Mitigating risk with HR social engagement platforms

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Posted by Chris Hediger

November 15, 2011

Recently, we talked about UpMo and Rypple, two human resources social engagement platforms, as we've coined them, that seem to be making traction in companies. The concepts behind them are solid: harness the power of social networking platforms and apply them to internal HR functions.

In the case of UpMo, the platform seeks to align talent management with employee capabilities and existing projects. With Rypple, the performance management process is enhanced through the immediacy of a social networking platform. In both cases, there are obvious benefits to the new means to engage employees.

As I've been thinking about these tools, I've come to the conclusion that they are potentially good additions. But they pose inherent threats that need to be managed effectively to ensure they don't cause more harm than good.

Digital social networks are the norm for most workers. Workers are familiar with these networks causing the already-blurred line between personal networks and professional ones to become hazier every day. Aside from the fact that someone who is private by nature might be put off by having to engage with these tools to be part of the corporate environment, some other HR concerns can arise.

Initially, in taking a look at UpMo, I was concerned about the deleterious effect the tool might have on those not selected to participate in a desired project. The intent of the tool is to open opportunities to employees who might otherwise be outside of a project manager's line of vision. The manager can find people with the right capabilities to fill a project need, and employees can volunteer for specific projects.

In larger companies, this can result in multiple applicants who might or might not qualify for the position. The process might have a negative effect on those who are rejected. This is further complicated if those who are rejected are of a protected class. If there is an endemic issue regarding minority opportunities, then this might be a good way to expose and address this concern.

If there is not, it might expose the company to difficult legal issues unless its reasoning is well documented. The key point is that the process needs to be managed effectively to minimize risk.

Rypple might have similar challenges. Feedback is one of the most useful tools to improve the behavior and performance of employees. The casual nature of the social network, however, can allow managers and employees a more free expression of performance than what might be healthy.

According to Ken Burbary, the average Facebook user sends out 90 pieces of content per month. Multiply that times the number of employees and their average tenure in months, and you can see that there is an atomically large number of chances to write the wrong thing. It is one thing to post something carelessly on a social media site outside the company. It's quite another to post something equally careless on an officially sanctioned internal site that's expressed purpose is to provide feedback.

This is not to say that the tools are dangerous or detrimental to a company's best interest. Companies just need to be cognizant of the risks and ensure that the tools their employees might want to use are managed effectively to provide the benefits they promise.


Topics: Staff Management

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