Social platforms have a cultural fit for HCL's HR

Profile picture for user jmilne By Janine Milne November 3, 2014
While most organizations are just dipping a toe or a leg in social media, global IT services company, HCL Technologies, is fully immersed and swimming lengths.

Social media and social platforms have become an integral part of our business.

There aren't many organizations outside the world of digital start-ups that can make that claim with any confidence, but global IT services organization HCL Technologies is definitely one of them, according to chief human resources officer Prithvi Shergill.

Prithvi Shergill

Initiatives such as the launch of the first ever global Twitter recruitment campaign, using gamification for onboarding and its reliance on its internal social network, Meme, means HCL is truly putting social media through its paces.

It not only exploits social media as a business tool, it also recognizes its power to create the kind of culture and environment that attracts Generation Y recruits. A key way HCL has raised its profile as among this demographic was the launch in February of the first ever global Twitter recruitment campaign, #coolestinterviewever.

The campaign ran over three consecutive weeks. Applicants first had to tweet answers to a series of questions and from those responses, HCL shortlisted 100 candidates. In the end, the top five applicants had one-on-one interviews with HCL, still using social media.

The winning candidate could choose to work on one of five different areas on a 12 month project with the top management. HCL came up with suitably cool job titles for the successful candidate: ideaspreneurship evangelist, big data guru, hacker-in-chief, digital voyager and womenspiration.

Shergill says:

The amount of reaction it generated really multiplied as people retweeted and blogged about the competition and joined Twitter in their droves to take part. In the end, HCL had nearly 90,000 applications and many more people for whom HCL was now on the radar.

Naysayers dismissed it as a marketing stunt. But it was a 'stunt' that created impressive results. There was an 80-85% increase in Twitter followers, following the launch. Roughly 100,000 page views of the campaign site were made and more than a 1,000 visitors went through to the main HCL site.

It clearly generated a buzz about the company that appealed directly to Generation Y candidates and also demonstrated how social media can be used to reach out to people you may not come across through more traditional means, or those who didn't even know they were looking for a job.

Social games

The campaign may be over, but HCL's use of social media in recruitment continues apace. Shergill says the organization has now hired someone to take charge of HCL's social media initiatives. The company has a social sourcing team to ensure it is making the best use it can with Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites.

Another example of HR's application of new technology is the company's use of online gamification for its onboarding process. Once job offers have been sent out, candidates are invited to participate in an online game, which is designed to help them learn more about the company and its culture.

What HCL learns from the interaction is also significant. Shergill points out that it gives the firm a sense of how engaged they are and that there is a direct correlation between candidates level of interest in participating in the game and dropout rates. He says:

We give them information to keep them excited about joining and the games they play are really about telling use about themselves as well. People who stick with the game longer have an 80% plus chance of join us.

HCL has found that the dropout rate is roughly nine times lower among those who participated compared with those who did not participate. Understanding this correlation between job offers and participation has meant HCL is better able to plan its staffing requirements.

Repeated meme

Once candidates have joined HCL, the central role of social media continues. The bedrock of its social media exploits is its homegrown social media network, Meme, which has become the way people at HCL "connect, communicate and collaborate",  says Shergill.

What makes Meme all the more interesting is that this wasn't a top-down initiative. In fact, the chief executive was more than a little skeptical about the whole idea initially, as Shergill explains:

Two employees came up and said we've an idea, they talked it out and the CEO at the time said no, but the employees went ahead and built it anyway.

Today, senior management is very much on side. Some 85,000 of its 95,000 or so employees are on Meme and it has 2,500 specific pages. People form their own groups both work and non-work related. If people want career advice, they can ask people on Meme for help on how to get from job A to job B. Rather than email, Shegill says that:

Meme is our preferred choice for internal communication.

Shergill is keen to point out that social media works for the company because it fits in with its culture and its core beliefs of employee first, customer second.  Says Shergill:

Unless you have a line into the culture, initiatives don't survive or sustain. Unless they are reflective of what the culture is about, there's no point.

My take

HCL is embracing social media big style. But it's interesting that it not only proactively applies it in its recruitment campaigns, for example, but that it also lets itself be passively led by the crowd. HCL understands that social media is not a top-down technology, so even though management uses its internal social network Meme to communicate, the network is led by the community.