their onboarding and social learning experiences? Recruitment is a serious cost to the business, so if you can reduce unnecessarily having to replace staff, and improve the effectiveness and engagement of your current workforce, an investment in social collaboration is undoubtedly justified. Is your HR director thinking about this?


If you are considering an investment in technologies to support social collaboration in your organisation, or perhaps you need help with an initiative that's already under way, come to Making Social Collaboration Work in London on 15th October to get advice and ideas to help drive adoption from organisations who've already made social collaboration a success. Early bird tickets available until 31st July.

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