Richard Lau, Certis CISCO’s vice president and head of integrated recruitment agency, shares how his organisation has leveraged on social media to boost their brand. Amos Seah reports.

In a tight labour market with ongoing challenges in acquiring talent, companies have to start looking for new ways to engage potential hires and their current employees at the same time. The same idea applies to establishing a strong employer brand.

As social media platforms such as Facebook become an extra appendage for employees - in both their personal and professional lives - organisations can no longer afford to ignore the massive reach of social media, or the ongoing conversation.

“We thought social media will be a good medium for us because it is very engaging and we target a lot of the younger generation of our staff, namely Generation Y who are very vocal and comfortable with social media,” says Richard Lau, Certis CISCO’s vice president and head of integrated recruitment agency.

At Certis CISCO, it is about getting the messages to where the audiences are, via as many of the relevant platforms as possible. “One characteristic of social media and online mediums that sets it apart from the rest is that it allows for a conversation to take place,” says Lau.

Unlike other security companies, the organisation keeps their Facebook page as an open channel for staff to share their views, suggestions and experiences in a less formal setting.

However, even though these platforms are easy to use and adopt as part of an employer branding strategy, Lau cautions companies to not lose focus of the message they want to portray.

The important thing is what messages we are communicating and how we can best utilise the unique nature of the medium to share our messages, and make it applicable to our local needs and context.
Adopting social media was a bold move for Certis CISCO, considering the organisation specialises in security and law enforcement. Lau admits there was a lot of fear in implementing and allowing social media conversations, as they knew it would not be possible to avoid complaints and negative feedback from the public in a very public space.

Overcoming this fear for the brand

There was a lot of apprehension involved in adopting social media - questions were raised about how receptive staff would be top it, as well as their family, friends and the general public.

However, despite the fear of backlash, Certis CISCO managed to achieve a response that was far more positive than expected.

“We have reached out to a lot of [our employees] through this medium. We have gotten some good feedback from our men,” says Lau, adding the image they wanted to portray was one that deflected any negativity associated with the organisation.

“We want to tell people out there that we are just ordinary folks… trying to keep our society as lawful and as orderly as possible.”

With the right message in mind, Lau says, social media can work as a perfect platform to enable employee engagement.

Our top management believes that in order for a company to grow, we can’t just think about work, we need to think about how we can engage our people meaningfully as well.
The very nature of social media lies in interactivity, which can deepen the employees’ relationship with the company. In order to foster a healthy working environment with a good balance of work and play, platforms such as Facebook can be used to communicate company activities such as inter-company outings and competitions.

At Certis CISCO, Facebook makes such activities much more convenient, as compared to how they were organised manually in the past. For inter-company contests, “staff can ‘like’ the photos, comment on the photos, and share them,” says Lau. “We are happy that our staff get to interact beyond the context of work.”

On a corporate level, CISCO trialled and organised many activities and events which extended to the public with the help of social media.

“We went digital with our Galaxy of Stars contest, where we launched our first professionally produced music video on YouTube and also the Certis CISCO Sports & Recreation Club’s Facebook page,” says Lau.

A cover of Lady Gaga’s hit single, “Edge of Glory”, which featured 12 employees from the various business units, received a total of 9,219 views across all platforms as of 4 April, 2013.

“We managed to continue to recognise our staff publicly. But while we have evolved in the use of platforms, our messages and objectives of showing appreciation for our staff continue to be timeless,” he says, adding that the organisation continues to lend a listening ear to suggestions and feedback.

Social media also plays an important role on a business unit level of involvement, where each business unit is given the freedom to hold various events and implement their own activities autonomously throughout the year.

“Social media is also everyone’s responsibility. We have representatives from all business units in our social media committee who participate and have their stake in how we shape our employer brand online.”

Dealing with negativity

Lau emphasises that getting over the fear of adopting social media was a huge leap and a success for them.

However, receiving negative feedback is unavoidable on platform which thrive on and advocate open communication.

“Therefore, it takes a well-planned strategy to be able to jump into the ring and say that you want to have a part in the social media landscape…it’s all about how you manage and deal with issues in a constructive manner.”

Of course, guidelines must be drawn when dealing with negative online feedback, which can be damaging to the employer brand.