Photo: Missouri CIO Dan Ross was an early adopter of Web 2.0, recruiting IT staff on Second Life
Despite the fact that social networks and software are significantly changing organizations' marketing and Web strategies, relatively few human resources (HR) organizations have grasped the effect that they have on the employer brand, according to Gartner Inc.
It is essential that organizations understand how social software is altering the recruitment landscape and adapt recruiting strategies and systems accordingly. Gartner analysts said that by 2011, organizations that do not manage their employer brands effectively will fail to attract key talent.
"The employer brand has recently become a significant component of human capital management (HCM) strategy," said Thomas Otter, research director at Gartner. "Many HR leaders have instigated employer branding projects. This isn't simply a fancy new name for recruitment advertising, but a broad strategy to leverage the intangible values of the organization to improve retention, employee satisfaction and performance."
Organizations are investing significantly in adopting marketing and sales strategies for social software, and Gartner predicts that by 2010, more than 60 percent of Fortune 1000 companies with Web sites will have some form of community that can be used for marketing purposes. Although many organizations hasten to adopt and exploit social computing in marketing, sales and customer support roles, Gartner has found that HR tends to lag behind.
Otter warned that this complacency could be damaging in a world where job candidates have the ability to look "under the covers" of an employer in ways that seemed impossible even a few years ago. "Online bulletin boards have provided discussion forums about companies for years, but the explosion of social networks has moved these discussions from niche to mainstream, stripping away the veneer of the recruitment brochure," he said. "Tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and XING enable candidates to easily contact past and present employees."
According to Gartner, the first step that organizations need to take is to understand what is being said about them on social networks and informally benchmark this against competitors and peers, as well as companies that tend to lead in this area. They need to be prepared for candidates to enter the recruitment process with a much-deeper understanding of the organization than would have been expected previously. The organization must also look at new ways of improving its image online.
"Business leaders should consider the employer brand as part of their broader social-networking strategies," said Otter. "What may seem an ideal message for shareholders may send candidates fleeing. Organization silos and unaligned policies are easy to spot with a search engine, so it is vital that HR and marketing leaders work together."