Thriving as an HR Professional In a Social Business Era

December 17, 2011 - 6 minute read - Posted by

Yesterday, I was amazed when announced it’s acquisition of Rypple, a social performance management software provider. Salesforce mentioned that it will re-launch Rypple as “Successforce” and create a new social HCM business unit. Also earlier this week, the social business vendor Jive Software went public and earlier this month SAP announced it’s acquisition of SuccessFactors, a web-based employee management software company that recently made two social business acquisitions itself (CubeTree & Jambok). It’s social business explosion and I believe it is going to affect and disrupt the HR departments more than anything else. Let’s go over what you can do as an HR professional not only to keep your career, but to thrive as we enter the new era of social organizations.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that this recent blast of social business acquisitions and IPOs are signs of a social media revolution that will take over the workplaces around the world. Although social media may be new to companies, it has been around in the consumer space for a while and it has dramatically changed our lives triggering global events such as the Arab spring that many activists thanked Facebook for (shown in picture below). With a 10-year delay, the social media revolution is finally entering the workplace and its influence is going to be comparable to the consumer social media revolution. Social business will conquer the HR industry and it will not take any prisoners. Ignoring it will be a costly mistake.

The upcoming era of social business is going to change the way businesses interact with their customers and their employees. When it comes to interacting with employees, the HR space has the most to gain or lose depending on how adaptive they are to the changing environment. The cuurent processes and software that HR uses to retain their people are outdated and archaic. Traditional HR processes and software are controlling, discontinuous, and too formal. I recently wrote two blog posts on the problems associated with performance reviews and 360-degree feedback processes. In a real-time and social world, it doesn’t make sense to receive annual feedback that is usually top-down and formal. Since we are moving away from the command-and-control hierarchical organizations to more flattened organizations, where company culture and employee empowerment is important, traditional HR processes don’t work anymore. Some of these processes are over half a century old and the software used are too complex. Therefore, this space has the greatest potential for improvement and change.

The other driver of change is the huge number of the millennials (Gen Ys) entering the workforce (analyst predict 100M Gen Ys entering the workforce in North America by 2020). According to Don Tapscott, the author of Grown up Digital and Wikinomics, Gen Ys have certain characteristics that are different from their parents such as:

  • Demand for freedom of expression and autonomy
  • A need for corporate integrity and openness where they work
  • Demand for fun and play at work
  • Demand for collaboration in almost anything
  • A need for speed and information flow
  • Demand for innovative tools to collaborate, learn, and work

Comparing the Gen Y character norms to the traditional HR process and HR technology norms, we can quickly see how conflicting they are and how the emerging generation will drive the change and disruption of the traditional HR as we have it today.

So what can you do as an HR professional to not only survive this changing environment, but to take advantage of it and thrive? Well the good news is that the technology is only a small piece of the equation and the company culture and processes that support this change are the bigger pieces of this shift. By embracing the change, designing the new processes, and helping enhance the culture that supports this new way of thinking, you can become an evangelist.

The HR profession is evolving from paper-pushing and administration to empowering, coaching, training, and unleashing human potential at work. Social human capital management software is going to take most of the manual work away and provide simplified processes and analytics that enhance your company culture and performance in real-time. To be successful HR professional, you must take a proactive approach in training your people on how to get the most value from the new tools and in promoting a culture of coaching, feedback, training, and partnering with employees. By focusing on creating a meaningful, joyful, and engaging work environment, you can enhance your companies performance, and be an invaluable part of the a fast changing and agile 21st century social organization.

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