Advancements in ERP system technology provide us with tremendous visibility into our operations, and the 2.0 world is embracing transparency in all matters. Information is accessible about all aspects of our work and our lives: the scheduling of our manufacturing operations, the dimensions of the parts we make, the financial viability of our customers and suppliers, and details – personal as well as professional - about our employees and partners.
In HR we’re familiar with “don’t ask , don’t tell”: don’t ask if a candidate is married, don’t tell if an employee has a medical condition. Our ERP system provides access to the HR information we need: workforce (payroll and benefits) information, skills, training and certification; applicant tracking, job descriptions, work-related injury and illnesses. Social media (in the 2.0 world) has brought additional information about all our employees and applicants to our desktops, via any number of social and professional media sites.
We have visibility, but how much transparency is appropriate from an HR perspective?
HR professionals are hard-pressed to provide guidance on these topics. We have to consider:
- Employee media usage (do we want employees “tweeting” at work? how much so?
- Recruiting policies (to use or not to use information about candidates gained via the web?)
- Just what information can be told to the hiring managers (if it’s posted on the web, can we ask about it?)
Old rules don’t apply and new rules are vague; just a few months ago most pundits recommended great caution when doing an internet search for information about a candidate and to “not friend” employees. It was believed that information gleaned via these sources was unreliable, not intended for the HR audience, or subject to interpretation (an employee calls in to work “sick” and subsequently posts to their social media site that they are out and about).
A few years ago a hiring manager informed me that she had “Googled” a candidate and discarded this candidate based on the public information they had posted to their social media website. In another example, an executive was reviewing posts linked to the company name when he spotted a link to an employee who had posted information about a personal legal matter. It came up because the employee was linked to both the company name and the information they had posted, perhaps imprudently, about their legal problems. At the time, I cautioned both against sharing the fact that they had accessed this information at all.
Now, however, experts promote transparency, to accept this free-flowing of information and relationships as part of the new model, much like enterprise management systems allow visibility into every aspect of business operations. Participants (executives, employees, candidates) must be tacitly aware that information is available on a public forum, and they have a choice of whether to post information “publicly”, or more privately to “friends”. An individual can establish a “personal brand”, being personal and professional at the same time, allowing professional colleagues glimpses into a personal life, such as the music listened to or the books read, in order to build deeper relationships with business associates. According to Mitch Joel (“Six Pixels of Separation”), “the best connections are real and authentic”. In order to grow your business, “you are going to need a way to understand more about the individuals you are connecting to.” This philosophy promotes validity; participants are accountable for the information they post, about themselves, their company, and the products they represent. This requires a great deal of trust, diligence, and a degree of caution.
The growth of issues such as this in HR mirrors the growth of the enterprise-wide perspective. The more inclusive and integrated the perspective, the more all of our relationships promote ourselves as well as the enterprise.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you “friend” colleagues and business associates? Do you ever skip work and post on your social media that you went to the beach? On second thought, don’t answer that… Your HR manager doesn’t want to know.