Web 2.0 and human resources – who should drive Web 2.0 initiatives in the organization?


The UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has recently launched a discussion paper titled Web 2.0 and human resources, designed to help HR professionals to understand what Web 2.0 is and to contribute to organization’s activities in the space.

The paper is built around the key elements of my Web 2.0 Framework, which they nicely attribute me for, though also brings in a number of new elements, and wraps up with three case studies, including Pfizer’s Pfizerpedia, UK government departments’ use of forums, and T-mobile’s use of social networks for recruitment.

As I see and work with many organizations grappling with how to respond to and take advantage of Web 2.0, one of the challenges is that there is no one obvious place in the organization where these initiatives should reside. IT, HR, marketing, strategy, risk management and other functions all need to be involved, and the reality is usually none of them individually have the capabilities to successfully drive the full breadth of the potential across the firm. In successful organizations, often individuals who implicitly understand the issues help to define activities, and very importantly communicate across the wide variety of stakeholders.

Certainly Enterprise 2.0 is fundamentally about people, with in the short to medium-term one of the most obvious and powerful benefits being the ability to better attract, retain, and develop talented people. In addition, successful Web 2.0 initiatives in organizations are fundamentally about shifting attitudes and behaviors. Collaboration increasingly drives value creation in organizations, but for that technology is only an enabler. As such, HR will ideally play a central role in Web 2.0 initiatives.

A few quick excerpts from the paper:

These ‘social and sociable’ media technologies … are forecast to have enormous potential to change the way people interact and work, so offering HR a new way of making a significant contribution to their organisation’s strategic and operational goals.

Perhaps more than any other managerial function, HR professionals need to be aware of these opportunities and challenges and be able to contribute effectively as members of a senior management team to policies on Web 2.0.

In recent publications, we have offered a view that the nature of the HR function and the services it provides might be radically changed by these potentially disruptive technologies . In the field of management and business practice, we are not alone in this prediction , with evidence from a range of consulting, business and public sector cases, surveys and application providers, all suggesting that Web 2.0 (see definition in Box 1) is about to become a major force in altering how organizations work .

Though hard evidence is more difficult to find , the HR function in the UK is at a very early stage in the adoption of Web 2.0… From a survey of almost 800 UK organisations, only 20% of those responding reported using such technologies for recruitment, with a small number planning to use it in the next year. Yet, we believe that specialists in people management, learning and development, work design and change management functions of organizations are likely to find themselves under increasing pressure to adopt Web 2.0 applications .

A number of technology gurus, including Donald Tapscott from Canada, Andrew MacAfee, John Seely Brown and Dion Hinchcliffe from the USA, and Ross Dawson from Australia, have begun to elaborate a theory of Web 2.0 (see their websites and blogs in Appendix 2). One of its most important characteristics is openness for organisations and their employees, making it easy for employees to engage with, but, as we have noted, the one characteristic with which many organisations and HR professionals find most difficulty in coping.…

Thanks to Krishna De for the reference and her additional insightful commentary on the paper.

4 replies
  1. Krishna De
    Krishna De says:

    Ross – you are more than welcome.
    How right you are about no one function having accountability for Web 2.0 strategies.
    Frankly I’m not sure it matters who takes the lead or where Web 2.0 projects, pilots and programmes start – so many organisations are grappling with trying to manage too many agendas and exploring social media has not been an imperative to date and is considered potentially a nice to have, but something that they consider might detract them from the day job.
    And in the current economic climate, the day job just got tougher.
    I think within Europe what ever we can do to unbundle complexity relating to social media communications, and encourage businesses to consider it as part of a solution to address specific business challenges then that’s a great place to start.
    Every day we hear stories and case studies of online reputation and online communications going wrong. Some business leaders, as a result, are reluctant to get started.
    Thanks for all you do in writing on this subject and encouraging discussion on this subject.

  2. Jon Ingham
    Jon Ingham says:

    This months’ Chief Learning Officer magazine also asked about who owns web 2.0, and particularly social networking, within the organisation – see https://social-business.blogspot.com/2008/06/who-owns-social-network.html.
    Basically, it’s a tough one between Learning, IT and other functions, but they think it’s probably HR.
    Krishna’s post shows we might want to worry about this!
    You can also see my post on the CIPD report at https://social-business.blogspot.com/2008/06/cipd-hr-use-of-web-20.html.

  3. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Web 2.0 is still very new and has created a lot of buzz. I’d look at it as a wonderful resource for a business to begin to understand the inner workings of a niche. This can help businesses cater to their customers at their level and according to their needs. I work for WhatIfWhatNext (TM) a public relations firm in Toronto. We specialize in stirring the Web 2.0 pot and helping businesses brand themselves with altruism and content as well as linking strategies. If you are interested in learning more about what we do, feel free to contact us and continue the discussion.

  4. Vardaan
    Vardaan says:

    HR and emerging Web 2.0 technologies including those Apps and online tools are indeed driving this sector of managment, though it often felt that a HR with web 2.0 strategy leads to gap among various other offshoots of Business and enterprise, the need is using other Business 2.0 tools along with HR web 2.0 strategy.
    Collaborative, Project management in shared mode, enterprise Wiki are still finding way to be grabbed by business.
    Yes, ‘Social and sociable’ media technologies are truly a killer tool for services such as HR.
    Countries like India are on their way where most big companies are developing such products inhouse unlike to other nations where companies are still dependent on open source like packages.

Comments are closed.