Niel Van Meeuwen Kessels & Smit, The Learning Company

Niel Van Meeuwen
Using Social Media as an #ehrdi

This blogpost serves as a case for my guest lecture at the University of Twente. On Monday 28th of November we will conduct a twitchat from 11h45 untill 12h30 (GMT +1 time) together with the students of the course ‘Effective HRD Interventions’ in which we will try to use social media to design an innovative approach to a though question. Please feel free to add comments or tweet along on hashtag #ehrdi.

This case has been given by a client of mine. She works in an international banking organization which provides financial services to private persons, entrepreneurs and large organizations. The organization is geographically spread all over the world and divided into different sub-organizations by country and/or region. In this case we are focusing on the organization within the BeNeLux (Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg).

During the last few months this organization has taken immense steps in looking at HRD. Learning and development is becoming increasingly important in times of crisis and urgency of innovation for this organization. It means that this organization is making its way into powerful practices of HRD: talent development, strengths based approach and leadership, combining learning and working… shortly, thinking about effective and powerful learning solutions for the challenges they face. I must say they’re doing a wonderful job out there.

Now they face a different challenge. As an organization they really want to experiment with the power of social media to enhance learning and knowledge productivity. The HRD-department have been given the task to come up with a proposal on how to make use of these social media for their knowledge sharing and communication processes. And this is where an interesting tension comes in.

The HRD department really wants to work on this question. It’s challenging, interesting and open ended… That means, there is not a lot of experience of good practices to build upon. Not many organizations have already taken the step to fully use the power of social media in order to enhance their knowledge productive processes. So the HRD department wants to go experimenting, trying… and reflecting upon it. For them, this really fits the nature of social media: it’s about experimenting and doing this from what you think is good… Social media is not manageable, not commandable and not suited to be prescribed. It asks for experiments…

On the other hand there is an assigner for this project, which is the management board. For them it is obvious they need to do something with these social media… But it is important for them to do it right. So they first want to have a policy and a code of conduct for employees on how to deal with social media. They want a detailed project planning on how to implement social media for learning and knowledge sharing outcomes.

So you see the tension coming: on the one hand feeling a lot of energy to go and experiment, to see what happens and to act upon that (doing before thinking). On the other hand writing a policy, a code and a strict project planning before starting using these social media (thinking before doing). So the questions becomes:

How does an effective (and innovative) HRD intervention look like in order to deal with these tension? How can we give an innovative answer to this though question?

4 Responses to Using Social Media as an #ehrdi

  1. Stefan says:

    Interesting and indeed tough question! Seems like a more general challenge HRD is facing. We want to experiment freely, but the resources for doing so in organizations is limited (e.g. time, money, hardware, software). I think one of the success factors of social media is its availability, the possibility to use it anywhere, anytime. So maybe a good start would be to look at what is already available in the organization and see how this can be used with and integrated with social media?

    Just a first idea. I’m looking forward to the meeting next week!

  2. Leanne says:

    Wow! That is quite a challenging question. It looks like this is the learning vs. performance paradigm in practice. Meeting the management board’s demands and the innovative experimenting HRD department. Social media can be a very powerful tool to meet both parties. It can make knowledge and learning processes visible and be an informal learning tool at the same time. It also raises some questions at my side: is it suitable for all employees? Why social media and not something else? Which social media shall we use?

    A good start is to first immerse myself in the world of social media! Looking forward to next week’s lecture!

  3. Marry says:

    I keep thinking about how to close (or at least reduce) the gap between the experimentation on one hand and the planning/control mechanism on the other hand. My first idea is to make a planning in which room is created for active exmperimentation. So maybe a period of time in which people can experience working and learning with social media. After that time, some form of evaluation takes place (in accordance with the participants) and after that an other round of trial-and-error. And so on.

    This way management can ‘see’ what takes place regarding this intervention, but people also get the freedom to experiment. As an HRD professional it is probably most important to convince the management board that not following strics rules is the best way to implement these changes.

    Yet, I’m aware that in practice it might (will) not be this ‘easy’.

  4. Thanks all for your comments already! Nice to think a bit of what we could do.
    Talking about the dilemma between experiment on the one hand and control on the other hand, gives me also some thoughts on how to deal with that. In ‘classic’ HR we are used to steer on procedures, on the ‘HOW’ question: how do we want our people to do their job? Thinking in terms of competences and competence management is a nice example of it. This is also what this MT does: steering on the HOW… e.g. make a policy of x pages, make project planning…
    A possible way to overcome this dilemma is to steer on results. How would an intervention look like where the Management Team asks a result (e.g. a document with principles on how to use social media), but leave the HOW-question to HR. That means as an HR-department have the autonomy to experiment, to try and to go into action… but with the engagement to come up with a result after a few weeks or months…

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Name: Niel

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Bio: Social Media, Knowledge Work, Learning and Development, Organization 2.0, Appreciative Inquiry, Creative Designer, Kessels & Smit, The Learning Company