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The Importance Of 'Social' Working

Giles O’Halloran explains how social technology is making work happen…

Most people think of social technology as purely social media – the world of Facebook and Twitter - but although these can play a part in the business world, there is much more value in the wider world of social technology and companies are starting to realise this. For one, they connect people across different functions and skillsets, in order to organise and get things done. That connecting of capability, minds and people is what really matters.

There are a few key areas that this piece will therefore focus on – how social technology is used to recruit, develop and assess people or how it can be used to make work more flexible and engaging.

So let’s take a look at how social technology is being used and give you some ideas about how you could use it in the world of work.

Social Recruitment

More and more employers, organisations and recruiters are using social platforms to recruit people. Why? Quite simply, they are often either cheap or free to use, allow greater access to talent beyond simple CV databases or jobsites, and can save a great deal in terms of recruitment costs. I know, because I have used social over the last few years to recruit people and managed to reduce the cost of executive recruitment for one business by around 97%. That is how powerful it can be.

Social technology is not just social media – it is any technology that allows people to share, create, access, and communicate content or ideas across distributed platforms. It can be your LinkedIn and Twitter, but it can also be apps such as Coffee, GitHub, and Seelio – there are lots of different platforms and technologies that allow people to interact and share content, and it is via these technologies that both people and organisations find work or the talented people to do the work. These networks allow social interaction electronically and get both sides speaking to one another, sometimes continents apart.

In the same light, work does not just mean full time work. It could be freelance, part time, flexible, contract, micro-work – work comes in many forms. Work brokerages like Odesk, Freelancer and Guru are therefore on the rise, offering a trading platform for companies and freelancers to engage with one another across a myriad of skills and capabilities. Odesk alone has been reported to help 3 million organisations engage 10 million freelancers. This is how powerful social is becoming, not only allowing individuals to profile their skills in a global talent marketplace, but also giving companies the chance to tap into these global talent pools from a laptop or other mobile technology.

Social Learning

Not only are people and organisations using social platforms to recruit, they are also using them to train and learn. Take a look at YouTube as an example. You can find lots of interesting and educational content on there – and it is free. Organisations passionate about free and shared learning like the Khan Academy use YouTube to share their educational videos and feeds. These types of organisations are not ‘fly by night’ either – the Khan Academy has been going for almost 9 years and has secured around $2 million of funding from YouTube alone to produce rich, shared learning content.

The simple truth is that learning and how we learn is changing. It is no longer simply a pedagogic way of learning, where someone stands up and teaches a class in the traditional sense. We are now self-directed learners, we use online resources and P2P options to learn. The rise of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) means people can attend courses online and are earning credits that can in time qualify them for certifications, diplomas and even degrees.

This type of learning is also accessible anywhere and anytime, with apps like Blackboard Learn allowing educational courses and content to be fed directly to students without the need to attend a seminar in person!

The use of platforms to distribute learning, access to webinars and all the other great things that people can do to learn from one another whilst connected online is now possible from a computer or a mobile. This is how things have been going for a few years, and more people are looking at this kind of learning model to help develop themselves, their peers or their organisation.

Social Performance

This is quite a new addition to the social portfolio, but one that is expanding. Many companies or organisations rely on the good, old annual appraisal process to score people for potential bonuses or promotion. This is a drawn out process, often taking a lot of time and reduced to what many perceive as a simple political or box-ticking exercise, when so much value could be extracted from the process.

So, social performance apps can and have been changing this mindset in a big way. Why? Because these types of apps allow people to provide feedback anytime and anywhere, a constant way of helping people develop as they progress and also learn from others. It is quite a new way of doing things but some apps are already in the marketplace and being used to great effect to help people and their organisations truly develop talent and an engaged, high performing work environment. They are embedded in the learning of the individual, helping them achieve their potential and therefore increasing their capability and engagement at work. It is a win-win for both sides of the equation – both employee and employer.

Social Working

Social platforms can potentially change the working practices of some professions and jobs, but more importantly, they allow people to truly work flexibly with a real focus on output. Think about it, being able to interact with others directly – share information, ideas, chat and other ways of communicating instantly via an online or mobile technology embedded in your laptop, tablet or phone – means that work can be done anywhere, any time and this is at the heart of true flexible working. People can tailor their work to their best working environment, with a true focus on the outputs or outcomes, not where and how work is done.

This type of working opens up employment opportunities to a much wider audience – those who might need to be based from home due to care commitments or children, those who might be disabled or who are unable to leave home. Allowing work to be distributed and accessible to many by technologies such as social intranets and networks means that there is a real opportunity to change work into a more positive place and where people feel more engaged, connected to others and that make distance negligible.

Social Engagement

This then leads on to the engagement piece. One of the big things that employers in the UK feel they need is a greater sense of employee engagement. It is this that makes people work harder and do great stuff – so it benefits both sides of the equation. Social technology can help organisations achieve this as it allows people to feel connected, interact with others, contribute at all levels and to organise as teams to get stuff done – often under their own steam as they feel motivated to do so.

The beauty of this technology also means it is not just for office workers on PC or laptops. Social technology can be deployed on tablets and mobile phones, so people can stay connected in whatever organisations or industries they operate. The truth of the matter is, most people have the technology to do this in their pocket, they just need the app and support of the employer to make it happen – and everyone then benefits. So much could be achieved by some simple changes in mindset and working practices.

Making A Difference

So, as you can probably tell, I see real opportunity in social technology. As an HR professional and a freelancer, I am working with organisations to try and help them think about this and use the often free tools and technology out there to make a real difference to how work is being done. I therefore advise you to consider what this could mean for you in terms of work, the job you do or might do, and start thinking about whether you need to develop these skills and capabilities that could truly enhance your work, your career and future opportunities.

About The Author

Giles is an experienced HR and Recruitment professional who works as a freelance consultant, strategist, writer and coach. He started his HR career with IBM after first reading Modern Languages at Warwick University and becoming a successful technology recruiter He has since worked in other senior HR roles across Europe, advised at Board level, and implemented both strategic and operational HR business solutions.

He also spent 12 years as a reservist with the UK's Reserve Forces, serving first with the TA and later with the RAuxAF. Giles focuses on career transition support for individuals (CVs/Resumes, LinkedIn, Interviews, Networking etc.), and effective people solutions for organisations (HR strategy, Talent, HR Technology, Digital HR, HR Mentoring/Business Partnering and Outplacement services) and has worked across a wider variety of diverse sectors.



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