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In HR, the Medium is the Message

There is something special to this subject that I could not resist myself from contacting Bonni to write about it. Some years ago I quoted Marshall McLuhan’s “Medium is the message” during one of my presentations where I was trying to introducing employees to all new social features of our revived EMS. It was the time when online social interaction was mostly personal and was limited to the very few social networking sites. Let me admit that it was really tough to put my point across as then the impact of social media on our lives was not as big as it is today.

The thoughts were… Will it be a success? Will employees ever grow beyond using EMS for leave management and pay stub download?

There were two major challenges involved

  • First was, to make employees understand that social interaction can grow from being strictly personal to professional.
  • Second, to bring employees together and facilitate meaningful collaboration.

Yes, it was tough and initially things did not work the way expected. But then everything changed… It’s still changing, thanks to social media. From an HR point of view, I have witnessed the transformation social media has brought to employee conduct and behavior over the years. Remember the traditional classroom training days? Any HR professional who has then worked in this capacity would agree that getting employees to the training rooms was the most difficult part. Even when they did, it was often for participation sake rather than real learning.

And then came the social media age that completely revolutionized employees approach to learning. Organizations no more have to push employees into it, rather they now facilitate tools and technologies to self-driven employees. Today learning operates in a virtual set up where information is available anytime and everywhere. We no more fear open discussion and information sharing. Learning has become an ongoing activity. Our addiction to social media is huge and what comes along in the process appear effortless.

The impact of social media on workplace is not limited to learning, it is much beyond that

  • If employee engagement is the problem, gamification is the answer.
  • If it’s about hiring and selection, social recruiting platforms are available.
  • If learning & development seems challenging, social learning and knowledge sharing platforms help.

Marshall McLuhan emphasized that the medium of communication is as important as the message itself and determines how the message is perceived. This is a reality today. We are so consumed by the medium (social media) that the message (interaction, engagement, and learning) becomes obvious, part of the medium itself. Look at it this way, organizations strive for growth that highly depends on employee cooperation in all ways and employees are stimulated by social interactions. That’s where social media facilitates the process. It motivates, educates and engages employees in way that traditional means (meetings, classrooms, on job activities) could not do. It is only the medium that makes the results differ because of the difference in the way it is perceived.

Today we interact beyond geographical and cultural boundaries, McLuhan vision of the “Global Village” has turned true. Social technology is gradually making an impact on the way organizations integrate technology into its everyday operations. The future has more surprises and possibilities in store. Stay tuned and enjoy the progress.

Meetu Khanduja is an HR professional with extensive experience of working with IT/ITES industry. She holds an MBA (HR) and PDG in IPR (Intellectual Property Rights). She has been working as an outsourcing consultant in HR with specific involvement in Employee Engagement & Retention, Talent Management and contract management functions.

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