Just what is social?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I saw a tweet on my timeline the other week linking to a story on the BBC website which piqued my interest. In the past I might have noted it and thought about how we might try something similar. This has changed now in the new social age as agility and informal approaches rise to the fore.

I spoke with someone in my work about it and we thought it might be worthwhile to find out more. They went down the ‘traditional’ path; after a couple of days they got an email address for somebody else in the organisation who ‘might’ be able to put me in touch with the people from the story.

I don’t work in this way any more. I did a bit of research and looked up the senior talent and resourcing manager Richard Waite via Twitter and LinkedIn and made the connection. I explained what I’d read and was curious about the background to the story. Richard and I corresponded for a few days and arranged to meet – all done on social channels. We met this week and I was able to, in real life, discuss queries I’d raised online. It seemed entirely natural and the way things are done now.

This immediacy of communication is enabled by the technology that we use but is also indicative of a different mindset – a mindset of looking up and out from organisations, rather than within and down.

In our conversation, Richard and I discussed how his approach was more suited to looking for different skills. He highlighted that passing tests had been regarded as a required skill but something that the graduates and trainees he was recruiting might do up to a dozen times in their career. We agreed that the new skills are about engaging with people from a range of sectors and organisations, about creating networks of peers and colleagues to provide advice and guidance, and about building communities of interest and practice.

If this is social, if this is the new way of work, I worry how prepared both L&D and HR are to meet this challenge. The need to facilitate should come easier to L&D but the underlying desire for control of both content and channels and lack of letting go – citing business relevance – does us no favours. More of a concern is how more traditional HR practice can adapt to meet this new approach. For many it will feel counter-intuitive; HR has been a gatekeeper for performance and people standards, establishing an employee brand through its oversight and perceived maintenance of organisational culture. If a more collaborative and collegiate approach is now required, is HR ready to relax some reins and give people capacity to work in a 21st Century way?

Let me know in the comments.

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