SoMe, So Far, So What?

Wednesday sees the hosting of the CIPD’s Social Media conference. Cue lot’s of posts about “what social means to me”, “what I’ve gained from social” and of course, “why social makes me a sparklier and better human being than you will ever be”. There is something about the dumb smugness of the Social HR community that sticks in the back of the throat. I’ve written about it before and whilst things got slightly out of hand, the arguments are pertinent and remain.

The fact is, that there are as many malingerers, as many sops and as many charlatans on social channels as there are in any other walk of life. If social was all shiny, then there wouldn’t be trolls. Social channels don’t have a selection process, they don’t discriminate. The democratisation of media places it in the hands of the dull, feckless and boring as often as the interesting and informed. You want evidence? Just look at your Facebook timeline.

In HR we need to be taking the debate beyond the, “I’ve met so many interesting people”, or “we’re a real community” nonsense and start talking about how social tools can be used to better engage with employees, better engage with job seekers and create value within the organisation. We need to be innovating, piloting, experimenting and seeing how we can best harness the technology that is freely being placed in our hands.

Social media policies are potentially limiting and dangerous. Been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Yet 80% of HR professionals are still busily enforcing theirs within the organisation. Are we there yet? I think not.

If Social HR doesn’t want to eat itself, then it needs to step up and demonstrate value, not talk about social in such whimsical and, frankly eye wateringly nauseating terms. It is time to start to use the technology to transform your organisations, not just tweet cupcakes. It is time to engage internally, not blabber externally. It is time to come of age.

My question is, does Social HR really want to? Or is it just another pink and fluffy example of the profession slowly losing credibility. Only time will tell.

Four decades of connection

I was born in Cardiff on November 11, 1973. It was the same year that Motorola showcased the first mobile phone, although I was ten by the time the first handset was commercially available. I’m not sure either of these things really concerned me, but for the record it was also the year that Ethernet was developed, in case you’d care to know?

By that time, I’d moved to the Isle of Wight. I moved there in 1979, the year the Commodore PET was released here in the UK. For a (then) astronomic £914 you could get yourself a whole 32KB of RAM. It was also the year that the compact disk was invented, but I don’t really think I cared. I was settling in to a new school and making new friends. Life is tough when you’re six, you know?

I was still there in 1990, when Microsoft released Windows 3.0 to take on the dominance of Macintosh and IBM. In 1991 when the first website was made publicly accessible by the clever chaps at CERN. And 1992 when IBM introduced the ThinkPad. But I was more interested in sex, drugs and rock and roll. I was a six former god dammit and I was ready to shape the world.

In 1993 I was living in France. That was the year that the IBM Simon was launched, arguably the world’s first smart phone it combined a phone with a pager AND a fax. It was also the year that the first Pentium processor was released by Intel. I’m not sure I noticed. I was too busy falling in love and reading poetry. These things take time to do properly.

I got married in 1995. The first Playstation was launched that year. I had other things on my mind. Hutchinson communications were launching this brand called, “Orange” and Sun Microsystems announces this thing called Java. I was more interested in coffee. It is important to get your priorities right.

When I was making friends, we hung out, we played, we talked. When we partied, we arranged things by phone, or letter, so we had to plan things well in advance. When I was falling in love, we braved the cold winter evenings to find a phone box at an allotted time. We hand wrote letters and we accepted silence.

On Saturday night, I got to spend an evening with friends and family to celebrate my birthday. It was a collection of the old and new. People there that had been with me throughout my life, people who I had grown up with, played with, drunk with, fallen in love with, cried with and married. And people who I’ve met more recently, that I’ve felt a connection to, that are close to my heart. We’ve got to know each other through so many different ways.

Whilst I’ve been growing up, technology has been too. And in the same way that it has become more consumer focused, I’d like to think I’m also a more sophisticated, more complicated, but ultimately more user-friendly version of my former self.

Yet still some basic facts remain.

The thing that connects my school friends, to my professional friends, to my social friends, to my family is mutual respect, love, understanding. It is true connection. It isn’t about the means or the reason, it isn’t about the timing or the technology. It is about the people.

I’m incredibly blessed to have such amazing friends, family and colleagues. People who interest, challenge and care for each other. And people who care for me.

So as I start my 41st year, as I write this blog on my MacBook Pro, using WordPress on broadband, before publicising it on Twitter and LinkedIn, I want to say an old-fashioned thank you. Thank you for being you, for those that were there and those that weren’t, for those that I speak to once a day and those that I speak to once a year. Life is nothing without people, life is nothing without connection. Both old and new.

Censoring blog comments

I’ve been blogging for nearly five years now and I’d like to think that I’ve seen and handled most things. As a blogger you’ll always get the odd weird comment coming in to moderation and you need to work out whether to publish or not. In most cases I say “yes”.

I’ve had my fair share of anonymous comments. I’ve had my fair share of abuse. I’ve also seen my fair share of controversy.

That’s the way it rolls.  You can’t try to provoke debate and then avoid it.

But this Saturday morning, I woke up to find a comment made in the very early hours that made me question my approach.

It was made by an employee.

Now that on its own isn’t really a big deal. I don’t hide the fact that I’m a blogger or on Twitter. But at the same time, I don’t write about my own work or organisation.  I try to keep the two things relatively separate.

But it was also both anonymous and using the anonymous email service And it made comments about work and specifically someone at work, albeit vaguely in the context of the original post about inter generational issues.

And so I didn’t publish it.

Was I right? I don’t know. I took the decision because I thought the approach was a little cowardly, but also because it just didn’t feel right to do so. And I tend to trust my instincts.

I’m all in favour of two way communication, I’m in favour of feedback, I’m in favour of being open and honest. But to do that, you need to be both open and honest.

So to “disappointedemployee” I’d say this. Drop me an email, come and see me, let’s talk. We’re very open as an organisation, we can talk about anything and I’m happy to explain any decision that I’ve made. Or if you don’t feel able to, you can speak to your employee representative, your Trade Union representative or use the “Whistleblowing line” too.

We can even agree to disagree. That’s ok.

But let’s keep it at work and keep it above the line. That seems the right place for it.