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HRAs we have been told at numerous conferences throughout the last 3 years, we are in the midst of a social media revolution and it’s changing everything.

As tired as that statement has become it is true. And the change it will bring to HR has arrived.

In truth it is not just “social media” that is changing things but rather a progression over the last 20 years of 4 things: Mobile, Internet, Social & Technology. The rapid evolution of these 4 technologies means that change is constant. How we do business is evolving all the time.

There are those of us who are old enough to remember a time when our personal and professional lives were distinctly separate. This all changed with cell phones, the moment someone was given a cell phone for work there was the possibility of being contacted by a client or a colleague in the evening or even on a Sunday . It changed again with the internet and email – we could do work at home if it was necessary. It changed yet again when we could get email on our phones while we were on the go. Then came the arrival of social media.  All of these are driven by technology and technology has brought all of these together onto a single device; the tablet, the smartphone.

So what does this mean for Human Resources?

In the early days of social media (the ‘early days’ being just 3 years ago) social was exclusively the domain of the marketing department. Quite likely no one in the office was allowed access to social platforms except the marketing people. Over the last 12 to 18 months we see social being freed from its marketing prison and moving into the greater corporate environment. This is putting human resources onto centre stage as far as social goes and for very good reason.  Social Media is PEOPLE, humans. It is not marketing, advertising, accounts or suppliers. It is the interaction of PEOPLE with these departments.

The experts on people in any business are (or should be) Human Resources.  It therefore makes sense for HR to take a leadership role.

An obvious area of change is the CV, the resume. This document, combined with a couple of references, was once the source of all the info HR would have about an applicant. Today that document is becoming of secondary importance to the wealth of information that can be obtained through social channels. What is the “social brand” of the applicant? The importance of this is increasing because the social generation (those who were in school 9 years ago during the birth of the social revolution) have entered the work place.  This means young people are having to think of their personal brands from the time they leave high school.

It is for this reason that HR managers need to know and understand social platforms and how to extract applicant information from them without violating rights to privacy.

And it’s not just looking at applicants. Finding the rights applicants through social platforms is becoming more common. Recruiters are finding applicants before they are looking for a job. You may have heard the phrase “big data is the new oil”. This refers to the vast amount of information that exists today and the opportunities that exist for those that can mine this information for what is important and valuable.  A staggering datum is that more information was created last year than was created from the beginning of human civilization up to 2011. So as our lives go more online, the more we share information about ourselves the more recruiters will be able to find the candidates they need by filtering through this data and thus they will find people who didn’t even know they were looking for a new job.

But I believe the greatest revolution will be bringing social culture to the corporate culture, which is inevitable and in fact, already happening.

We are passed the hype and hyperbole of social media. It has become culturally established. Of course a majority of our population are not yet even connected to the internet but this is changing and the pace of growth of connected citizens is growing all the time. For many the first experience of online life will be through Facebook and mobile apps rather than Google or websites.  The more this happens the more that experience is imported into corporate culture. Such people will not know e-mail as a means of communication but rather tweets and Facebook messages and they will want to interact with customers and colleagues in the same way.

This is a process that will have to be managed and lead by Human Resources: Providing and managing platforms that allow employees to build social relationships with each other. This presents almost unlimited possibilities and opportunities.

Employees who are promoted up through an organization will be able to share their invaluable experience with others through social news feeds; collaboration across distant branches (even on different continents) is not just possible but simple; building of corporate culture and a sense of identity and morale are inbuilt into such systems.

All of this presents a brand new way of thinking and to succeed in the working environment of this new world HR specialists have to learn and understand new technologies and the changing culture it brings.

The pace of change in the modern world is driven by technology and the almost daily advances it brings so it makes sense that if we are to survive into the future that we embrace technology and allow it to work for us.

The challenge for HR will be to first embrace this future, then convince senior management to embrace it and then of course to implement and manage it.