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Organizations and human resource professionals are presented with new ethical challenges because the way people communicate in our new society. Human resources professionals now work in a new social context full of innovative ways to communicate with organizations that value collaboration and foster teams in a global environment. Social networks are here to stay. In fact, they continue to grow and diversify. Businesses gain a competitive edge when human resource professionals use social networking ethically. Simply using social networks in human resource processes is not enough to create the competitive edge most businesses crave. It is the "ethical" component of social networking or "how" human resource professionals use social networking that sets organizations apart. Four critical parts of the human resource practice need to be evaluated to address ethical concerns, including: recruitment, training, diversity, and globalization. With these aspects of human resources in mind we can dissect each in turn and provide solutions to the ethical challenges that human resource professionals face in these areas.
Recruitment is one way social networking can be used by human resource professionals. Recruiters can find and connect with candidates in an almost instantly. But does social networking come with a price? Recruiters face ethical challenges when using social media. One of the ethical challenges faced by many recruiters using social networking is posed when invalid information is obtained in the recruitment process. Profiles may even have a picture of someone else. Because users of profile accounts can post almost any information about themselves, recruiters are often presented with information that could be false. This information puts recruiters in a position of acquiring information they never wanted in the first place. Fishman and Morris (2010) have said "The recruiter does not want access to information that might cast doubt on the legality of their hiring decisions" (p. 4). Even though the recruiter knows the information gathered via social networking might not be valid, can they stop their own biases from affecting the recruitment process? While the world of social media is constantly changing, the information in someone's profile may not be. For example, an employee moves from China (where he or she used Hi5) to London (where LinkedIn is the norm), but they never deleted their Hi5 profile. Therefore, when a recruiter finds the potential candidate's Hi5 profile the recruiter is accessing invalid or stagnant information. Fishman and Morris pose the question: "Should recruiters be eliminating candidates based on information they cannot prove is accurate and which the candidate has no opportunity to refute?" (p. 3). By using invalid information in the selection process you devalue the purpose of selection. Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, and Wright (2010) define utility as "the degree to which the information provided by selection methods enhances the effectiveness of selecting personnel in real organizations" (p. 241). How will ethical social networking during the recruitment process enhance the bottom line effectiveness of an organization?
Businesses can create value within their organizations when human resource professionals can integrate their recruitment and social networking processes ethically. Sourcing, phones screens, blogging, and background checks are four points along the hiring time line necessary to create ethical integration of social networking and recruitment. The first step a recruiter will encounter is sourcing. According to Cindy Nicola, Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition at Electronic Arts, "Social networking is the bedrock of our candidate relationship management strategy. We leverage social media in creative ways to source talent and build relationships with fans that may one day be candidates," (Fishman and Morris 2). In Fishman and Morris's Recruiting with Social Networking Sites they quote Stephanie Edwards, an attorney at Jackson Lewis LLP, as saying, "Make sure social networks are not the only way you are sourcing talent" (p. 2). Not only might using only social networks lead to legal risks but it also may not make good business sense. For example, the amount of individuals that use LinkedIn is comparable to those that do not use it. Using only social networking would mean losing the talent pool without LinkedIn accounts at the very beginning. Sourcing can lead to ethical dilemmas when recruiters get "too much information." Adrienne Fox (2009) stated, "If I connect with someone on Twitter I take the relationship offline" and that is exactly what recruiters should be doing to remain ethical. Adrienne Fox also said, "Twitter is one cog in the recruitment wheel that must make a pit stop in the real world" (p. 30).
How can recruiters create value ethically using Twitter? One direct sourcing strategy on Twitter involves searching profiles for locations and words. A more specific way to connect with passive candidates is to use Twitter management tools like Twollow.com to find people with very specific skills. Most organizations are at least posting on Twitter if they are not direct sourcing. For example, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a "Jobs@Gates" Twitter account where recruiters post all of their positions as the positions become available. "Jobs@Gates" has thousands of followers who are staying updated with the open positions at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There is also the possibility for organizations to hire "a third party, such as @JobAngels" to handle the work of posting and managing followers on Twitter (Fox 2009). How are organizations measuring success with Twitter? Twitanalyzer.com is a tool to help recruiter's measure new followers, retweets, unfollowers, and replies from users. Anand sums it up quite nicely by stating that organizations should "Measure Twitter in terms of its engagement and influence. Make efforts to build customized measurement parameters to align Twitter closely with business objectives." Azua states that, "two-way communication empowers the individual to be heard in a meaningful way." Thus, connecting with passive candidates can be improved with social networking. Consider what Levitt says concerning sourcing with social networks: "Institute an Internet hiring policy. Document your searches and ensure any decision to refuse a candidate based on such searches is job-related and outlined in the company's hiring policy." Twitter is not the only form of social media that can be used.
Ernest and Young used Facebook to develop a pool of candidates for their internship program. The social network effort produced over 34,000 candidates and "drastically reduced it's expenses and appealed to candidates who would traditionally miss it's campaign" (Anand 21). Mobile device platforms including I-Pads, I-Phones, and Androids "enable recruiters to approach and entice more users, especially Generation-Y users, who will be tomorrow's executives and business leaders" (Anand 43).
One of the most important pieces of a recruitment process that includes social networking is the phone screen. The phone screen is an opportunity to ask specific questions surrounding information that the recruiter obtained from social networking. This solution helps the recruiter confirm information they already have already placed into their minds concerning a candidate, or to find discrepancies that should be addressed and expanded upon. In particular, the phone screen can be used to target job requirements and educational requirements. Ultimately, to follow an ethical standard recruiters must be critical of all the information they are presented with.
Blogging and user updates on social networking sites are the third stop along the hiring process to ethically infuse your recruitment with social networking. According to Anand (2010), "today's candidate prefers to interact via rich media using videos on YouTube, forums on LinkedIn, groups on Facebook, and other social media channels. This is partly why after Google, Facebook and YouTube are the biggest search engines on the web." Individuals that undergo an organizations interviewing, hiring, sourcing, or even recruiting processes often actively blog about their interviewing experience. According to Litherland, "In an age of social media, brand identity is more vulnerable than ever. Candidates leaving an interview with a sour taste can and will log into their Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts or personal blogs to vent negative experiences." For example, a company located in DC called "The Advisory Board" has information readily accessible on the internet that states salary offers that were turned down and people's negative perceptions about the company culture. One blogger wrote about their interview experience at The Advisory Board, saying, "The day long interview was pretty straight forward. I also found that the cases were not true cases like those in case and point. I thought my last interviewer was a little rude and was digging a little deep into my experiences etc. Overall, everyone was nice." Not all applicants will proactively search out this information, but those that do may gain knowledge that could influence salary negotiations and general continued interest in the organization. Applicants have the ability to affect the organization's brand by use of social networking sites. The connection between interviewing and branding is quite strong. In today's world, branding is key to attracting talent; doing so ethically will have the highest long term financial payoff.
Finally, to protect against invalid or false information some of the best organizations are using background checks and educational verifications. These must be incorporated into the hiring and recruitment process. For some organizations this can be difficult because it typically adds to the time-to-start period. Managing hiring supervisors' expectations about how long it takes to fill a position is one solution to making this step in the hiring process a reality. There are some of the many possible best practices and solutions to help meet the ethical challenges of recruitment in a new social networking world.
Training and development with social networking also brings ethical challenges to human resource workers. One of the most significant aspects of integrating social networking into training and development is creating a strategy before moving implementation. Human resource professionals may find that they are being asked to implement social media tactics into training while fully aware that these tactics may affect the organizations bottom-line negatively. Rutledge mentions that "when haphazardly implemented, change can inhibit productivity and employee commitment" (2010 p. 9). The issues with employees using social media in the wrong ways at work can be directly related to training. However, many human resource executives are placing the challenge back in the information technology department by paying to simply block social networking at work. Many human resource professionals are finding themselves involved in this ethical decision. Jennifer Arnold says, "experts warn that the issues involved in social media usage - privacy, confidentiality, appropriate communication styles, productivity and time management - are squarely in HR's wheelhouse. An IT policy does not cover those issues" (2009 p. 54). Some organizations have tried to address these ethical issues and provide solutions that make sense for human resource professionals to implement.
There are solutions and best practices to meet the ethical challenges of training and development infused with social networking. Rutledge talks about success and says, "Just as when crossing into any new frontier, implementing and adopting social media are rife with unforeseen challenges, but the risks are counterbalanced by the promise of success." (2010). Combining training with policy to employees can help with compliance. If an organization is a large there will be differing levels of competence with social networking. Therefore, training segmentation based on understand and skill in using social media might be a possible solution. Arnold states, "Some boomers still feel uncomfortable with email. Now you are telling them about Twitter? That's an entirely different training issue from the Millennial who just posted his most recent party pictures on Facebook" (2009 p. 55). Making sure the policy is supported by training will ensure the message is heard and later exhibited in the behavior of the employees themselves.
A purposeful approach to training and development with social networking will require a strategy. Organizations are moving toward real time collaboration and require the right tools to support their workforce. Morecroft, Marr, and Kassokakis say, "The successful use of social media is not
about technology; it's about people. It is about the in-between:relationships and connections that catapult ideas, energy, and purpose" (2010 p. 133). According to Morecroft et. al., there are six steps in the process of social network adoption. Those steps are: get intelligence, clarify objectives, design strategies, implement the plan, measure outcomes, and leverage learning. The first step, get intelligence, could involve a SWAT analysis. It could also mean just becoming intelligent as well. The "get intelligent" step helps leadership plan the rest of the process. This is the point when which social technologies to use can be determined. The second step, "clarify objectives", is easy to forget. For example, Morecroft, Marr and Kassokakis mention, "Often new users' enthusiasm may lead them to adopt strategies that don't necessarily address their true needs" (2010 p. 138). Just adopting social networking technologies will not be enough to provide an organization with a competitive edge; social networking must be clearly linked to the businesses mission, vision, goals and future needs. A strategy map can help in developing the objectives. Morecroft et. al, define a strategy map as a "method of displaying and communicating an organization's purposeful strategic decisions" (p. 140). Having a strategic plan is critical but it should not be seen as the "end all-be all". The strategy may need to change if the external environment, key players, or organizational profits change. Flexibility with the strategy will be required to ensure the strategy is effective. The third step in social network organizational adoption is design strategies. Here the audience is considered and the objectives formulate into a clear plan for training. After a plan is developed implementation should be next. Implementation will involve training a company's employees on the new systems and new technologies. For employees to use social networks successfully, they will have to understand what part they play in achieving the new training vision. Ultimately, training should be the "best way to prepare the organization's members to contribute using your social network tools" and "building trust and preparing users to embrace and begin using social media quickly" (Morecroft et. al. p. 144). Implementation is followed by measuring impact. Measuring impact involves finding the relationship between the newly implemented social network technologies and organizational performance. Organizations typically measure down to the detail how well their campaign was followed. Often large worksheets with activities, names, and dates are a good sign this is happening. Human resources can help with measurement, ensuring that implementation fits the organizational design. The mission, values, goals and vision of a company should be supported by the campaign of social network integration with training and development. The last step in this process is to leverage learning. Leveraging learning is about reapplying learning. Morecroft et. el state that true learning involves "experience, reï¬‚ection, analysis, insight, and reapplication in another interaction" (p. 145). Social network adoption, following the steps outlined above, can be used to prevent many ethical dilemmas that human resource professionals may otherwise encounter.
How do trainers use social media ethically? Morecroft, Marr, and Kassokakis provide this insight: "Employee training and development teams are also ï¬nding innovative uses of social media to share knowledge, develop skills, and manage talent. The ability to easily and quickly share knowledge,
learning, and wisdom helps create a learning culture."(p. 113). Detroit's Henry Ford hospital used YouTube to capture a brain surgery in real time. Students were then given the option to blog with each other while watching the process. After the surgery, the surgeons answered questions on the student's blog. The students were able to try and understand the decision making process that the surgeons went through to complete the surgery. Dr Kalkanis commented on the training by saying, "'It's a generation skilled in instant, interactive, interpersonal communication and feedback, and I think that if medical education is going to be as relevant and effective as possible, it needs to keep pace with this new standard.'' (p. 114)
Another example is Oracle. Oracle uses extensive social networking technologies to improve their delivery of training and development, which Oracle refers to as "Global Organization and Talent Development." Their main objective is to enhance their talent investment. Oracle uses Wikis and other forums to improve their product development and innovation. IBM has created their own social networks for themselves such as "Dogear (a community tagging system based on Delicious), BlueTwit (microblogging), and Many Eyes, a Web portal that enables people to upload all types of data, visualize it, and launch discussions about it on blogs and social networks" just to name a few (Morecroft, Marr, and Kassokakis p. 119). IBM also created something called "Beehive." Beehive allows employees to make and maintain a personal profile that includes a "top five." The top five can be their favorite technologies or their most valued contribution to IBM. Employees can connect and search through profiles, start conversations, or generate ideas together. These organizations are three of many that use new and forward-thinking social networks to create value and contribute to the bottom line.
Social networks also present human resource professionals with an array of ethical challenges surrounding diversity. Human resource professionals face legal considerations with protected groups. Lewis expands on this point by saying human resource professionals should "make sure social networks are not the only way you are sourcing talent. If your sourcing processes are not giving minorities and other protected groups an equal chance of being hired you are asking for trouble." What happens once diversity has entered the organization and now inclusion becomes the ethical challenge? More ethical questions arise. For example, how inclusive do organizations become? Do organizations move beyond race and gender? After the underlying ethical challenges of diversity and inclusion are established within an organization, what does it look like to implement solutions to address those dilemmas?
Social networking poses ethical challenges in regards to age. The needs of an organization's workforce are complicated with many generations composing the employee population. Human resource professionals are asked to increase efficiency and reduce cost within their organizations. This often presents an ethical challenge for professionals because they want to implement diversity and inclusion at very low costs. As the workforce expands to include so many dimensions and aspects of diversity, cultural considerations take a forefront in creating a climate of inclusion. Human resource workers are asked to lead change efforts and provide an acceptable model to the rest of the employees. This creates an ethical challenge because human resource professionals are asked to model cultural inclusiveness as leaders and change agents. Often human resource professionals have offices in a corporate location and forget to connect with their employees in other cultures. How do human resource departments change the way they operate to be more in tune with cultural differences? There are solutions to the ethical challenges that human resource professionals face on a consistent basis.
Social networks provide a possible solution to how human resource professionals can address age within their workforce. New generations are the source of fresh talent and the wave of future leaders. This generation values different aspects of work culture than do Generation X, or Baby Boomers. Maria Azua provides insight to this statement, saying, "The Net Generation has created profound social needs and expectations of higher ethical behavior in the work place" (p.18). Generations just entering the workplace now expect and anticipate very different social needs then the generations they follow. For example, Millenials crave performance feedback. Organizations are now moving some aspects of performance feedback online.
Some organizations have added an aspect of blogging into the performance development online systems where employees can ask for feedback anytime and managers provide an immediate answer in a blogging format. Some organizations value diversity but have a very limited budget. When asked the question "What tactical solutions do you suggest for a human resource professional with limited budget that is passionate about diversity and inclusion?" at the Second Annual Diversity Summit 2010 of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR), Mercer Chairman and CEO, M. Michele Burns said "as a leader requiring a diversity slate for every key position that open's up is critical but low cost. It is not that most leaders don't want diverse candidates; it's that they want to fill the position quickly or they already know someone who could do the job. Staying firm and requiring that diversity slate will make a difference at the top where diversity can be so challenging." Human resource professionals can make sure that skill assessments and company profiles are current. Because social networking tools allow organizational members to communicate upwards, across, down, and any other which way, they work to increase the exchange of vital information critical to succession planning. According to Azua, "For western companies, which are planning for large numbers of retirees in the next decade, this issue [of succession planning] is particularly important."
If organizations decide to become as inclusive as possible, how do social networks help in achieving this challenge? First, the definition of cultural diversity is ever-changing as the world and cultures change around an organization itself. Second, organizational leaders should understand that there are no boundaries to inclusion. Social networks support a culture of innovation, change, and shared values. Interestingly, the definition of culture and social medium are similar. Azua defines social medium by saying, "social medium is uniquely defined by the varied contributor perspectives and by the creation of shared meaning, as contributors offer the benefit of their stories and experiences" (p. 102). Culture is similarly defined by many as shared values and understanding. Many human resource departments are restructuring themselves to serve as better culturally-competent business leaders and change agents. One way for this to become a reality is to assign every business partner with a new culture where they must learn new employment laws and human resource practices. This creates a new cultural experience and allows these new change agents to "story tell" about their own experiences and success stories involving learning new cultures. This is not as easy as it sounds. To achieve business results in another culture with social networking, we need to look at Orkut.com and Kaixin.com, not just Facebook. "Orkut.com is recommended for reaching users in Brazil and India, whereas Kaixin.com is great for finding students and people for white-collar jobs in China. Knowing your community means you can use your time on social media more effectively, saving you valuable resources" (Anand 21). These are cultural considerations that will make an impact in the way human resource professionals create value in their organizations.
Creating and maintaining global inclusiveness is another challenge when we consider the ethical components. One of the main concerns is giving an equal voice to all the countries in which an organization operates around the world. Another concern might be that certain countries have more employees or larger business revenues than others. Even considering what "global inclusiveness" means for an organization might be a large stepping stone that addresses engaging a marketplace, workforce, and workplace globally. Creating a global community can have negative effects on smaller aspects of the business or minority cultural groups. Therefore, creating an ethical global community for a global company is essential.
Motorola has a visual model for their global inclusiveness strategy that leads the world in global best practices (figure 1). Let us first analyze Motorola's model for global inclusiveness. The first piece of Motorola's model, marketplace, could be thought of as company reputation, branding, and community involvement. The external market includes business development and in particular recruitment. Recruiters need to clearly understand their role in promoting the company brand, behaviors, and reputation. A more recent development that makes recruiters become more globally inclusive is global community involvement. To create an image and reputation of global involvement, organizations need to value development of a global viewpoint. Azua says, "New collaboration and social networking tools also help create better global perspectives" (p. 18). Many human resource management leadership development programs highly encourage or require international assignments. The second part of global inclusiveness at Motorola encompasses "workforce" or talent management. However, there is a slight twist compared to the typical talent management as we know it. Talent pipelines at Motorola are globally inclusive. Recruiters work in almost all parts of the world and Motorola uses social media to connect with talent in those locations. The third piece of the wheel on the model is workplace or employee engagement and work environment. Global employee engagement goes right along with social networking. How do you engage a global workforce ethically? Social networks promote global employee engagement by acting as tools to catalyze communication. Azua supports this idea by saying, "Teams collaborate across country boundaries, language differences, and cultural barriers to ensure everyone has an equal voice in the process. These tools create a faster, smarter, and more nimble business structure" (p. 18). Social networks can even help with global mobility by connecting individuals in the same organization that would benefit from sharing knowledge. Consider this last statement from Azua: "Communities supported by social networking tools typically encompass a variety of skills, cultures, and locations, but common goals and passions motivate them and bind them together." (p. 18). Social networking naturally supports a community of global engagement, leveling the playing field between individuals to communicate, and ultimately providing a platform for the entire global employee workforce to utilize.
Organizations exist in a new external environment of social networking, and human resource professionals that meet the ethical challenges of this with sound solutions will create value for their shareholders. Using social networking ethically will increase an organization's competitive edge. Recruiters should see sourcing, phone screens, blogging and background checks as vital components to an ethical recruitment process. Training and development strategies that include social networks promote collaboration and learning at organizations. Diversity and inclusion departments can recognize the importance of expanding the definition of cultural diversity, as well as place value on cultural competence for human resource professionals. Human resource professionals can meet the ethical challenges of globalization by using social networks to effectively create value in their marketplace, workforce, and workplace. It is all four of these areas that create the most value for human resource professionals trying to contribute for their shareholders. Recruitment, training, diversity, and global inclusiveness can be enriched by social networks in an ethical manner, together creating a competitive edge for an organization.