Download the full essay on how mobile & technology are changing HR as featured in J. Wiley & Son’s Summer 2012 issue of Employment Relations Today Journal by downloading here. I’ll be publishing the materials as part of an ongoing series on mobile recruiting and HR technology.
HOW MOBILE RECRUITING & TECHNOLOGY IMPACT HR
Social networks and technology are infiltrating every facet of our personal and work lives, and human resource professionals, senior leaders, and business executives are struggling to understand the full impact of this in the workplace. Some may feel that the explosion of social media and the technologies that support them pose a threat to productivity, security, and business culture.
A recent study released in March 2012 from Harris Interactive and ESET reported that more than 81 percent of employees work using their personal mobile device, with an increasing number of them working virtually or as part of a results-oriented work environment or work-from-home program. Add that to the 340 million tweets posted via the microblogging social-networking site Twitter.com and the conversations of nearly 900 million Facebook users, and it’s easy to see why these new engagement platforms demand our attention. However, instead of seeing the explosion of social media, which use smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices, as workplace liabilities, I propose that businesses embrace this new communication shift and new role of technology and learn how to use it in a way that advances business strategies and realizes business goals.
GENERATIONAL FACTORS AND THE NEW WORKFORCE
It is likely that four generations of workers are sharing the same workspace today—traditionalists, boomers, Generation Xers, and Generation Ys (millennials) are all likely working at your office, making the balance between employee engagement, recruitment, communication, and technology complicated. Millennials, born between 1984 and 2004 now outnumber their boomer parents in the workforce and in most cases are the driving factor in the rapid change in social media, mobile, and other technology adoption. Millennials, even more so than their Gen X predecessors, have had access to higher education as well as technology and grew up during an era of iTunes and the personal computer. The millennials’ childhood was based largely on familiarity with a wide range of technology, so it is understandable that their comfortableness with this same technology would shape the future of their workplace and life outside of work.
Because millennials are currently the largest group in the workforce and will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, HR professionals and business leaders must recognize them as a significant segment of their audience for current and future employment branding campaigns and recruitment and employment-engagement efforts.
WORKPLACE COMMUNICATION CHANNELS AND METHODS
Regardless of the generations represented at your office, there are essentially two types of communication channels: internal and external. These two channels are nothing new but help frame the different types of technologies described below for HR use and likely future trends.
Common internal communication mechanisms when I first began my professional career in 2001 included e-mail, interoffice mail, fax machine, company memos, scrolling employee message boards, and paycheck enclosures. Although the cell phone was in use, it was not yet mainstream. Texting was available but the costs were outrageous, as unlimited text packages had not yet become available to mobile phone users.
External messaging vehicles included the fax machine, press releases, newspaper articles, job-board postings, and online job boards and forums. Although blogging had been invented, it predated the first firing of an employee (Heather Armstrong aka Dooce) for mentioning employees in her blog.This incident was the first indicator that technology and the Internet, especially blogging, could spell trouble for employers and their employees.
In the current social-media- and technology-based workplace communication technologies and best practices are nearly as different and varied as the millennials, who are most familiar with the newest technologies. Current internal communication vehicles still e-mail, fax, and interoffice mail, but these do not appeal to the millennials’ world of work. Many of the newest internal communication tools used today (e.g., microblogging platforms, internal social networks, wikis, and internal instant-message services) are similar to their external counterparts except that they are private and secure tools to reach employees in a way that best suits their lifestyles and interests. These internal tools offer a way to reach employees instantly without the hassle, character/word-filled, and time-consuming channels like e-mail. Internal social networks have also experienced a rise in popularity, offering employees and managers a knowledge-share opportunity and a virtual collaboration platform that keeps e-mail inboxes from being overwhelmed.
Also, mobile services and platforms are being developed to reach employees regardless of their location. Managers and employees can connect securely without being tied to a desktop or laptop computer. And because, as mentioned previously, 80 percent of employees are using their mobile device for work, it behooves companies to make work communication as simple and productive as possible on smart phones and tablet devices. It is not surprising that smart phone adoption as a whole for the United States is growing. Pew Research found that 46 percent of the US population owns a smart phone as of February 2012.
Companies are taking advantage equally of external communication platforms like social networks Facebook and Twitter to reach their employees, making them aware of press releases, corporate announcements, job openings, and company messages using the social networking platform that appeals to the employee’s preference. Blogs also remain a popular option for companies to communicate internally as well as externally while providing job seekers the opportunity to learn more about the organizations to which they are submitting job applications.
Mobile technologies are providing companies opportunities to engage employees using text messages sent to employee personal devices, alerting them to emergency announcements or important messages segmented by location, group, or job title with employees exercising the option to remove themselves from receiving messages at any time per the Federal Communication Commission’s CAN-Spam Act, which is described in greater detail later in the article. Mobile is a growing area of opportunity for companies to also engage job seekers either using text messaging, mobile apps, or mobile-enabled websites that help make reading and surfing a company’s careers page easier for those who are heavy mobile users.
These mobile technologies are not just for millennials. Different segments of the population are drawn to these technologies for different reasons. In 2012, the US Hispanic community is expected to spend $17.6 billion on mobile and smart-phone devices. Twenty percent of all social-media activity happens via these devices for Hispanic consumers, with 79 percent of Hispanic social-networkers listing Facebook as their social network of choice.