‘Social media recruitment: why use it at the Royal Veterinary College?’
The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has commissioned me to evaluate social media recruiting strategies and possible future opportunities to ensure they remain competitive in the recruitment market.
Within this proposal, I will outline the context of the research which will provide more background information of social media recruitment and the RVC. I will then provide a summary of an initial literature review which will define the focus and scope of the research project about to be undertaken (Gray 2014). An appropriate research approach and the way in which I intend to carry out my research will be detailed along with how I intend to analyse the date obtained. Possible issues and limitations will be discussed and possible solutions to overcome them. I will propose timescales of the project milestones and finally provide a conclusion.
Established in 1791 and based at two sites in London and Hertfordshire, the Royal Veterinary College is one of 7 veterinary schools in the UK. A key part of their overall strategy is ‘to be the first choice for those seeking to work in the veterinary, biosciences and One Health Higher Education sector’ (RVC 2015). The Human Resources (HR) strategy is aligned to the overall strategy to support its objectives and, as such, a key part of the HR strategy is ‘the capacity to attract and retain talent at every level of the organisation from the local, national and international markets in which we compete will remain fundamental to our success’ (RVC 2015). The utilisation of social media to attract talent is an ever-increasingly popular topic within the HR profession so the HR team are keen to explore its value to help achieve this HR objective and to ensure they remain competitive in the recruitment markets. The HR team are also keen to discover if utilising social media for recruitment brings other cost and administrative efficiency benefits. As a previous member of the HR team at the College who has seen their current online recruitment process grow and develop for the organisation’s needs, I am interested in discovering if and how it can be further adapted to utilise social media, whether it can provide a competitive edge in the race for talent and whether this would be a valuable use of their resources. I am expecting that the RVC should have at least some element of social media recruitment presence but, given the diverse nature of its employees and their differing backgrounds and professions, whether social media can provide value to all its recruitment campaigns remains to be seen.
This literature review will guide the development of my research topic. As Gray (2014) states ‘In order to advance our collective knowledge, a researcher has to understand what has gone before.’ In seeking to do this I have reviewed numerous relevant literature related to the use of social media for recruitment and common themes were noted and formed the basis of my literature review.
An important part of any Human Resource Management (HRM) strategy is the effective recruitment of its staff which the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) (2016) state as ‘central and crucial to the successful day-to-day functioning of any organisation’. In an ever-increasingly competitive business environment, organisations are taking a more strategic approach to the staffing of their organisations (Taylor 2014). When Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web, it was not long before it added a new dimension and new opportunities in the recruitment field with the advent of online recruitment which first started in the mid-nineties. Commentators were quick to advocate its use due to the perceived efficiency benefits of as opposed to purely paper-based recruitment. Seminal research by Capelli (2001) stated that, while online recruitment was increasing in popularity due to the reduction in recruitment costs and time saved, its successful use was only achieved by those who fundamentally changed their recruitment process by using online media to market the organisation and build relationships with candidates to create talent pools. The advent of social media enabled organisations to take this marketing concept further by enabling organisations to promote its brand leading to more, better candidates by giving insight into recruitment the process and what it is like to work there (People Management 2013). In addition, social media enabled direct communication with target candidates resulting in a higher probability that a vacancy will be brought to the attention of someone who is ideally qualified to fill it (Taylor 2014). Contemporary research by Schmidt and Landers (2016) also suggest that ‘outgoing social media messages can enhance organisational attraction and recruit more and better applicants by sharing corporate values to increase the reputation and visibility of the organisation.’ These benefits are why 54% of employers are engaging in social media for recruitment (CIPD 2013). The outlined suggested benefits are an attractive prospect. However, little research has been undertaken to establish what the internal costs are of maintaining a social media presence i.e. required time spent per day and training staff in the use of social media costs. This valuable information will form part of my initial research methods which will be to establish what, exactly, the RVC would like to gain from utilising social media for recruitment and what the current capabilities of doing so are.
An additional, and controversial, use of social media in the recruitment process is using it to screen potential candidates. Contemporary research by Schmidt and Landers (2016) show no link between social media traits of potential candidates and job performance and they recommend that, until more in-depth research is undertaken in this area, social media is better used for recruitment and building a brand than as a selection tool. However, screening candidates in this way is can provide recruiters with a valuable source of information not found using traditional techniques (Davison et al. 2012; Kluemper 2013). Further research in this area by me regarding the potential benefits and risks to recruiters at the RVC of using such an approach to social media will enable me to make a balanced recommendation on whether screening candidates should be undertaken at the RVC.
Another consideration when utilising social media for recruitment is the impact it has on equality and diversity (E & D). Taylor (2014) and Iddekinge et al. (2013) state that organisations should not solely use social media for recruitment as it is predominately used by women and the younger generations. Rather, it should be used in conjunction with traditional methods. As a higher education establishment with E & D considerations high on the agenda, further research and understanding of the RVC’s E & D commitments and objectives must be taken into account and aligned to before any recommendations are made.
With such fast-paced advancements in social media and technology in general, it would be wise to also assess the implications of future developments in social media recruitment to ensure any recommendations provided are future-proofed. One well documented development that promises to have a big impact on social media recruitment is ‘bid data’ and ‘analytics’ which Schmidt and Landers (2016) believe will improve the HR discipline by providing it with a wealth of valuable information with which to make decisions. Regarding recruitment, this information seeks to help recruit more suitable candidates. What resources are needed to utilise big data and analytics, and in what capacity it would be suited to the RVC is will form part of my research. Schmidt and Landers (2016) also advocate working with internal IT professionals to help guide and shape the future of human resource management and this relationship, and whether more formal relationships arrangements are required at the RVC, will also form part of my further research.
I have chosen to conduct this research in a case study format as a case study generates multiple perspectives through multiple data collection methods (Lewis 2003) which I will need to use to ascertain the different perspectives of different people regarding the suitability of using social media recruitment at the RVC and its general use i.e. recruiting managers, HR, recent recruits and other organisations. As Gray (2014) states ‘the integration and contrasting of these different perspectives can build a rich and detailed understanding of the context’.
The case study’s epistemological approach taken will be constructivist since I will be the creator of my own knowledge by discussing and analysing and incorporating people’s different perspectives on social media recruitments suitability at the RVC, rather than discovering it in an objectivist fashion.
The question of whether to use Social Media Recruitment at the RVC will heavily depend on the perspectives (data) of RVC staff and similar organisations and I anticipate that the focus and direction of this research will also be led by them. A suitable methodology to use for this case study that will enable this is grounded theory which enable the development of a theory by discovering, developing and provisionally verifying through systematic data collection and analysis of data pertaining to that phenomenon (Strauss and Corbin 1998). Common methods of research used in grounded theory are interviewing and focus groups which will be a valuable way to obtain viewpoints and opinions of my research subjects.
Along with the qualitative research methods of interviews and focus groups, surveys to seek opinions would also provide valuable perspectives of social media recruitment and this mixed method of research will provide a richer, contextual understanding of the phenomenon being researched (Hansen et al, 2005)
I will initially conduct face to face interviews with recruiting managers from each of the differing staff groups within the College and the Operations Manager in HR, as well as conduct a face to face focus between the team of 5 HR Administrators, to ascertain exactly what they are hoping to gain from utilising social media recruitment. This is an important first step in my case study is it will not only enable me to gain a company specific perspective on what is required and feasable but focus the next stage of my research and data collection to ensure it is relevant to their needs. The interviews will be conducted in a semi-structured format which will enable me to understand their experiences, opinions, attitudes, and enable me to probe where required (Gray 2014). They will also enable me to obtain a more well-rounded picture of their requirements, as opposed to other data collection techniques like structured interviews questionnaires which have minimal interaction between the interviewer and interviewee. A focus group has been chosen for the administrators it will generate group dynamics within a group of differing individuals (Gray 2014) and enable me to understand the degree of consensus (Morgan and Krueger 1993) of what is deemed a valuable use of social media at the administrative level. The good working relationships with HR and recruiting managers already built while working at the RVC will also help facilitate their agreement to being interviewed and their willingness to interact positively and constructively.
Analysis of this information as described in the data section of this proposal will guide the construction of a relevant, anonymous questionnaire which will be emailed to all staff recruited in the past year, estimated at 225, in the form of a descriptive survey to ascertain their job seeking behaviors, their opinions of social media’s use by employers as a selection tool and their preference for future developments. The survey questionnaire will also enable me to gain an insight into E&D considerations. Recent recruits are most valuable as opposed to other people as they have already been recruited with the RVC’s objectives in mind so will be most like the future RVC candidates the RVC hopes to attract. A questionnaire is preferred as it will enable me to question many respondents at a low cost and at a time and place that suits them (Gray 2014). In addition, a questionnaire can assure their anonymity, which will help facilitate their honesty and willingness to participate.
Finally, I will seek the current stance, future plans and thoughts of other Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) in the UK of the use of social media recruitment by way of a survey for the HR Operations Managers. This will give me a broader picture of how social media is used for recruitment in the education industry and enable me to make recommendations on whether or not social media recruitment can provide competitive advantage. I will seek as many organisations as possible to provide me with the most accurate picture possible. This will require a questionnaire rather than other methods of research which I will be able to send to all HEI’s via email in the UK.
The subject area is not particularly contentious so I would not expect anything more than a minimal level of risk in causing harm or damage in the cause of my research. However, informed consent will be obtained prior to any of the three research methods suggested to ensure research participants are provided with sufficient and accessible information about my project so that they can make an informed decision as to whether to become involved, or not, (Crow et al., 2006).
My initial research of interviews and focus groups with managers and HR will help narrow the focus of my case study by generating common themes and requirements of social media recruitment. To attain these themes, I will use thematic analysis which will help generate descriptive data from the information provided as opposed to similar methods like content analysis which is more data driven.
The themes will then direct what questions to include in my questionnaire to recent employees which will be recorded to enable me to focus on the questions asked. While unknown at this point, the questions will be phrased in such a way as to concur, or not, with suggestions and requirements from the interviews and focus groups and to attain additional viewpoints and suggestions from a candidate perspective. Once obtained and transcribed, the information will be analysed for relationships, common themes and additional suggestions to that of the recruiting managers and HR. The types of data yielded will determine the appropriate analysis and statistical tests (Gray 2014). However, whether nominal or ordinal, this categorical data will be put in a descriptive statistical format which will enable analysis of the frequency distribution. The questionnaire for surveyed organisations will be developed and analysed in the same way.
All information gathered from my research will be stored securely on my laptop which is password protected.
Possible Problems and Limitations
While my previously created relationships with staff at the RVC will help encourage availability, access to the Operations Manager and a recruiting manager from each of the staff groups may be problematic due to low availability during the period that I undertake my research. Good forward planning and the fact that the purpose of the case study is to seek new, and more efficient, ways to help them recruit the staff they need will help encourage them to be available.
Availability of all of the HR Administrators at the same time for a significant period of time may also be problematic. However, they have a specific time and date every week that they keep clear in their diaries to have team, and other ad-hoc, meetings which will improve the chances of availability.
I have the potential to bias the interviews. I can prevent this by ensuring my interview techniques are consistent, with regard to my tone and duration of interview, to all research subjects.
Bias may also occur from the interviewees as the less technically savvy may feel obligated to advocate its use for fear of being seen to be not keeping up with technological advances. A broad range of questions highlighting the positive and negative consequences of using social media recruitment will help to reduce this.
The questionnaire may yield a low response rate. However, the estimated population of 225 staff recruited in the past year may be high enough to ensure a low response rate still generates enough responses to make analysis of the answers worthwhile. If not, a re-distribution of the survey with an added monetary incentive may increase the response rate. Another possible issue with the survey is that people may act differently in reality to the responses given in the questionnaire. A call for honesty and highlighting the fact that the questionnaire is anonymous may alleviate this.
As with the survey for recently employed staff, the survey for HR Operations Managers at other organisations may also yield a low response rate. There are currently 131 HEI’s in the UK and a low response rate may not yield enough responses with which to anaylse. In addition, motivation to respond may be low due to their current work obligations and responsibilities taking a higher priority and their reluctance to divulge any information which may provide reduce their own, or provide the RVC with, competitive advantage. To help improve the response rate, I will offer to provide all respondents with a free summary of my own findings of the survey which they may deem valuable for their own recruitment strategy planning.
Main Tasks and Timescales
I will use a Gantt Chart here with the following timescales:
January – starting report, start ethics form.
February to March – literature review.
April to May – Data collection.
June – Initial Analysis.
July -Draft to Alan.
While social media recruitment is only starting to be researched in-depth and the real value, or not, and all possible pitfalls may not be immediately apparent, such benefits as highlighted in the literature review can not be ignored and the RVC can not afford to fall behind its competitors who use social media recruitment to help attract the best talent. However, this case study will ascertain the real value and viability of social media recruitment at the RVC, now and in the future, and provide recommendations, or not, of its use.
Morgan and Kryeger 1993
Crow et al., 2006
Holton, J. A. (2009). Qualitative Tussles in Undertaking a Grounded Theory Study The Grounded Theory Review, 8(3), 37-49.
Dick, B. (2005). Grounded theory: a thumbnail sketch. [On line] Available at http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/ar/arp/grounded.html
Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.
Allan, G. (2003). A critique of using grounded theory as a research method. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods. 2(1).
Strauss and Corbin 1998
(Hansen et al, 2005)
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