Try to imagine your reaction to reading the following in your usual paper or news website:
Major corporation proposes to send ‘scouts’ out to spend 2 weeks with all job applicants to assess their private, social interactions and personal habits. Speaking on behalf of XYZ Corp, Stikma Nozyn, Head of resourcing, said “Despite having a set of existing robust measures to select and identify suitable candidates, we decided it would be better to go one step further and have one of our people spend time with each applicant 24/7 so we can see what they are saying and doing at home and in the bar when they are with friends. We think the information gathered will provide a much better and more accurate way of assessing candidates suitability for a role and their overall future potential.”
If we had read that 10 years ago there would have been an outcry. So why, when its happening now, is our response a placid “seems fair enough to me”?!
I’m talking here about the worrying (but perhaps inevitable) trend for organisations to monitor our social media activity and use it to influence hiring decisions. Its not the first time I have commented on this issue, but it was brought to light by a post from Bill Boorman yesterday regarding another new piece of software called Social Intelligence (Oh please!) that purports to use “a mix of automated interpretation and analysis” to screen out candidates and flag those that appear to have ‘poor judgement’, use ‘drugs lingo’ or ‘Demonstrating potentially violent behaviour’.
As if a human being snooping into persons world and judging them on the basis of random conversations wasn’t bad enough, we are now handing this task over to a ‘HAL’ to sift out the subversives. Pure madness.
People just are not getting it and many are treating this ‘social revolution’ like its something new and its not. Twitter is really no different to the chat rooms of the 90’s, only on a much bigger, more open scale. And twitter in particular is like a conversation in a big almighty bar.
Unlike LinkedIn or Facebook, it has no single purpose or flavour. One minute I’m talking shop with work colleagues, The next minute I’m having a chuckle about the latest episode of The Inbetweeners. (Snooper alert – does the fact that I watch the inbetweeners mean I’m a deviant who likes watching teenagers experiment with sex and drugs?!) Just like I do down the local in the evening or at the weekend. (Snooper alert – does the fact that I mention going down the pub in this post mean that I have alcohol issues?!)
Aside from the recruiting madness though, the most worrying thing I picked up from on Bill’s post was this comment
“The other concerning thing here is that the service is being marketed for not only employment checks, but also for monitoring employees.”
This single sentence alone demonstrates that organisations are just so out of the loop when it comes to engagement and the benefits of ‘social engagement strategies’. Or at least those that might buy this software. Jason Seidon remarks that this is a result of the fear of social technology and I would agree although I would go further and say I’ts an unreasonable fear of social collaboration itself. The fact that an organisation can’t control the social conversation amongst their employees doesn’t stop them trying. Perhaps soon they will realise it’s as pointless to try it with your employees as it is with your customers. And potentially more dangerous.
It’s time we woke up to what is going on here and started to see the benefits of participating in these conversations as opposed to snooping in on them or trying to control them. And to those who argue its just ‘transparency’, think again. Transparency is a two way thing. This is simply no better than the one way mirror in the airport or at the local ‘nick’ (Snooper alert – does the fact that I used a parochial slang term for police station demonstrate a lack of cultural diversity awareness?!)
So here’s the deal. You want transparency? Then step up to the plate. You can access individuals’ conversations on any of their social media platforms on one condition. They can access yours. Yes, that’s right. If you want to see what they are saying about you then let them see what you are saying about them. That means you should transcribe – or better still, record live on twitter – those closed door conversations in HR or in management meetings (or in the bar after work!) where you discuss such gems as:
“That Bob in accounts, he’s so lazy. He should lose some weight”
“Between you and me, is there any way we can get rid of Jane? I’m sorry but this whole baby malarkey is just a pain in the a**e”
or even better
“I know the employee survey results show X, but we need to find a way to manipulate the results to highlight Y.”
Not so easy now is it? Bottom line we have to stop obsessing over the negative implications of social media and embrace the huge potential it has to offer. Until we allow ourselves to do that, I believe, we will never be able to unlock the true capability of people and organisations.