From HR Executive Online’s report about the HR in Hospitality conference:

It’s incumbent on HR leaders to take advantage of the opportunity, [conference speaker Adam Clarke from Travelport] said, by utilizing Web 2.0 and social networking to emotionally connect to employees.

“Increasingly, our personal and work lives are intermingling and part of that is this social media phenomenon,” Clarke said.

Successful initiatives in that vein will provide transparency to employees, collaboration throughout the organization and the ability for feedback to be given and received.

The line between the individual and the organization is blurring. Think about it – organizations are social constructs; what we consider an organization is the product of our situational role definitions. A speaker at a conference might consider himself to be a representative, or to use a more Hobbesian metaphor, the voice of organization X.  If the same person goes to a private party in the evening, he might think of himself as a person who also happens to be working at X.

Social media strongly increases the ability of organizations’ member to interact with stakeholders and adds new roles to their personal repertoire. This changes the organizational construct: Suddenly, I’m a guy on Twitter who, among publishing haikus and restaurant reviews, starts to give tips to job seekers on how to apply to the company I work with. Is that part of my private life or my business role? Trick question – it’s both!

If organizations can explain to their members how to best navigate these uncharted role waters, they will create  powerful vectors of distributed organizational communication: Enthusiastic employees (yes, they exist!) will want to share their pride about what their company is doing, and use social media to do so. Internally, the drive to get things done and help others will lead to employees use social media to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and answer questions.

My advice to organizations:

  1. Embrace that employees are willing to share their views on social media. It’s a good thing.
  2. Make the rules on how to do so clear and easy. Ask employees to use their heads, help them to navigate tricky legal areas, and provide examples on what’s ok and what’s not.
  3. Accept that this is a learning process.  Some things have to go wrong in order to go right later on.
  4. Monitor what’s happening. Share what works and what doesn’t, and intervene carefully when something goes wrong.
  5. Build an internal social media structure – it’s a safe space to learn.

What do you think  – how will the nature of organizations change because of social media?

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