It's Never too Late to Try - How and Why Social Media Still Matters to HR


Laurie Ruettimann

Laurie Ruettimann (LFR) is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and strategist. She owns a human resources consultancy that offers a wide array of HR services to human resources leaders and executives.

You may know Ruettimann as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR (retired), which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I AM HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. (RepCap Press, 2014.)

Ruettimann has been published in a variety of places including AOL, Business Insider, The Conference Board Review, CFO Magazine, Entrepreneur, Forbes, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Suicide Girls, The Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report and USA Today. She has keynoted, lectured and participated at business events around the world held by Harvard Business School, SXSW, Microsoft, Google, NBCUniversal, American Marketing Association, MediaBistro and many others. She is also recognized as one of the Top 5 career advisors by CareerBuilder and CNN.

Webinar Transcript

Woman: Laurie Ruettimann is a former human resources leader turned influential speaker, writer, and strategist. She owns a human resources consultancy that offers a wide array of HR services to human resource leaders and executives. You may know Ruettimann as the creator of the Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR, which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I Am HR: Five Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. And now, please welcome to elevate 2015 Laurie Ruettimann.

Laurie: Hello, everyone. My name is Laurie Ruettimann, and I'm a writer, a speaker, and an HR consultant. I'm really honored to be here today on behalf of BambooHR to talk about why social media still matters. So before we get started, I have a list of things that I want to talk about. First of all, I want to thank the sponsors for today's events. There are too many to name but they're all very great and I'm very grateful for their help. I also want to thank BambooHR for asking me to speak today and, in return for speaking, they did a day of service and volunteered at a place called "Canines with A Cause"

If you haven't seen Canines with A Cause, you should go in the internet right now and have a look. They're an amazing organization. If one thing comes out of all of this today, hopefully it will be a donation on behalf of you to that organization. So please have a look and go take a look and support that great cause. So finally we're talking about social media, I'm staring into a weird dot that is my camera on the screen. So it's kind of a strange environment right now. So I want to invite you to sit back, relax, we're going to have a little fun.

If you have a cup of cocoa, that would be great, even better, a beer or a glass of champagne would be amazing. And enjoy a conversation about social media, something that's supposed to be fun, right? Social media is supposed to be a fun thing. So we'll go to the next slide. Let's see if I can do this properly. Here we go. Normally when people talk about social media, they always start with the risks, the risks that are involved. I get it, we work in human resources, we see the underbelly of humanity every day.

But I would like to take a second and focus on something a little bit more fun instead of risk. Because yes, there are risks of being on social media. There is a risk that somebody may say something stupid, racist, sexist, homophobic, offensive, derogatory to your leadership team. But if we approach social media out of our hermeneutic of fear, we miss out on so many possibilities. And for those of you who are new to social media or maybe not as proficient as you could be, if you approach it with fear, you miss out on so much.

There are millions of websites out there and millions of things that you could be doing positively to change the world, to change an employee's experience with your organization. And if you start from a place of fear, you're going to get nowhere and get nowhere fast. So let's talk about how you choose where you have a social media presence and why you make those choices. First and foremost, everybody wants to talk about social media at a company, right? How we use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn as HR professionals, but guess what?

You can't do anything as a corporate brand or as a professional unless you have some proficiency yourself. Now, I meet with HR professionals around the globe who administer social media policies and employee handbooks and have all kinds of rules about the way people should behave on Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Twitter, and those HR professionals don't have accounts themselves. They have all kinds of expertise on LinkedIn and the rules but they don't have a LinkedIn account themselves.

So from my perspective, you need to become proficient and plant your flag in a few of these places in order to become an expert on social media in the workforce. So let's talk about some of those different sites because there are a million out there and if you're not familiar with them, I'd love to just run through a few with you. So what you see in front of you looks like an I-chart, and from left to right, or at least my left to right, and up and down, there are all sorts of icons. And if you can guess all of these icons without going on the internet looking them up, send me an email, send me a text, send me a tweet. I've got a gift certificate for you, okay?

So take your guess right now, I'm going to trust you on this and I will go through them very quickly. So where you see the green circle with the bird in it, that's Twitter, next to that is Pinterest, then we have Instagram, then we have Tumbler, we have Google Plus, which ends that row. The next row is Facebook, which is where you go when you want to stalk your ex-boyfriend, right? Then there's something called WhatsApp, then Periscope, which may be new to some of you. Snapchat, which has evolved over the years, and finally one of my favorite social networks on the very bottom, which is called Untappd.

Okay, I'll tell you what Untappd is because it's so fun and recruiters are actually using it in a sneaky way. If you like beer and who doesn't like beer, right? Everybody loves beer. If you like beer, you can use Untappd and you can log into it, pick the beer that you're drinking, tell your friends where you're drinking it, like what physical bar, basement, sketchy back alley, I don't know, wherever. You check in and you can let your network know on Untappd or you can share that to Facebook, and you can share that to Twitter, all sorts of different places.

What I love about the best platforms in social media is that they're truly social, they're fun and although some of these sites like LinkedIn feel very, very old and very boring, we're still at the very beginning of a digital revolution, we're only a decade into all of this. I had my first blog back in 2004, and as a veteran of the HR technology space, which is what I am these days, that seems like forever ago. But 10 years into a movement isn't a very long time. So when I put all of these sites in front of you, you think, "Oh my god, there's 10." There's actually a thousand, and it can be very daunting to figure out where you want to go.

And what I would recommend is following the people that you love and who do good work and asking them where they go personally and professionally, how they use all of these different websites. And don't think about this as a road map. Think about this as best practices, as case studies. But really you, if you so choose to open a Periscope account after this session, you will be a trailblazer in human resources. And I know that seems weird, you're probably working in Paducah, Kentucky or Fresno, California, you don't feel like a trailblazer. But if you use Snapchat, you really are still a trailblazer.

So I would encourage you not to be scared to find and figure out who you like and who's doing what, and to follow those best practices. And really you can't make a mistake, you really can't make a mistake. And if you do, guess what? At the beginning, nobody is watching you anyway. So what I thought I would do is give you some best practices and case studies and we can have a look at that. I hope you find it interesting, and the way that I structured some of these case studies is around the employment life cycle.

So if you think about the employment life cycle as a circle, as a big oval, you can break it down into quadrants, and I'm going to focus on the first 90 degrees and the second 90 degrees. And the first 90 degrees of the employment life cycle is really, for me, sourcing and acquiring to the point of hire and onboarding someone. And there are really creative ways that people use digital media, social media, social platforms to do sourcing, to do screening, to recruit talented people and win that so-called "war" for talent and then finally to onboard people in a creative and meaningful way.

So let's have a look at some case studies. Here we go. You ready? Let's talk about my favorite, which is NPR. I don't know if you know what NPR is. I always have this bias in my life that everybody listens to what I listen to, they watch what I watch on T.V. NPR is a national radio station, it's like the BBC in the UK or the Canadian Broadcasting Company up in Canada. So wherever you are you, probably have a national kind of unapologetically centered media channel that's partially funded by the government, that's NPR.

So I love NPR, I listen to it all day. And because NPR is not for profit, they are very budget-conscious and cost-conscious. They have to make sure that everything they spend is justified. They're wholly accountable to Congress and to then the donors who donate money into local stations and into the national NPR coffers. So NPR needs to hire people for the radio but they also need to hire developers, and engineers, and creative people. They also have to have an Inter Pipeline, and this is where it gets very interesting.

Because how do you attract and retain younger workers when you don't pay a whole lot and you don't necessarily even offer paid internships? Well, NPR has done something cool. So take notes, are you ready? Do something old-school, right this down. I want you to go to Tumblr, T-U-M-B-L-R, and put in the search tool, the little search box "NPR interns." And what you will find is a really amazing website that's not part of the NPR website that is wholly owned by interns who are telling their stories, what it's like to come in as a new intern, what it's like to experience the NPR culture, and unfortunately what it's like to leave and go back to school.

They tell that story in a very unapologetic, unvarnished way and it's really compelling. The other thing NPR does is it trusts its interns with this account on Tumblr, as well as Twitter and Instagram, all right? So they're saying to the interns, "We've already screened you, we know you're culturally compliant, we know your values are like ours, go tell your story." And they tell it through Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter. So I really encourage you to go check that out, especially if you're trying to figure out how to hire younger workers and attract younger workers into your workforce.

The Instagram account is especially compelling because every day, one new intern owns this account and they go around and snap photos of what it's like to work at NPR. It's really super fun to watch, and not that I have a million hours in the day that I'm on my phone all day long, except we're all on our phones all day long. That's one of the accounts that I love to follow. So NPR is a really good example of how to use social media to attract and retain younger workers. One of our sponsors, HireVue, have you heard of them? They're pretty great.

I won't talk about their products, and I certainly will not do justice to the amazing onboarding program that they have. But their onboarding program is interesting because they try to do all of their onboarding before day one, okay? So there's a whole process that's involved in that. So somebody starts on day one, do you know what their day one looks like? They roll out the flipping red carpet, it's amazing. Take a professional photograph and one of the first things they do is they ask that new employee to go on LinkedIn and update their LinkedIn profile.

They are encouraging, encouraging that new employee to celebrate the fact that they've just joined the organization. Now, many people out there are like, "Eh, I don't want to get involved. What my employees do on LinkedIn is their own business," or conversely they say, "We don't want to celebrate our employees on LinkedIn because we're afraid they're going to get poached." HireVue is so confident and mature in their approach to hiring, to onboarding, to screening that they know when they get somebody, that person is the right fit, they're going to be there for a while. And they want that new employee to celebrate the brand on LinkedIn, on Facebook, to connect, to advocate on behalf of how great that first day is, and to tell a story online about what it's like to work for a cool company. So HireVue, go check them out.

Then finally my example from this first quadrant, the one I want to close with, is Warby Parker. Do you know Warby Parker? They make all sorts of cool glasses. Now, these are not Warby Parker glasses and that's why they're so nerdy and they make me look like an old woman. You can go to the Warby Parker website and order glasses online and they will ship them to you, so it's kind of a cool concept.

But one of the things I love about Warby Parker is that they've doubled down on social media as a way to tell their story, so two points here. Number one, all employees of Warby Parker are taught how to fit glasses so their glasses won't look like this, they won't slide down, right? When you go into a Warby Parker brick and mortar store or you call their 1-800 number, you may not be talking with someone who's trained as an ophthalmologist, you may be talking to Pete in inventory control or Laurie in human resources, especially when they get busy. So they've really made it their mission to make sure that all employees can do the very basics of what their company offers, which is putting people in a great pair of glasses.

The second thing that's incredibly interesting about Warby Parker is that they encourage their employees to go on Twitter and to go on Facebook and talk about what it's like to work there, and they incent them, they recognize them for doing that. So if you go to Twitter, another quick thing to learn is that you can search Twitter, like Google, if you type in, you get a page that looks just like Google. And you can see the Warby Parker culture come shining through.

And that's how I learned that Warby Parker does something incredibly cool. They do lunch-and-learns where they really genetically engineer a bunch of diverse teams together, and those teams are responsible for self-learning and their own self-actualization, to be quite honest. And then they report out to other people on other teams, "This is what we learned at lunch," and they share those stories on Twitter. So without even having any agenda, I was just looking on Warby Parker on Twitter, I caught a thread and I was able to see a glimpse of the Warby Parker culture. It's cool and I think those are really great examples of ways that companies are using social media in that beginning part of the employee life cycle.

All right, let's move on to the next set of examples. And for me, the second part of the employment life cycle is around training, development, diversity, corporate social responsibility. And I'll give you a couple of quick examples, and hopefully they'll be helpful for you. So let's quickly talk about the Motley Fool, I don't know if you know who they are. They're supper cool, they give out financial advice and really break stereotypes around finance. And The Motley Fool has put their employee handbook online. It's not some heavy nasty documents that I received when I worked at all of my former employers, and I worked for big companies like Pfizer and Monsanto, and those employee handbooks were huge.

Now all of this is online and you can actually see what the company's values are and what they celebrate before you apply for a job. And they make a commitment to a great candidate experience and they make a commitment to a great employment experience in that handbook. And they encourage anybody who's going to apply to go online to their very awesome careers website and check out that handbook. That is something that you could do tomorrow and do it for free and you probably don't need permission from anybody.

The second example I wanted to give you is PWC, very conservative, stodgy older corporation, right? But the one thing that PWC does incredibly well is that they encourage their employees to network and create networks within the organization and then to talk about it. So they have a very great women's networking group within PWC, a very great commitment to LGBT causes and not only are they doing this internally, they're inviting other people from other companies to come to some networking events, and then they're talking about it online as part of their overall employment brand. It's just such a smart idea and it's certainly something that you can copy and copy quickly.

And then finally I want to talk about a company called Kinetix, or as I lovingly call them, Kinetikicks because I can't quite say that properly. So Kinetix is run by a man who is speaking at this lovely day of learning that BambooHR is putting on, his name is Kris Dunn. So Kris Dunn believes that all of his employees are ambassadors for his organization, his employees are on Instagram, they're on Twitter. Whenever they do a day of service, whenever they do a fun team-building day, whenever they do training and development, he absolutely encourages his employees to tweet, and to Facebook, and to snap photos, and to do all of those really silly rote things that we make fun of because it tells a story about their company values. So certainly pay attention to Kris Dunn and what Kinetix does, they're great example of what you can do.

So very briefly I want to just give you some insights into what all of this means. Whether you picked LinkedIn and you become personally and corporately proficient in LinkedIn or Facebook, or Twitter, or Snapchat, whatever it is, what you're trying to do is to communicate an atmosphere. And an atmosphere is a mood, it's a vibe, it's a choice in the way that you treat your workers and your workforce. Treat them well and you get magic, treat them poorly and you get a sweatshop or a cult and people are going to talk about it.

The one thing that I think HR professionals often do is they confuse atmosphere and culture, and that's okay. You can confuse the two and nobody is going to die, but culture is huge. It's the artistic and...if I could speak. And we don't have to edit this out because this is very live and very awesome. Culture is the artistic in influen...we are going to edit this out. Okay, I'm going to pause and then we can go back. One of the things that HR professionals do is that they oftentimes confuse culture and atmosphere. And that's okay, nobody dies, but culture is a thing. It's the intellectual and artistic manifestation of humanity. It's huge, it's everything that we are as human beings.

And culture is actually a thing that has four components. And in order to have a culture at your work, you have to have these four components. And the first is creativity, which is a naked, unvarnished, unapologetic pursuit for truth and beauty in your workforce. Now, you probably don't have that. You think, "Okay, we've got Skype and we've got Slack," but guess what? You don't even want your people to make eye contact with one another, and when they do, you and HR want it documented for legal purposes.

The other thing that culture has is collaboration. Collaboration was best described by my personal hero and imaginary boyfriend Jon Stewart as the effort of "you go then I go, then you go, then I go, and we're all better for it." But even with all of these awesome digital and social communication tools, it's hard to create a collaborative atmosphere when everybody is fighting over a 3.85% merit increase. The other thing that culture has, which is so incredibly important, is curation. It has an atmosphere where great ideas, like cream, can rise to the top.

Now, some companies are actually hiring digital archivists and digital anthropologists to make sure that good ideas circulate through the organization, and by some companies, I mean six. Most companies are not doing this. So in order to have a culture, if you're not creating good ideas, you're failing at the very basic level of that. And then finally the thing that makes culture a thing is continuity. You know it's really great when your CEO is seated in a fish pool and all the employees are around, and he invites everybody out for beer at the end of the day.

But what happens to your culture when he exits and somebody new comes in? If you don't have the right atmosphere, if you haven't made the right choices, no social media tool will save your cruddy culture at that point. So I think sometimes we assume that there are these atmospheric conditions, whether it's Twitter, whether it's Facebook, whether it's LinkedIn or even beer, or ping pong that can change the way that we view our organizations internally and speak about them externally.

And I will tell you, ping pong is kind of boring for a lot of people and beer doesn't do anything in an organization, no matter how much we love beer. Beer is so prevalent in our culture, our societal culture that sometimes beer at work and happy hours is just really a cover for organizational alcoholism. So the way that you create a great atmosphere, the way that you talk about yourselves, the way that you use digital and social tools properly is by being collaborative.

Again, there's no road map, there's no right way or wrong way to do this but there is a smart approach. And all of those companies that I just mentioned, from NPR to Warby Parker, to PricewaterhouseCoopers, there's one thing that's common: HR, sales, and marketing are working all together to learn from one another. They've removed the silos, and HR is taking a lesson from marketing, they're understanding the needs of the sales team within the organization, and they're putting together a smart, digital, and social plan to attract and retain the right candidates.

So I certainly want to encourage you and, as I look at the end of my notes, we're wrapping up here, to go take a look at BambooHR, who also does it well; to look at HireVue, Warby Parker; to look at Kinetix or Kinetikicks, as I like to say, at PWC, at all of the really great organizations that I suggested to you. Look at what they're doing online and just copy it. You don't have to do anything new, just copy a little bit of it and you're going to be light years ahead of these tools.

The other thing I would like to leave you with that's incredibly important to me is that you shouldn't have to do this alone. So connect with me on LinkedIn, let's talk about what's happening in your organization. You can pick my brain, I'm happy to give you other great names, but the other thing that you can do is you can go to LinkedIn, and you don't need to pay money for this, you type in the words "human resources" or "recruiting," and a company name in the search bar and you'll get a whole list of people who are experts in that job and in that company.

And you know what? I know LinkedIn only wants you to connect with people you know. Break the rules. There are no rules. Connect with anybody and everybody you think might be helpful. And for purposes of connecting on LinkedIn right now, all you have to do is say, "You know what?" in that little invite, "I learned about you from Laurie Ruettimann and I want to know more." So please feel free to use my name, connect with great people, and learn a little bit more about social media, and move from a fear-based approach where you have all these assumptions to an open mind and an open heart.

I want you to be calm, I want you to be confident, and I want you to be assured that you're not going to break the internet or get fired by experimenting with social media. So everybody, have a great day. Thanks for listening to me and I will see you hopefully online. Goodbye.