Fortune 500 Series: How EMC used social media to recruit, re-brand, rebuild

EMC can best be described as an entity. Not only in the Fortune 500, the infrastructure information provider was recognized by Fortune as one of the 10 most admired companies for product and service quality.

EMC can best be described as an entity. Not only in the Fortune 500, the infrastructure information provider was recognized by Fortune as one of the 10 most admired companies for product and service quality. This success didn't come easy to the giant, which needed to significantly rebuild its business after the 2001/2002 recesssion. Part of that rebuild included acquiring more than 40 companies over a handful of years. The other critical part of the rebuild included attracting top talent to help drive a more successful business. To achieve the latter, EMC turned to social media for its recruiting efforts. The below interview with Polly Pearson, vice president of employment brand and strategy at EMC, details how the company acquired talented employees through social media, how career fairs via Second Life can actually work, and how the company measures success.

Q. [Jennifer] How is EMC using social media as part of its HR efforts?

A. [Polly] We are using social media to build awareness and relationships between EMC and the talent market.  We see social media as an ideal resource to further our employment brand in a meaningful, high-reach and low-cost manner.  For example, externally EMC is using tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and employee blogs and tweets to build awareness and affinity with the talent market.  We use these tools to provide a genuine, testimonial-based look at EMC's culture, careers and capabilities, as well as to bring awareness to certain job openings, company developments and general career tips.

Internally, we have a global social media platform for community building, collaboration and knowledge-sharing.  This internal platform has resulted in the serendipitous development of organic EMC brand ambassadors who have taken their new found voices and confidence as spokespeople to the external social network airwaves. This has, in effect, multiplied EMC's external efforts to build genuine relationships with the talent market.

Q. How did that start? Why did you want to add social media into the program?

A. Following the recession of 2001/2002, EMC experienced a multi-year turnaround. We rebuilt our business by entering adjacent markets, altering our business model and acquiring more than 40 companies.  This evolution was a remarkable success. It, however, left some employees with a mild identity crisis.  By late 2006, roughly half of our company was made up of employees who were new to EMC within the prior 18 months. On top of that, by 2007 we were looking at thousands of jobs to fill, a major college hiring program, and the sizable growth of EMC's emerging global operations in markets such as India, Russia and China.  As we looked at ways to elevate EMC's brand with our target talent market, we realized we could not out spend our competition.  We wanted to build EMC's brand at the lowest possible cost, do it on a global basis and reinforce EMC's core brand attribute as a leading innovation company.

Enter social media. The first tool we used was, interestingly enough, the least mainstream yet came with high buzz and superior results: Second Life.  We held a series of highly effective recruiting fairs in Second Life that showed us the undeniable power of social platforms for business.  The scale was infinite and the cost was low. The connections and relationships happened with a type of immediacy we had never experienced before on a business platform.  In the summer of 2007, we launched behind our firewall EMC's first customized internal social network.  We named this platform EMC|ONE and today the majority of our employees worldwide are connecting on it and sharing information regularly in a 2.0 manner.

Next: Measuring for success -->

Q. How do you measure the success of these social media programs?

A. I tend to think of ROI in this case as "Risk of Ignoring."  If you are a high tech company that prides itself on innovation, being responsive to customers and providing its employees the freedom of a start up with the brand strength of an industry leader, are you supporting that identity by avoiding social media?  I believe the real measure will be in opportunity lost.  It is rapidly becoming a competitive disadvantage not to make active connections with your target audience via social media.  At the same time, I also believe the "early mover advantage" in Geoffrey Moore's marketing-speak is diminishing.  Those companies arriving some time next year could be considered also-rans.  Having a web site was 1.0 and enabled only one-way communication.  Having online means that invite two-way dialog and engagement is 2.0.  The market wants to engage today and read-only is no longer good enough.

That said EMC's employment brand operation has a zero spend budget.  When seeing the number of followers we have now on EMCCareers Twitter and Facebook alone, and the spike of resumes per job opening, I can make a pretty easy argument that the ROI is positive!

Q. As a company, how is social media being integrated as part of the culture?

A. Everyone at EMC has a voice and a route to market.  Have an idea?  Post it on the internal network and see what others think.  If there are enough people praising the idea, it makes it a lot easier to move through the typical channels of decision making.  A few other examples: we post internal executive communication emails on our internal social network and invite dialog there on company and market directions; we have wikis that capture institutional knowledge on dozens of subjects; we invite and recognize innovation through contests that are judged by employees in the social network.

Increasingly, we question starting committees, having limited distribution lists, doing any sort of 1.0 publishing and pushing something internally without first engaging the internal social network. When doing things in a collaborative fashion, the result tends to be more informed with wider and faster adoption.

Q. In using social media at EMC, are you focused more on external recruiting or also internal communications?

A. We're doing both. I see employment brand as having two sides to the coin - the internal talent market and external talent market.  Internally, we're 2.0'ing most things.  For example, we have a radio show for real-time dialog with a social network tail for search and continued discussion; executive newsletters presented in 2.0 fashion with links to videos and discussion forums; and "discuss this" links for published articles on EMC's Intranet that connect employees to the company's social network.

Next: The importance of brand building -->

Q. Do you feel that your social media efforts are helping to strengthen EMC's brand both externally and internally? Why?

A. Absolutely.  My favorite part of it is the creation of a huge, global, volunteer brigade of brand ambassadors within EMC.  On their own time, they are passionately blogging, tweeting, connecting and promoting EMC's brand.  We all know that the best sales collateral is the reference sell.  These folks are putting their personal name on endorsing EMC for no other reason than their own passionate belief.

Q. How do you cross-collaborate with other teams? Which teams?

A. EMC employees collaborate across the entire company.  Passionate engineers have been our biggest and most unexpected find.  We have engineers who now blog and support people across the company on matters involving innovation, careers and culture.  We are also making great connections with technical services people and CTOs, as well as marketing experts with EMC's different organizations.

Q. Does marketing control the programs in which HR is doing or are they run separately?

A. It works in a 2.0 fashion.  It isn't about control, but collaboration.  Both organizations are interested in leveraging 2.0 for competitive advantage and furthering EMC's brand relationship within the marketplace.  Both organizations share the interest in having EMC be, and be seen as, a company of choice and best place to work.


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