Recently there’s been an interesting set of posts from Jane McConnell about HR’s general under-involvement in digital workplace programmes. She points out that HR are rarely the co-owners of a digital workplace initiative, and have generally arrived late to be involved in social collaboration, as well as exploring some of the reasons why this might be the case.
My own view on the reasons for HR’s “absence” largely concur with some of those explored in McConnell’s posts. I believe some of the contributory factors are:
- HR professionals are often required to be very process-led and risk-orientated, which occasionally may not sit comfortably with some of the fuzzier-edges of social collaboration
- Having had staff-levels cut, they are often too busy dealing with “Business As Usual” to concentrate on initiatives where benefits are softer and less immediately obvious
- Generally HR departments don’t have as much strategic clout as they should do
- Digital and online subject matter expertise is sometimes not regarded as a core HR competency and often where there is skill in place, it is sometimes tied to the specific HR system of software
McConnell is right to make a rallying call to HR professionals to get more involved. HR folk need to have a full seat at the table in making strategic decisions about intranets and digital working initiatives, as well as being fully paid-up members of operational and delivery teams. In fact there’s a good argument that HR should be the owner or co-owner Traditionally at least for intranets, internal communications and IT tend to share the spoils.
There are several reasons why HR’s involvement is critical for success.
HR own or manage HR data
Good HR data is very important for intranets and digital workplaces. It powers the ability to tailor relevant and personalised services and contents to individuals which is usually critical for good adoption, effective communication and improved processes. Decent HR data is also a given for a good employee directory.
HR departments need to make having good data a strategic priority because of all the benefits that flow from it. Ensuring HR own or co-own the digital working environment can help to ensure that HR data has the TLC that is needed.
Employee self-service should be a key digital deliverable
In the beginning when intranets were born employee self-service was often a key driver and quoted as a way to achieve value. Fifteen years later employee self-service and manager self-service are still one of the key justifications for investing in an intranet or a digital workplace. Cost savings, more accurate data and generally-employees-actually-quite-like-it are all relevant.
ESS is also key for driving adoption to the intranet or wider digital workplace, particularly for non-deskbound staff. Want to achieve great adoption? Instead of focusing on gamification, perhaps ensure that individuals have to download their payslips off the intranet.
Of course this to achieve all these benefits HR need to be involved. Digital strategies need to dovetail with HR strategy and any associated plans for technology. For example at Coca-Cola Enterprises award-winning intranet, HR transactions are on the homepage and a key component of the mobile version. One of the reasons that this has been achieved is that HR have been involved as a key stakeholder.
Other core HR processes happen in or interface with the digital workplace
Other core HR processes naturally occur within the digital workplace, some of which are very important such as onboarding and social learning. Others are emerging. For example increasingly ongoing peer to peer feedback on employee performance, usually positive in nature, is being captured in informal and transparent “kudos” type systems. (For more information see a post I did about this for IBF). Sometimes this can be used as an input into more formal HR processes such as performance reviews.
Also if we are going to go down the road where gamification-type points and influence-based scores are more visible, then some clarification may be needed on how these differ from other scores of performance, or more importantly how they are actually used.
With all these trajectories, HR need to be involved in what are key people issues.
New ways of working is an HR issue
Most obviously, the digital workplace involves new ways of working, with people operating from a different location or managing people who they no longer physically sit with. People issues need to be dealt with, HR policies need to be revised and training needs to be given. HR strategy and digital strategy need to be aligned.
Overall HR should be a key player in your intranet or digital workplace. If they are currently only a bit-part participant, getting them more fully aboard should result in successful business outcomes and a more joined-up roadmap for your digital workplace and intranet.