Wednesday, 18 June 2008

CIPD: HR's use of web 2.0

The CIPD have published a short, initial discussion document on 'HR's use of web 2.0 for strategic business impact' (disclosure: I bid for this work but didn't get it).

The report includes case studies provided by Pfizer, 3 government departments and T-Mobile.

I'm pleased to see that the CIPD recognises that web 2.0 provides 'the potential to change the way people interact and work' which 'offers HR a new way of making a significant contribution to an organisation's strategic and operational goals'.

However, I'm not sure the report offers much to help us do this (and to be fair, I don't think that's its objective either).

I think part of the problem is that the report concentrates too much on web 2.0 and not enough on what we can do to change organisations by using this technology.  This may sound a small distinction, but I think it's an important one.

Yes, it's possible for technology to present completely new opportunities to organisations (to create value - in the way I suggest people can do) and this can be most easily discovered by looking at the inherent value in the technology.  But in the main, we're not yet even looking at how web 2.0 can support existing business / people management objectives (adding value), and I think this needs to come first.

After all, experience in various areas, for example, e-learning, suggests that the actual technology doesn't matter that much; it's how this is used as part of a blended solution to achieve certain learning and business objectives that counts.

So what are these objectives.  The CIPD report suggests that they include:

  • Encouraging greater collaboration
  • Giving employees a greater voice
  • Helping them learn about each other and potential employees
  • Sharing their knowledge and experience.

I think that's a good list.  But the report then seems to focus on using web 2.0 to support HR's own agenda (meeting people management objectives eg through learning and particularly recruitment - given the side references to the CIPD's Recruitment and Retention Survey) rather than how HR supports the business agenda (relating to the bullet points above).

For example, when discussing employee engagement, it seems to suggest web 2.0 can be used to replace more traditional surveys, rather than much more powerfully, reshaping organisations to give employees more voice.

I think what I'm saying is that we should focus more on enterprise 2.0 (which I would define as the social organisation) rather than web 2.0 (the tools that enable this).

One thing I do like the report is that it's been produced to elicit  more inputs and opinions from the HR community in order to inform and the second stage of the research.  So it's a good example of using a social approach that encourages collaboration.

I think it would have been useful to spell this out more clearly - this is all we're talking about when we're discussing social tools.  And I think the mechanisms and for and benefits of developing collaboration are worth more focus than the tools.