Leverage Social Media in On-Boarding

I know it’s been a while, but I thought I’d brush off the dust here with what I’m sure many will agree is an absolutely stunning revelation: Social media is pretty remarkable.

OK, so maybe that was a little sarcastic. As we pass the halfway point of 2012, most of us are completely aware of the benefits social media has brought into our lives, both personally and professionally.

With Twitter, I’ve been able to connect with people I would have otherwise never met or spoken with — in my case, that means sports broadcasters and writers, whom I constantly chit-chat with over the medium about games and happenings.

On Facebook, I constantly keep in touch with old friends from high school and college and distant and not-so-distant family members, many of whom I don’t see very often in person — probably because I now spend so much time talking sports on Twitter.

Businesses and large organizations have also figured out the benefits of social media. Many have leveraged the products for learning and collaboration. What about on-boarding? Is there a specific use for social media?

Since culture is such a large part of the on-boarding process, social media, in many respects, is the perfect way to get that new hire communicating and involved in corporate culture. This isn’t an original thought on my end; plenty of folks with more knowledge, experience and expertise have written about and tested the idea — including those who have written for this magazine.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that social media is the perfect way to integrate a new employee into a company — especially if the company is big and that employee is going to be expected to work with others who are not all centrally located.

An on-boarding, or even a hiring, manager can start a new hire off even before he or she becomes a new hire. What could that mean?

Last month, as I was doing some reporting for a special report on employee education that will run in the August issue of Talent Management’s sister publication, Chief Learning Officer, I had a conversation with a learning executive from IBM. Like most conversations I have with learning professionals, we ended up talking about social media.

He said that during the recruitment process it’s not unusual for prospective IBM employees to grow familiar with the firm’s culture just from interacting with current employees and recruiters over Facebook and other social media. In essence, he said, by the time candidates are officially hired, they’ve likely already experienced some of that cultural integration that is so important to on-boarding before they’ve even walked in the door.

Similar social media uses can be leveraged post-hire as well. When I first started as an editor with Talent Management nearly a year ago — wow, does time really fly — part of my on-boarding, so to speak, was to start writing this blog. As I’ve mentioned time and time again here, my editor’s thinking was that the practice of me writing about on-boarding — as well as writing about my own on-boarding — would help ease the transition. And it helped.

Not only has writing this blog provided a crash course in HR practices, but — especially those first few months — it helped ease me into our editorial content, our audience, etc. It also helps build relationships with other editors who were tasked with editing the blog. As they edited — and read about my challenges and experiences of assimilating into the office — they were able to get some insight to what I was going through. They, in turn, were able to help ease my transition.

Others have suggested similar tasks, even if the company or position is not editorial in nature. Have a new hire start a blog and get dialogues going with other employees through social media. The experience will help assuage the typical fears that come with starting a new job. It did for me.