While the likes of Twitter and especially LinkedIn have come to play such a central role in the daily lives of recruiters, there is the danger that many consultants are over-engaging on such platforms – to the possible detriment of both their mental and the agency’s financial health, too.
Impact on the individual
The use of social media and its impact on mental health has gained much attention in recent months. Indeed, a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that regular (near constant) users of social media report feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and the now-famous ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO).
By contrast, those who limit their social media activity to 30 minutes each day reduce these symptoms by some way; thereby, emphasising the strong correlation between over use of social media on one’s mental health. Yet against this backdrop, there is an increasing amount of research to suggest that people are not quite heeding the warnings and instances of mental health in the workplace continue to rise.
In fact, according to the Mental Health Foundation, “70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.” However, fewer than four in 10 (38%) of UK workers will admit to having such issues for fear it will jeopardise their career prospects.
50% of people admit to interrupting face-to-face conversations with colleagues to check their phones – in an ultra-competitive recruitment landscape, how much business is being left on the table?
Social media, has been found to be a major contributor to the symptoms associated with mental health and this has been well-documented. It is an issue that needs to be addressed both for the individual concerned but also from a business perspective, too.
Impact on the agency
In January, Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, reported that two-fifths of adults in the UK check their social media feeds within five minutes of waking up. They also found that more than 50% of people admit to interrupting face-to-face conversations with family, friends and even colleagues to check their phones. It then follows that this will invariably impact the ability of these consultants to do their jobs effectively.
Constantly checking social media diverts recruiters away from doing their jobs. The more time they spend accessing the latest personal posts on LinkedIn or Facebook, for example, the fewer opportunities for sourcing new business leads, dealing with candidates or closing sales. It could also impact on the perception of the agency brand itself.
For instance, if consultants aren’t as quick off the mark to search and find potential candidates, send CVs through, or follow-up on references, that doesn’t look good on the agency. It could have the effect of needlessly drawing out the hiring process itself (because the consultant’s focus isn’t perhaps where it needs to be), or even see the agency gazumped by a competitor who simply got on with the business of recruiting, and parked their social media usage until the job was done.
A typical 10-person recruitment agency could be losing 4.5 days per month through excessive social media usage among consultants – that’s 54 days a year…what impact will that have on your bottom line?
Whichever way one looks at it, time is a precious commodity that few of us have enough of. Clients turn to recruitment agencies in part because they don’t have the capacity to undertake the initial stages of the hiring process, while agency owners can never have enough hours in the day to drive their businesses forward.
But even if you low-ball the amount of time lost per consultant each day to over-engagement on social media at just 30 minutes, that’s 6,600 minutes per month for a 10-person agency. Or 100 hours (4.5 days) lost each month. What impact would that have on revenues?
Where does the solution lie?
Of course, reducing the use of social media each day can be easier said than done. As Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School, puts it, employers need to respect the need for there to be a “balance between wellbeing and the benefits of being connected.”
Most of us will take a quick look at our personal emails during the average working day and while we’re there, our social media feeds too. The lines between personal communication and work have become blurred, especially for the digital native generation.
For recruitment agency leaders, policing social media use by introducing restrictive policies is not the way forward. These tend not to work; after all, if the addiction is strong enough the employee will always find a way to access their feeds. Instead, look for signs of potential problems – do they seem distracted generally, have their productivity levels fallen, are they dropping more than a ball or two a little too often?
But practice heads, line managers and recruitment leaders also need to look inwardly at times.
If their consultants are being distracted on a regular basis, perhaps they’re not been given the right direction? Are the targets set excessively high and that is causing the consultant to think there is no point busting a gut to achieve the unachievable? Are they overworked and looking for an escape from the pressure? Maybe they are simply bored, unchallenged in their role or frustrated that they’re not being stretched?
The answer, like many managerial challenges, is not as straight forward as working out ways to limit an individual’s use of social media. Rather, it is in recognising the reasons underlying their behaviour.