HRM, EMPLOYEES' SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE IDEA OF A BRANDED COMMUNITY
Social media offers educational opportunities for HR managers. Two intersecting forces prompted this creative approach to HRM in the light of adaptation and opportunities presented by information and communication technologies (ICT) and social media in the workplace. First, HRM has entered another developmental phase as yet to be fully explored outside of traditional approaches, apart from recognizing increasing complexity and sophistication. Secondly, and accentuated by ICT and social media, organizations “ensure that the ongoing production of a common social world on the part of consumers proceeds in ways that produce a distinctive brand image and that strengthens brand equity – the productive potential that the brand has in the minds of consumers – which is understood to be the most important factor behind brand value (Arvidsson 2006, p.74). These two influences suggest that brand activities are very much the business of HRM, especially as, says Arvidsson (2006, p.74), brand management uses what Michael Foucault (1991) once called government...one does not so much give orders... as much as one works from below, by providing an ambience in which freedom is likely to evolve in particular ways”. Guest (2011) provided a sequenced account of HRM theory and research, identified the current period of conceptual refinement but also challenges facing HRM. One was that, in his view, employees were still to occupy centre stage and in particular, the importance of their perceptions was not being fully appreciated. The paper is organized as follows. An introduction makes the case for brand theory to enter the realm of human resource management activities. This is followed by the traditional approaches and the changing face of HRM. Then concepts from brand theory, specifically selected for its interface with core HRM activities such as developing a productive culture, gaining commitment and trust and providing an ambience so that the employee will find the brand what Lury (2004) calls a platform for action. Brand activities need a receptive audience and data from two case studies are presented to illustrate brand (in the sense of the organizational offering) as being positively and negatively articulated in folkloric terms. The integration with Brand strategy and HRM strategy (as well as other functions) is already happening in organizations such as Virgin (Arvidsson, 2006, p.78). Such organizations are multinational and have their own challenges in developing cultures where employee stakeholders need a cause and internal coherence in the face of increasing complexity. As Reich (1991) and Heelas (2002) pointed out, new categories of worker are emerging, (not only knowledge workers) who cannot be fitted into any ‘modernized’ version of the Taylorist (1911) ethic. There may be a ‘new capitalist spirit’ (Boltanski and Chiapello 1999) requiring human resource strategies focusing on social relations, identity and culture as well as rules and regulations (Author 2013). Already social media opportunities at work enable employees to become interactive producers of the organizational community. It is proposed that concepts from brand theory and corporate branding can be incorporated into HRM activities with the view of presenting the organization as a community. This complements current literature on organizational community extending it to include development of an ‘HRM Branded Community”.