What is the Role of HR in the modern enterprise?

Social media has proved pretty effective at changing the world and how we communicate with one another. It is also slowly changing our organisations, and as with any organisation, HR is right in the middle of the change.

Technologies such as Yammer and Work.com have been changing how we collaborate and manage performance respectively. What does the future hold though? The HR Technology Conference shed some light on how social tools will change HR in the coming years.

The obvious outcome from the event that it provides HR with a unique opportunity to become more fundamental to the success of their organisations. It does this by allowing them to move on from performing tactical administrative roles and becoming central to the strategic planning of the organisation.

If HR can take ownership of these social tools then they instantly become central to things like the culture of the organisationthe way people workinnovationcollaboration, and much more.

IT may be able to handle the technical side of these things, but they will succeed (or not) based upon the human and emotional aspect of getting people to change how they work.

Of course, to do this properly will require a change of mindset from HR as well. No longer will it be good enough for you merely to react, to police office behaviour if you will. This will require a proactive approach to make internal communications more frequent and more effective. It will require an admission that silos are not welcome, and that mistakes will happen when people innovate.

Cindy Lubitz, Founder of inTalent Consulting, points out that there’s also a double standard that is becoming a growing problem: “We hurt our corporate reputations when we attract candidates through contemporary use of social media, and then revert back to our old ways and block employees from using social tools to do their jobs.”

How to make your organisation social

1. Figure our your purpose - The first thing you need to do is define the purpose for your effort. Deloitte produced some research recently showing the importance of tying in social business efforts with the organisational aims of your company.

So use the central aims for your organisation and work backwards from there to find ways that social media can help those. This is a central part in establishing ROI so make sure you do it properly.

2. Establish emotional buy-in – The second thing is to then trial things on a small project. Technology is not important, but without the emotional buy-in of employees, this will never work. Therefore you need to establish emotional capital. There are five ways you can do this:

  • Identify community leaders that have authenticity and trust to champion and lead the project. These people don’t have to have technical social media skills as that can come later.
  • Once you’ve identified these social leaders, train them so they have the technical skills to transfer this to your community.
  • Ask them to lead communities that build emotional capital. You want them to emphasise each of the four pillars mentioned above.
  • Start small. Rather than rolling out dozens of tools at the outset, try rolling out one or two instead. Your first aim should be to build emotional capital. Complex social networking tools can often wait until later.
  • Manage your expectations. You can’t expect major changes such as improvements in morale or knowledge sharing until the emotional capital has been established. You have to walk before you can run.

3. Scale things – Once you have both some successful results on a small scale AND emotional buy-in from the key early adopters across your organisation, you can then look to scale things. The table below provides some good insight into the kind of thinking you should employ.

To often social technologies have been viewed as a risk by those in HR, and technology is resisted in the workplace as a result. This is your chance to change that, and to grab a strategic place at the boardroom as a result.

Adi Gaskell is a blogger on social business.