Stiff upper lip HR…

[tweetmeme]If you ever need an example of the differences between HR in the UK and US, then social media, its adoption and use in the profession would be a good place to start.  I’m not a journalist or academic, so don’t expect any detailed analysis to back up my hypothesis (Maybe someone can find some!) but my distinct impression from riding the social media wave in the last year or so is that the UK HR profession continues to be more conservative than our international counterparts.

If I wanted to I could fill up my twitter stream with friends from across the pond, all of whom seem to be advocates of social media, using it for both personal and professional purposes.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my fellow UK professionals it seems.  Not that the subject isn’t top of mind of course.  Scan any industry publication or website over hear and its clear that Social media is on the agenda – but as a policy issue.  And the overall impression I have is that the profession is wary, preferring to stay away from participation themselves, perhaps waiting for some higher authority to either give it the thumbs up or declare it the devils spawn.

Now, whilst I’m a fan and avid user of social media, I think its important to strike a balance.  It’s very encouraging to see my international colleagues embrace and use it so enthusiastically and positively.  However, I do ask myself how they find the time to engage so much!  I have to manage twitter feeds carefully, especially from my fellow HR pro’s in the US.  If I don’t, my twitter stream is literally overrun with hundreds of tweets.  Some of it is definitely value added of course, but some not, so and I’m not sure it does reputations any good (Or my twitter stream for that matter!) to see tweets by the dozen, hour by hour.

However, as I have commented before on this blog, the one thing about social media is that to understand it properly, you have to be ‘in it’.  In other words an active user so I can say without any reservation my US colleagues are well and truly taking part!  And good for you guys because with every tweet, linkedIn comment, blog post and dare I say facebook ‘like’, you are learning.  You are informing yourselves and your organisation.  Which means that when we have to bring these things back to real life, and consider those boring things like policy and company wide adoption, you will be well placed to make sure that social media is managed effectively and appropriately in your organisation.

But what about here in the UK?  Policy decisions on social media use are being made as we speak and guidelines are being produced.  What worries me is that they are being influenced and made by an HR profession that doest take part.  That does not understand the value, or indeed the pitfalls properly.  Sure, I hear many of the bad stories of social media but most of the HR professionals that quote these bad news headlines are simply peddling heresay because they have no direct experience themselves.  And thats a bad thing because at the end of the day, if you are not using social media yourself, then you are not adequately informed to be making policy decisions or recommendations.

My advice?  Take a leaf out of our US counterparts book and get stuck in.  Just dont tweet more than 20 times a day though… 😉

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