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Human Capital Management Techniques to Enforce Use of Social Media

Ok, so in support of my masters thesis, I’m hoping some of you can give me some ideas. The Intel Community actually is using great social media tools right now, including Intellipedia and blogs, but also a new Facebook equivalent called A-Space. The IC has touted these tools openly in the press as their way of modernizing analysis and empowering relationships amongst analysts. It’s brilliant, really. In my opinion, the IC is leading the way when it comes to encouraging the use of social media for actual work processes.

However, what I have found through personal experience is that these tools have been minimally embraced by older generations in the workforce. In result, the tools have been poorly implemented and, I suspect, are not meeting the IC’s intent for their use. It’s really a shame; the tools provide great value and are critical in retaining Gen Y employees, but they’re being lost on the rest of the generations (for the most part).

A recent study I found by the PEW Research Center provides some great statistics regarding social networking use in general and reinforces my observation:
“Social networking use among young adults continues to dwarf that of older users. Three in four employed internet users ages 18-29 use social networking sites, while just 30% of those ages 30-49 use the sites.”
(Mary Madden and Sydney Jones, PEW Research Center, 24 Sep 08, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Networked_Workers_FINAL.pdf )

As a disclaimer, I am not trying to suggest that older generations can’t grasp how to use these tools or can’t be bothered to incorporate them into their work processes. In fact, quite the contrary. The IC simply isn’t: 1) training its employees on the tools, and 2) stressing their importance through the development of goals and incorporation of IT-related expectations into performance plans.

So for any of you govvie types who might have an opinion on this issue:
What human capital management techniques can be employed within IC organizations to influence positive change towards full use of social media tools? Also, if you feel as if these tools shouldn’t be “forced” on the IC analytical community, I’d like to hear about those opinions, too!

Thanks in advance for your sound advice!

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Dannielle Blumenthal

1. Not sure that “full use” of social media tools is the right goal – rather that the tools are made available as is needed, appropriate, etc. Every agency has to determine what’s right for their mission as well as what’s right for certain groups of employees vs. others.

2. In general, younger employees seem more comfortable trying new technologies. Conversely, the more “different” social media seems, the more resistance among older employees. Actual comment: “I’m not going onto Facebook; it’s not for me” – no real reason that I could see. In theory, social media tools that look like Outlook or Word, for example, or interface with these familiar softwares, are probably more likely to be adopted. This I think is the issue with Sharepoint – it’s so different looking that it scares people off. So the human capital has to be managed by buying or customizing technology to suit the way people can use it.

3. Culture of creativity, innovation, trust & within a secure environment – these two factors, together, are huge. If you have an environment where people are afraid of punishment or discouraged from being creative/innovative, they are not going to readily adopt social media, which by definition involves speaking to a wide audience without the filter of official approval. Basically, you have to show that you trust your people and will give them a little latitude. Of course you have to ensure compliance with behavioral codes of conduct, but that doesn’t mean you stifle people completely. At the same time, the conversation has to take place in a secure environment – not just vs. the outside world but keeping conversations restricted to those with a need or interest in knowing. Not every conversation has to be accessible to everyone.


A couple ideas:

1) Change takes awhile. It took a long time for people to adopt to having personal computers at work and using emails. People generally don’t like change and operating differently. This stuff takes time.

2) Make it a habit. So if people keep on referring to a wiki page on Intellipedia or someone’s profile on A-Space, people will begin to use it more. Make it a part of the process not something separate.

3) Leadership by example. When people see those they respect and trust use it, they will join. So highlight the senior leaders using social media. Highlight success stories of older generations using the site. I’ve been told the #1 editor on Intellipedia is actually 70+ years old. Older generations are more likely to join because one of their generation said it is valuable than hearing it from the younger generation.