Fear and Loathing in Orlando

I’ve just returned from the SHRM-affiliated HR Florida state conference. What an experience!  Organized and executed entirely by SHRM chapter volunteers, this conference had over 1,400 attendees in a beautiful and roomy resort in Orlando.  Carol MacDanielLori Goldsmith , Stephen M. Geraghty-Harrison and the entire team did a remarkable job in bringing a content-laden and interactive experience to the attendees.  Truly a terrific experience.

Here’s something that was validated for me in Orlando about HR professionals and social media.  Of the 1,400+ attendees at the conference in Orlando, maybe 200 were engaged actively in social media.  That’s 14%.

Knowing that this would be an issue, the folks at HR Florida did a superb job of providing sessions, support and encouragement for the attendees to start to engage with social media.  A very robust effort.

Trish MacFarlane over at HR Ringleader noticed it too.  And I agree with her identified reason for the lack of engagement:  fear.   I’m not sure what they’re afraid of, but here are some suggestions to those of us who do “get it”:

  • be encouraging
  • be role models
  • be generous with your time
  • teach and mentor
  • be patient

Despite the conventional wisdome that social media is only for the younger generations, a post on The Social Graf blog by Erik Sass gave some interesting data about the adoption of social media by those who aren’t young.  Here’s what it says about survey data collected from Princeton Survey Research Associates on behalf of the Pew Internet & American Life Project:

  • Among Internet users ages 50+ overall, social network use increased from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010. To boot, 10% of the 50+ cohort uses Twitter or a similar “status update” service, either to post updates or check other people’s updates.
  • Looking at specific age cohorts, social network use among Internet users ages 50-64 surged from 25% to 47%, with 20% of this group saying they check into social networks on a daily basis — up from 10% last year.
  • By contrast, social network use among Internet users ages 18-29 appears to be reaching saturation, growing from 76% in April 2009 to 86% in May 2010.

There’s a message here for HR professionals.  It says more of our employees are engaged in social media than aren’t — and not just the folks we assumed were engaged!  We have a real opportunity, perhaps even an obligation, to get out in front of our employees.

Because if they’re using social media at home they’re using social media at work.

But I get it.  It’s scary.  I held my breath when I jumped into social media when I was the Chief Operating Officer of SHRM.  And guess what?  I lived.  More to the point, SHRM lived.  My adoption of social media paved the way for greater engagement of members and non-members alike.  And it also paved the way for SHRM to begin to step up organizationally to the opportunities active social media involvement creates.  Their new public relations campaign, We Know Next, has significant social media outreach strategies embedded in it.

As a profession, we need to be able to lead the social media policy discussions, not abdicate them to the legal department or the marketing department.  As business leaders, we need to understand the implications of the use (and misuse) of social media on our corporate and employer brands.  As HR leaders, we need to be out in front of our employees and understand the impact of social media on employee engagement and our cultures.

This is the work of Human Resources.  It’s new (for most).  It involves technology.  It’s scary.  So let’s step up and support our colleagues in learning these new applications for engaging our employees and building stronger cultures.  Let’s not let fear paralyze our profession from doing its essential work:  providing strategic business leadership that positively impacts employee and customer satisfaction.

After all, isn’t that our job?



Filed under Business Success, China Gorman, Culture, HR, HR Conferences, Leadership, Social Media

8 responses to “Fear and Loathing in Orlando

  1. Hey, Dave…don’t be telling tales. China, I didn’t say anything…other than what a great ride it was.

    Great statistics, I may use them in my effort to get more HR folks involved. Even got one interested at the tailgate in Iowa City yesterday…a definite HR Tailgate moment.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Dennis Frances

    I actually volunteered and attended the HR Road Trip on Sunday August 29th. The one thing I saw was that there were a lot of people tweeting, updating facebook and using social media. I’m not a stranger to social media. I was on MySpace since 2006 and I’ve been on facebook since 2007. I had not bothered to get into twitter nor did I ever deal with linkedIn.

    After Sunday I had to go back to South Florida and go back to work and go back to school. I was so inspired by the conference and by the technology being used through the HRFlorida website, that I opened up an account with twitter and an account with LinkedIn as well, just so I could follow what was going on at the conference and follow leaders like yourself in my chosen profession.

    • Hi Dennis: thanks for visiting and commenting. You’ve been involved for a long time. Good for you. I think you’ll find LinkedIn particularly useful. Hope you enjoyed the interactiong with the students on Sunday night. They really seemed to enjoy the event and expressed a lot of appreciate for the volunteers. Good for you for making time. Hope you enjoyed the twitterstream from the conference. There were lots of HR pros tweeting the conference content.

  3. Excellent advice from an excellent leader. Bravo!

  4. Although I was not there, I did follow HRFL10 as a user of new media, and not as a producer of content. It was great to hear from you; AND about you. From afar it sounded like you rocked them with your keynote. What a great conference for all involved.

    My final comment is this…you should be careful about the company you keep traveling to the airport, they might tell stories about you! 🙂

    • Dave: So you’re in the 14% club! Well done. My keynote wasn’t as entertaining as Henry Winkler’s — but then his didn’t earn a strategic HRCI credit! 🙂 I trust my travelling buddy completely. Wait. What did he say? Now I’m nervous…..

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