You heard it before: the consumer is increasingly in control, and marketers have a hard time catching up and reconnecting with an increasingly connected consumer. Your (future) employees are connected and demanding consumers as well. And it impacts recruitment, as well as employee engagement.

Professor Cary L Cooper in The Guardian - I cant see if an employer had access to an employees social media how this could possibly lead to greater employee motivation or wellbeing
Professor Cary L. Cooper in The Guardian – “I can’t see if an employer had access to an employees social media, how this could possibly lead to greater employee motivation or wellbeing”.

The future of a business is not only about regaining trust of – prospective – customers in the strict sense. Your business has many customers, everyone in its ecosystem and beyond. This obviously includes employees as well.

When it boils down to the future of your business, your workforce is essential, so much is obvious. And that workforce is changing as is reflected in the way employers deal with the social/digital employee behavior.

According to Gartner, “monitoring employee behavior in digital environments is on the rise, with 60 percent of corporations expected to implement formal programs for monitoring external social media for security breaches and incidents by 2015.” According to more recent research, by PwC, mentioned in The Guardian, social media monitoring by employers will continue to rise.

We often talk about topics such as security, consumerization and BYOD, employee engagement/enablement, policies, etc. when it concerns using social media and digital tools in an HR context.

Finding the right balance is always a matter of good policies (in the sense of clear agreements, not of top-down and suffocating restrictions) and processes.

Recruitment: are you in touch with your future human capital?

However, many organizations still think too much in terms of control, just as they do in marketing. Today’s it’s social media, tomorrow it will be something else. Another – often debated topic – regarding HR and social is the fact businesses screen potential candidates on social media and some even look at social scores.

What most seem to forget is that the agreement between an employee and an employer is a relationship. Your workforce of tomorrow looks at your reputation as a business too.

So, it seems pretty obvious that organizations having top-down and suffocating policies on social media usage, or worse, will ultimately pay a price. They are not only disconnected from their customers in the strictest sense but also from their future – maybe most brilliant – employees.

UK-based hyphen conducted a poll, showing that many businesses are out of touch with Generation Facebook. Whether you call them Generation Facebook or not, it’s clear that the younger workers take into account your ‘policies’ and ‘practices’ regarding their digital way of life as well.

The poll found 47.8% of younger workers (aged 16 – 24) claim “they would not work for companies who impose such measures (strict policies against the use of social networking tools).”

On the other hand, according to the earlier mentioned PwC survey, a third of young respondents would agree to have their employers get access to their social media profiles in exchange for job security, The Guardian says. Partially, this would be related with (changing) attitudes regarding the use of personal data among Generation Y workers, although other factors could play as well (the current economic situation, the individual respondents and their field of work, etc.). Privacy thus becomes some kind of quid pro quo, in exchange for job security and other benefits employers would offer using these data.

However, as professor Cary L. Cooper emphasizes in The Guardian, it’s naive to believe access to social media profiles of employers lead to the motivation, let alone security or wellbeing, of employees. Cooper sees no HR justification and looks at it as an intrusion of private life.

Employees are consumers and customers: what’s your recruitment reputation?

Just like the consumers of today, the young workers of today and tomorrow have their expectations and there is no reason to assume they will agree to work the way your business has been operating for ever. They want to have their say, just as the connected consumer does.

There is a shift in control regarding the relationships between organizations and consumers. There is – and increasingly will be – one in the relationships with your employees as well because your future employees ARE Generation Facebook. Younger consumers ARE younger workers and ignoring what they want is closing the door to the future backbone of your business, just as ignoring the voice of the customer is closing the door to revenues.

Furthermore, it’s not only generational. In this digital business era, there is often a link between digital skills and overall performance, regardless of age.

The blended workforce - Integrated talent acquisition - source Staffing Industry
The blended workforce – Integrated talent acquisition – source Staffing Industry

As recruiters are looking at the so-called blended workforce model, integrating recruiting channels, processes and technologies, it’s key to use the best mix of tools and processes, taking into account the lack of skilled candidates and changing workforce behavior in many areas.

While background checks and much more are important in recruiting and clear agreements and policies are important in onboarding and employee retention, the war for human capital in this knowledge economy will not be won if employee realities and privacy aren’ taken into account.

Generation Facebook and your future employee is watching you, at least as much as you are watching them. The question regarding privacy and the quid pro quo remains an open one, however. The perceptions regarding personal data are highly contextual and cultural and even if younger generations might look at it differently, that’s not a reason to go too far and certainly not a static given that will not evolve in other directions, regardless of quid pro quo.