Lots of Fear in the HR C-Suite

Today marks the kick-off of a new project called #NoFearHR between my good friend Mike VanDervort and I as we begin a dialogue on the impact of social media and Human Resources. Be sure to check out his terrific blog for his reaction once he sees today’s post.

Hey Mike,

Something has been bothering me for a while and I just can’t hold back any longer. I’ve been looking around the social media landscape and I don’t see very many Human Resources Executives participating. Sure, they’re spending money on new ATS products, facebook ads (sometimes) and generally talking about how important a social media strategy is for their company. But candidly, I don’t see many stepping up and walking the social media talk. And it’s bothering me.

I understand that a good corporate image is absolutely essential. In the post-Enron era it seems the spin doctors are busier than ever managing every customer facing contact point imaginable. Quite honestly I think that is the right thing to do…from an official corporate perspective. But what about those leaders inside the company that might help balance the corporate spin with a voice that is a bit edgy or confrontational or real? Specifically, what should the Human Resources executive do in this situation?

Playing It Safe is Lame

The safe play is obviously to hide behind the press releases and stumble out of the office every night dizzy from so much spin. But somehow that doesn’t seem right to me. The Human Resources leader is supposed to be focused on the success of the business and the employees. Right? Employees are bright, committed, and paying attention to everything that happens in the workplace. They don’t speak in press release language, or God forbid, ever use the word synergy on purpose. So who is going to keep the conversation “real” if the HR executive doesn’t?

No one, that’s who.

Social Risk or Social Reward
Enter social media into this mix. Five years ago I worried about the perception of company wide emails I had to release. Now I send more than a dozen messages per day to the universe via twitter, facebook, foursquare and LinkedIn. That’s a huge change in a short period of time. While all of those messages are not specifically directed to employees, they all can certainly track them. Does that pose a risk for me? For my company? For Human Resources?

Yes, yes and yes.

But there is an upside that simply can not be ignored. It is so incredibly obvious, and I believe essential for the modern Human Resources Executive that it must be incorporated into everyday life. Embracing social media specifically as a Human Resources leader does more than open up your own world (which it does to a degree that is impossible to accurately describe.) It allows for one of the primary links between the employees and the company to be accessible, real…to be human. Does that create a huge opportunity for me? For my company? For Human Resources?

Yes, yes and yes.

What Do You Think
I’m not sure how you see it from your perspective Mike, but it seems to me HR leaders are missing a huge opportunity to jump into the modern world of social leadership. Sure there’s a downside, but everything has a downside. I’d like to find some other HR leaders at the top of their organizations who are willing to actually step up and engage in the fast-paced, and permanent world of social media.