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 media and technology are permeating every aspect of our personal and professional lives, and human resource professionals, senior leaders, and business executives are struggling to comprehend the full scope of this in the workplace. Some may believe that the proliferation of social media and the technologies that enable it is 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
Today, four generations of workers are likely to share the same workspace: traditionalists, boomers, Generation Xers, and Generation Ys (millennials), complicating the balance between employee engagement, recruitment, communication, and technology. Millennials, those born between 1984 and 2004, currently outnumber their boomer parents in the labor market and are, in most cases, driving the rapid change in social media, mobile, and other technology use. Millennials, more than their Gen X forefathers, have had access to higher education as well as technology, having grown up in an era of iTunes and the personal computer. Because the millennials’ childhood was largely defined by their familiarity with a wide range of technology, it is understandable that their comfort 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
There are essentially two sorts of communication channels in your office, regardless of the generations represented. These two channels are not novel, but they assist contextualize the many sorts of technology outlined below for HR usage and potential future trends.
When I first started my professional career in 2001, common internal communication mechanisms included e-mail, interoffice mail, fax machines, company memos, scrolling employee message boards, and paycheck enclosures. Although cell phones were in use, they were not yet widely used. Texting was available, but the costs were exorbitant because unlimited text packages were not yet 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 using external communication platforms such as social networks Facebook and Twitter to reach out to their employees, informing them of press releases, corporate announcements, job openings, and company messages via the social networking platform that best suits the employee’s preferences. Blogs are also a popular way for businesses to communicate internally and externally, while also allowing job seekers to learn more about the organizations to which they are applying.
Mobile technologies are enabling businesses to engage employees by sending text messages to employee personal devices, alerting them to emergency announcements or important messages segmented by location, group, or job title, with employees having the option to opt out of receiving messages at any time under the Federal Communications Commission’s CAN-Spam Act, which is discussed in greater detail later in the article. Companies are increasingly using mobile to engage job seekers, whether through text messaging, mobile apps, or mobile-enabled websites that make reading and surfing a company’s employment page easier for people 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.