By Harpaul Sambhi
The most common notion of diversity involves having employees of different ethnicities, ages, sexes and abilities.
While this is a valuable form of diversity, I challenge more companies to think about creating diversity of thought by including people with different backgrounds and perspectives. While including people from different countries, cultures, age groups and genders will increase the likelihood of having different perspectives in the organization, it’s also important to consider diversity in terms of different educational backgrounds, disciplines and experiences.
Not only will this bring new ideas into an organization, it will help employees’ balance out each others’ strengths and weaknesses to increase an organization’s success.
Certain social media sites can help organizations reach out to different demographics, including candidates from different countries, generations and sexes. There are also networks that appeal to people in specific industries.
However, there are too many of them for me to address in this article. Instead, I recommend you speak to your existing employees and others in the industry to find out what sites they are using.
Diversity of thought
Creating diversity of thought, which leads to innovation, is at the heart of what social media can do. Social media allows collaboration on a mass scale — across an organization and beyond.
One way to do this is through crowdsourcing, where a problem is outsourced to a group of people who work together to come up with multiple solutions. Organizations can either keep the group internal, through internal social networks, or they can open it up to people outside the organization through external social networks that encourage people outside the organization to offer solutions.
Proctor & Gamble uses the latter as part of its “Connect + Develop” initiative that invites non-employees to submit product ideas or offer solutions to specific needs.
Crowdsourcing is one of the most powerful collaboration tools organizations can use. IBM has adopted this as part of its JAM Sessions, where the company’s researchers and employees, as well as outside experts, are invited to join in a virtual brainstorming session on a particular topic.
Participants can post ideas, comment on other suggestions and vote for their favourites. Crowdsourcing can be especially beneficial to small- and medium-sized organizations that might not have all of the internal resources needed to solve problems and innovate.
There are social websites such as CrowdSourcing.org that are dedicated to crowdsourcing and bringing users with a shared interest together to help individuals and organizations with their problems.
But professional networks that have a forum where users can post questions and review answers, such as the “Answers” section on LinkedIn, can also be used for crowdsourcing. Yes, there is some risk to releasing corporate information on a public domain, but organizations that are willing to put some careful thought into the process can reap great rewards, as seen with Proctor & Gamble’s Connect + Develop initiative, with external input contributing to more than 50 per cent of the company’s current products.
LinkedIn’s Answers section allows you to post questions to the entire site, or just your network, and respond to questions. The site also lists experts in particular subject areas if you want to contact someone directly for assistance. Some answers will be from consultants and other firms trying to sell you a solution, but many users on LinkedIn are realizing the power of mass collaboration and are participating for the sake of knowledge sharing, not personal profit.
Internal social networks are fueling innovation, linking employees closer together, allowing employees at the bottom of the corporate ladder to have their voices and ideas heard, and crossing departments and disciplines to create a new way of thinking. However, it’s important to remember an internal social network takes time to grow and show results, just like any Social HR initiative.
Harpaul Sambhi is the CEO of Careerify, a company that develops social recruiting tools focused on employee referral programs with offices in Toronto and San Francisco. He is the author of Social HR, published by Carswell, which sheds insights in how social media is impacting human resources. He can be reached at email@example.com, (416) 840-6216 or visit www.careerify.net for more information.