Sunday, 12 April 2015

Shedding my skin

Having started this Blog has made me reflect on my social media journey and experiences over the last 7 years or so and my usage, both previously and in the future, of social media and networking sites. 

This blog is partly to share my ideas, partly to raise my profile and partly to, well, I honestly don't know but perhaps I will find out. As mentioned in another post, its the second blog I've had but the first I've put my name to. I had an anonymous blog for a couple of years. That blog highlighted my experiences as a single man, dating and in and out of relationships over a period of a few years.

And I use the word highlighted quite wrongly. There were far more disasters than successes and the majority of posts were about the spectacular and bizarre world of online dating, and the truly incredible and downright unusual experiences I had. At its height it was followed by over 4000 people and it was very popular. I remained anonymous throughout because I was scared of the professional repercussions if anyone knew it was me.

Why? Well, in my head, I was the most senior HR professional in my company, and needed to keep up appearances. I was petrified of what people might think of me if they discovered I had a life outside of work and that it was so...well, unlike my work persona

To understand that I should explain my social media journey. I started using Facebook in early 2008 but didn't really understand it and went Facebook mad over the next year or so. I added hundreds of people and put loads of stuff on without filtering it or any care about what I shared. Then I found out someone had been twisting things I'd posted in order to get me in trouble at work. 

My response was to delete all work contacts immediately, including people who were good friends, and to go ultra cautious and ultra professional in work That meant that when I set up Twitter and LinkedIn I was very careful what I did on them, analysing every word for potential twisting. That also meant I became very distant at work to colleagues, unnecessarily so, and strove to build a reputation as a bit of a robot. With no personality whatsoever.

And some may say I don't have much personality anyway. 

Well, it worked. Too well. I was able to protect my professional reputation but at the expense of personal relationships, which I regret now. I was different outside work and people who knew me only in one sphere wouldn't recognise me in the other. When I represented GGHT in the Strictly St.Rocco's competition, many at work were astonished that I'd do something like that. Outside of work, people just shrugged and said "again?".


By the way I came 3rd in that competition, dancing the Argentine Tango, I still think my dance partner and I were robbed by the judges. See here. So my anonymous blog remained so because of my fear of social media harming my work reputation. I was scared of the power of social media and took it too far.

What's changed? Well the world has moved on. I'm in a different role and although I've still got a professional reputation to nurture, I recognise I've got a personal one to rebuild.

And I ought to see them as one. Online I've found there are few secrets. Companies research potential applicants online and everything is shared. So I figure what's the value in trying to keep separate professional and personal presences online any more? As long as one is careful and work on the basis that everyone COULD see everything, there's no issue.

I also recognised that social media is something to be embraced as a part of life and work, that organisations and individuals who connect more with their colleagues, clients and customers have a more holistic approach. From an HR perspective I've been able to share job vacancies, important updates and my own ideas. I've been able to access the same. But in the same breath I've been able to share important personal events like the birth of my third child and my getting engaged.

In the next 10 years, the majority of employees will be from Generations Y and Z, who have grown up with technology and for the most part with social media. I was 32 before I started using social media and it's taken me 7 years to understand it, and I'm far from mastering it. I'll be working with people who started using social media as children and who mastered it years ago. Organisations and their leaders need to embrace the opportunities created by social media in terms of communication, collaboration, engagement and management. The new workforce will be motivated to join and perform for employers who offer a sense of purpose, empowerment, social responsibility, use of new tech, on.ine collaboration and more. Social media gives us the chance to harness the talents of new generations. 

I'm late to the party perhaps and not telling you anything that you don't already know, but the change is accelerating and if ten years ago we couldn't conceive Facebook, Twitter and the like, we ought to be prepared for even greater changes in the next ten.

Torus already has well established social media channels and lots of staff actively using Twitter, LinkedIn and (internally) Yammer. I've had my eyes opened to the possibilities, and I recognise I can build better relationships by sharing more and taking more of an interest. I'm not about to republish my old dating blog, but I'm keen to use networks like Yammer internally and Twitter both internally and externally to add an extra dimension to my Torus communications, and to actively collaborate with colleagues and peers to develop my ideas and projects. 

From an HR/OD perspective I'll be keen to get instant feedback from people on what I'm doing in my integration role, and get their input into ideas and projects. Social media gives that opportunity, as well as letting me have access to the more informal social networks in my organisation and in the online communities to spread ideas virally.

I want to be at the forefront of social media usage to deliver my services and to engage with others. I want to research new technologies and developments in social media and networking to make the most of new opportunities and to ensure I work effectively with the generations who are creating and innovating with the new tech.

Torus is going to achieve great things, and I can play a part in that as well as sharing and promoting Torus' work to the online communities I'm part of. And yes, I may share a few posts about what I'm having for tea, or what my kids are up to. Its part of who I am. Its my brand. And I may still look up job applicants online, and I'd expect others to do the same to me.

I'm not hard to find.

Till next time.

Gary.