Q&A: The Impact of Social Media in HR practices with Nilima Nair

Q: How long have you been involved in the people function, such as interacting with individuals, understanding them, and engaging with them?

So, I've been involved in the people function for about five years now, diving into it after initially working as a coder in an IT environment, especially with Infosys. While at Infosys, I found myself shifting away from coding due to being assigned to a less interesting project.

That's when I decided to pursue what I truly enjoyed—interacting with people, focusing on employee relations. I took the path of doing an MBA from Symbiosis, being in Pune at the time. Following that, I ventured into startups.

Initially kicking off in Pune and later moving to Chandigarh, I joined Jugnoo, covering operations in approximately 30 cities over a two-year period. Then, the next chapter unfolded with QuillAudits, a Web3 security firm that perfectly combines my love for tech and HR. I'm going strong there and will be celebrating my two-year mark next month!

Q: How has your technical background in coding provided an edge in your HR functions? What advice would you give to someone starting in HR after an MBA without a technical background?

Sure, having a technical background has given me an advantage in my HR role, especially when dealing with hiring in the tech domain. It provides me with confidence while hiring tech talent, as I can understand their expectations and relate to their experiences. This enables me to offer a clearer and more relatable picture during interactions and in crafting job descriptions.

However, it's not a strict requirement. Many excel in tech recruitment without a tech background. What matters most is an open mind and a willingness to learn.

Before reaching out to candidates, it's crucial to thoroughly understand the job description. As a recruiter, having a comprehensive grasp of the job requirements is essential. This involves discussing details with the hiring manager to ensure a clear understanding of what's needed. If you possess the drive and passion to continuously learn and understand the requirements thoroughly, you can overcome the lack of a technical background and thrive in HR.

Q: What specific skill set from your technical background provided you with a unique perspective in HR that others might not typically possess?

Being passionate and open to learning is key. For instance, diving into Web3 at QuillAudits was new for me. Initially, I only had a basic understanding of blockchain and smart contracts. However, after deeper interactions and learning, I realized my interest grew tremendously.

In hiring for Web3 roles, despite not being an expert, my technical background helps me understand what techies seek—challenging roles and continuous growth. Techies thrive when they're not confined by a glass ceiling and feel engaged in their work. I emphasize learning initiatives and growth opportunities during hiring, something overlooked by many HRs.

By putting myself in their shoes and highlighting how the company prioritizes their development, I can connect better with technical candidates. Understanding their needs and advocating for their growth is crucial in hiring and retaining top talent in tech roles.

Q: How do you view the shift from a field where communication might not be crucial to one where it's highly essential, and what importance do you place on communication in this transition?

Communication is super important. When I moved to Pune from Bangalore, language became a barrier for tech talks in Marathi. In remote work, good communication keeps teams on track. Clear updates and guidelines avoid delays.

Communication matters a lot in hiring, too. We now focus on cultural fit, not just skills. If someone struggles to communicate, it's a red flag. Companies everywhere care about cultural fit. Lack of openness or flexibility affects a candidate's chances.

Even if you're skilled, communication is key. It's crucial for success, like the networking skills of Web3 developers. Understanding and valuing communication is vital to thriving in any field.

Q: What unique and attractive aspect have you noticed in your company's HR practices that you believe could be adopted by other companies in your HR network?

Certainly! One crucial aspect in our company is fostering emotional connections among employees beyond just work. The focus on people and their happiness matters most to me. We're called "quills" at QuillAudits, and ensuring everyone is passionate about their work is a priority.

While passion for work is essential, creating emotional connections is equally vital. HR should emphasize this through employee engagement initiatives. We organize monthly team meetings where everyone attends, fostering a sense of belonging even during remote work.

After a year of remote connections, we all met in person at a Web3 conference in Goa. This in-person meet-up following a year of virtual interactions, strengthened our bond as a team, showing the power of emotional connections in fostering a strong work community.

Apart from learning and development, nurturing a strong culture is key. Organizing casual meet-ups where team members play games, chat, or draw together fosters this connection. Seeking and acting on feedback is essential too. Communication and acting on feedback show a commitment to a thriving work culture.

Q: How do you, as an HR professional, encourage productive habits regarding social media use during work hours without making employees feel unproductive or restricted?

In our company, around 80% of employees are active on social media, while the remaining 20% prefer to browse casually without active participation. As a growing tech company, we emphasize employer branding and visibility, encouraging employees to engage on social media, sharing insights, and implementing strategies.

Despite the risks, social media holds vast potential to enhance a company's visibility and HR processes. To manage this, we provide clear guidelines, sample posts, and communication channels, ensuring a mature approach to balancing social media and work.

For recruitment, platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Discord are invaluable. They enable direct outreach and facilitate communication. Moreover, social media aids in promoting company culture, acknowledging employees, and boosting morale through public recognition.

These platforms provide HR with opportunities to effectively promote company values and initiatives, a practice that is becoming more and more popular in the sector.

Q: Do you advise employees or individuals involved in hiring to maintain separate accounts—one for professional purposes and another for personal use—on social media platforms?

No, I don't advocate for maintaining two separate social media accounts. Personally, I engage with candidates and others on social media platforms using my own profile, preferring a more open and genuine interaction rather than hiding behind a company persona.

We do emphasize clear guidelines and policies within our social media policy. The policy underscores the importance of understanding the consequences of one's social media posts on the company's image.

While platforms like LinkedIn are more focused on professional connections, we don't heavily use Instagram for work-related interactions. Employees have the liberty to use Instagram personally, but there's an understanding about the implications of sharing personal details regarding the company.

For us, maintaining balance is crucial. We respect individual preferences; if someone isn't comfortable sharing their Instagram, we don't push for it. However, we do have guidelines on LinkedIn usage, emphasizing awareness of the impact of personal actions on the company's reputation.

Q: How would you, as an HR professional, handle a situation where one of your top employees faces cancellation on Twitter?

If one of our star employees faced cancellation on Twitter, our approach would focus on managing the situation while understanding that controlling social media isn't feasible. We're aware of the challenges associated with negative publicity on social platforms.

Our steps would involve advising the individual to maintain a low profile to minimize the impact while the situation unfolds. Attempting to neutralize or address the issue directly might not entirely work, so a quieter approach might be necessary. We'd emphasize clear guidelines and mature conduct on social media.

Addressing the responsible person would be crucial, acknowledging that such incidents shouldn't occur. Engaging in open communication and providing clear guidance to prevent similar issues in the future would be our priority. Ultimately, a calmer approach and clear communication would guide our response strategy.

Q: How does maintaining a good reputation in a mid-sized corporation impact the attraction of potential clients and potential employees?

Maintaining a positive reputation in a mid-sized corporation significantly impacts both potential clients and potential employees. Negative publicity can be concerning, but the dynamic nature of social media allows for counteraction over time.

Despite negative occurrences, continuous engagement and highlighting positive experiences help counterbalance any negative perceptions. For instance, promoting positive candidate experiences or other favorable aspects via social media helps reinforce the company's positive image, gradually overshadowing any negativity.

Q: Do you believe in "any publicity is good publicity," and would you capitalize on negative attention or focus on damage control and gaining positive recognition?

I strongly avoid negative publicity as it causes stress. The goal should be recognition for positive contributions, not negative attention. It's crucial to maintain alignment within the company and ensure employees understand the boundaries of public forums, respecting social media policies and guidelines.

Negative publicity might emerge from frustration, but addressing issues internally could avoid it. Learning from mistakes and highlighting lessons learned is essential, but the focus should remain on garnering positive recognition rather than seeking attention from negative situations.

Q: How do you approach hiring individuals with exceptional skills but a negative reputation on social media, knowing that their online presence could affect your company's image?

When faced with the dilemma of hiring someone with exceptional skills but a negative social media reputation, the decision is challenging yet crucial. Prioritizing cultural fit within the team is paramount, and solely relying on social media impressions isn't advisable. Engaging with the candidate directly to understand their viewpoints and behaviors is essential. If the individual's responses align with their online presence and indicate potential cultural misalignment, it's a red flag for joining the team.

Maintaining alignment within the team's values and ethics is crucial. Sometimes, despite exceptional skills, if doubts arise regarding the person's character traits or cultural fit, proceeding with the hire might risk future disruptions. However, conducting further interview rounds involving multiple team members could provide a clearer perspective and possibly reveal potential for learning and growth, especially in the case of a younger candidate who may have made mistakes but shows potential for improvement. Ultimately, evaluating both skillset and cultural alignment is essential in making such a decision.

Q: Do you foresee a swift evolution in HR practices, akin to the emphasis on culture, towards formulating social media policies in the next five years? Will this shift be rapid or gradual, similar to the progression of women in the workforce? And what percentage increase do you anticipate in companies implementing social media policies from the current 1 to 2 percent?

In the current landscape, social media is becoming crucial for showcasing a company's culture and attracting potential talent. Candidates now value more than just salary; they seek insights into a company's culture, perks, and flexibility.

In the next five years, approximately 90% to 95% of companies are likely to utilize social media for recruitment and brand visibility. Already, around 20% to 30% may have these policies in place, and many others will recognize their significance and implement them.

Moreover, advancements like AI-driven recruitment and virtual reality onboarding experiences could revolutionize hiring processes. Companies also use internal social channels like Telegram for communication, feedback, and fostering a collaborative environment.

While challenges exist, having clear guidelines can mitigate associated risks, allowing the positive aspects of social media to prevail in enhancing company-community collaboration.

Do you work in HR?

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Note: All views expressed in this interview are personal and not linked to any organization.