Companies need to fold social media into their employee infrastructure 

Squamish HR consultant Christine McLeod started Impact99 conference in Vancouver and Toronto

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What has Twitter or Facebook got to do with the internal workings of a company? An awful lot, says human resources consultant Christine McLeod.

Noticing a big gap in understanding between her industry and the rapid-fire world of social media, McLeod realized HR had little understanding of how social media is transforming the workplace.

"In HR we are facing issues we have never faced before," McLeod said in an interview. "What happens when you have a workforce that is connected 24/7 on their devices? What are the liabilities and risks around that? What is the impact on health and wealth for people? How do you move beyond silos that we traditionally have within organizations to create a more collaborative social context within your organization?"

The founder and creative force behind Squamish-based Impact People Practices, she had gained hotel HR retail management experience along with retail management experience in Whistler.

By 2011, she had built a conference around her questions about social media in the workplace called Impact 99, Canada's first conference on the subject. That year, Impact 99 brought together 99 HR leaders in Squamish and a further 99 in Toronto, and succeeded not least because it was shining a light on a challenge that had never been highlighted before.

Liza Walli, the director of human resources at Ziptrek Ecotours in Whistler, attended the first conference a year ago on her own, and is returning this year with two colleagues. The company has around 150 staff during the summer peak, 80 per cent of which are between 18 and 25.

"We want to operate in the social world... we know that naturally our staff's conversations occur via Twitter and Facebook, and different social media tools, and this is quite simply the way they converse and find out what's going on," Walli said.

"We recognize that in order to be a part of that conversation we need to understand how to be involved in that, how to use those tools in a way that's meaningful. It's not for the sake of just being on Facebook. That there are actually two-way meaningful conversations happening."

Walli said the company realized they were already using social media to reach out to guests, but that was just part of the picture.

"It's the reality of how staff learn, how they communicate. In short bursts."

Kirstin Clausen, the directory of the BC Mining Museum at Britannia Beach, said she and two colleagues attended the first conference, and she would be going this year.

"We were forming our strategy of how to engage our employees with technology. The timing was perfect, particularly for me. I was a reluctant leader when it came to Twitter, Facebook and allowing employees engagement with these media," she said.

"We have started a couple of important social media/HR initiatives companywide. There is much improved integration. We are still learning and that is OK."

The conferences are due to take place on Oct. 2 at the Beedie School of Business in Vancouver and at Sheridan College in Mississauga on Oct. 24. The one in Vancouver has around 20 spots left.

Participants will explore current and future trends in HR and what happens if a company fails to incorporate the digital world into its HR strategy.

"It is about igniting a social workplace and not just about social media," McLeod said. "I've gone more at it from a strategic level... I am more interested, strategically, in how do you transform an organization to have it be a more digital social workplace."

McLeod said at the core was the shift of power and influence thanks to social media, which is revolutionizing staff recruitment and employee satisfaction within a company or corporation.

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