2013 – The Year of Social HR

Gran Canaria - Roque BentaygaEarlier on in the year, while doing some casual reading out there on the Web around HR related topics and how it’s been impacted by the world of Social, now that it’s become my new focus area around Open Business, I bumped into an article at Forbes that clearly reminded me how we may not have learned much in the last 18 years around knowledge sharing, collaboration, connecting and building personal business relationships through digital tools and the overall concept of social networking for business, as we keep applying lipstick on a pig trying to dump traditional social components into every single aspect of a business organisation, whether Sales, Marketing, Communications, Development, Retail, and, now, of course, Human Resources as well, since it seems to the hot topic du jour that everyone is trying to hop into. But seriously? Haven’t we learned anything in the last 18 years since we had the first instances of social software tools with blogs and wikis? It looks like we haven’t. 

At least, judging from that article Jeanne Meister published earlier on under the heading “2013 – The Year of Social HR” and where she gets to develop further on a good number of different social media trends that will be affecting HR over the course of the next year. It’s interesting to note how those very same trends attempted to have some kind of impact around other areas of the business and with very mixed results. So it looks like it’s now a good time to try them out on HR and see if they would work. Never mind the extended first hand experience we have had in the past proving that some of those trends just didn’t even make the mark. Shouldn’t we be aiming higher with regards to HR and the impact of Social for that matter? 

Allow me to explain briefly further along tackling each and everyone of those various different trends that Jeanne mentions on that article to explain a little bit of what I mean: 

Gamification Becomes A Standard Practice

Well, I surely hope it won’t, and big time! I know that in the recent past I haven’t written much around the whole topic of gamification or serious games at work, but those folks who know me from interactions on several social networking tools out there would agree with you that it’s currently one of my pet peeves from the world of Social. More than anything else because we have been trying it out for the last 15 to 18 years in the field of Knowledge Management and because time and time again it keeps failing under a singular, specific premise, amongst several others, that keeps getting ignored time and time again: put a gamification engine of whatever the sort behind the firewall and people will naturally tend to game it, never mind the unhealthy competitive nature that will inspire knowledge workers to protect and hoard their own knowledge even more, so that they can continue gaming the system to be on top! Therefore making it a waste of time and resources, as well as a huge disappointment for the entire workforce for not delivering much on helping improve engagement, after all.

It may well be a matter of semantics, but for as long as we keep using gamification as the wording / concept it will never stick around in the corporate world as we know it, based on those couple of reasons I shared above. An alternative? Probably I would go with Behavioural Dynamics, which has got completely different connotations to what gamification has been all along, and perhaps I should develop further in additional blog posts what is meant with that behavioural dynamics, to help influence how knowledge workers engage through social technologies behind the firewall.Gran Canaria - Degollada de las Yeguas 

I, for once, would hope that gamification and social business vendors would finally put a stop on wanting to infantilise the corporate world as we know it, because that’s essentially what they are doing. You can’t engage knowledge workers by treating them like kids playing silly games of gaining points here and there, competing with one another in an unhealthy manner, showing with pride their badges. For what purpose? Reputation? Engagement? Really? See? Gaming the system will provoke one single element to come out that could even destroy the corporate culture of your own organisation: lack of value add from your own online interactions with others, just to earn that badge. We have already done this in the past with KM and we don’t seem to have learned much about it, have we?

If HR would want to re-engage back the knowledge workforce I would certainly stop focusing on gamification and instead adopt the mantra of Open Business as in Open HR, meaning, becoming more open and transparent around both HR and Human driven processes, engage in direct dialogue with the workforce to find out the many different reasons they may have as to why they are no longer feeling engaged, to evaluate what can be done to revert the change, be capable of accepting constructive criticism not only on what works, but mostly on what doesn’t work, so that HR can have an option AND the opportunity to revert the tide back again. And, overall, bring back into the conversation topics like equity, democracy, meritocracy, social eminence, trust, open knowledge sharing and collaboration, meaning, purpose, focus, motivation and so forth, which have been missing on HR’s narrative for far too long!

The Death of the Resume

Nothing really new on this one either, I am afraid. Not even a trend anymore, but more of a reality, I can imagine. For instance, I just can’t remember the last time that I updated my official CV. I think it must have been about 8 to 9 years ago, if not longer!, yet in all of that time I have been moving around in between projects, business units and what not and I never had to revert back to the CV to show what my skills and experience are on a particular subject matter.

Instead, indeed, both my personal business blog, and, specially, my extended social networks have become my new CV, which is probably the reason why my curriculum has now become the first page of Google Search results for “Luis Suarez” (i.e. my blog et al). See? Building a digital footprint is now more the norm, rather than the exception, and perhaps the end goal for all knowledge workers out there wanting to establish themselves demonstrating their subject matter expertise and their passion for a particular topic by making a smarter use of the digital tools to not just get the message across, but also to make sense of it all through meaningful conversations. Something that Howard Rheingold has described beautifully on his most recent book Net Smart.

The primary goal over here for HR then would be to help prepare knowledge workers to become more knowledgable and savvy to move their traditional, fixed, always out of date, paper based CV into the digital world where it’s constantly updated on a regular basis and with perhaps much more accuracy, since it will incorporate both the expertise from those knowledge workers, along with their networks’, by how they demonstrate their thought leadership always adding business value into the conversation(s).

Your Klout Score Will Become A Measurable Currency

Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the Winter Goodness! I surely hope not! In fact, I would strongly encourage everyone that every time you may bump into a job vacancy where they are asking for your Klout score, or to have a certain score for the job, to not even think about joining that firm, because right there they are reflecting how they don’t respect much your own privacy as a knowledge worker, based on how Klout destroys it by just trying to figure out how influential you are in social networks by being rather intrusive, never mind how flaky the algorithm is and how restrictive it is when measuring that social influence since it just focuses on the easy part: how verbose you may well be in blasting out your marketing messages out to others! 

Yikes! No, thanks! Seriously, if you are looking for a job, and in that job description HR mentions the word Klout, the best thing you can do is run away! As fast as you can! There are way better jobs out there waiting for you where your privacy is well respected while measuring your social influence in an smart and responsible manner.

Alternatives for HR? Look into the bigger picture. Look into how you can measure the influence of knowledge workers out there in the digital world by focusing more on the conversations and the value add they put forward in their various networks and communities, rather than how many times they manage to blast out their own marketing messages without focusing on anything else. This is something that other services like Little Bird do extremely well, that is, focus on the networks, the communities, and how they are influenced by those experts (More on Little Bird shortly, by the way…)

Personal Branding Will Be A Required Skill

Not much of a trend this one either, is it? From the moment that knowledge workers are keen on going digital, using whatever the social Web technologies in place, this is no longer a growing trend, but a well established one. In fact, it’s been in the making for nearly 10 years now, even way before Enterprise 2.0 became the buzzword, when folks resorted to their own personal business blogs as their best personal branding tools. And that’s still going rather strong when that aspect has been hugely amplified and augmented with all of the social networking sites we are all far too familiar with. 

The role of HR in this one, as an opportunity to lead by example on that mantra of Open HR, is that one of helping knowledge workers facilitate plenty of opportunities to build their digital footprint with enough resources, education, coaching, mentoring, facilitation, so that instead of becoming a hurdle where some HR departments may not be in favour of employees being out there in the open in fear of being snatched by talent hunters, they work even harder to make that happen so that they can have a chance to fight for them by caring about them. There is nothing for HR to take more pride on than having your employee knowledge workforce being enticed by talent hunters to make a move. That’s basically sending out there a tremendous message: you have got a high performing, rather talented, motivated and engaged team. It’s your job now, HR’s, to retain it. 

Recruiters Will Find You Before You Know You Are Looking For A Job

Finally, perhaps the most interesting of the various different trends that Jeanne talks about on that Forbes piece, not so much for the opportunity of looking for a job, way before you sense you may well be in that situation, but, specially, from the perspective that this trend on its own could well be the confirmation of another well known one that will surely tear apart the traditional concept of the knowledge workforce and the corporate world as we know it. Essentially, the shift from the traditional payroll employee workforce into that free agent, freelancer workforce that gathers around networks and communities to deliver their expertise and extensive know-how, get paid for it in good terms, and then move elsewhere. 

This is the one area where HR would surely need to go through a major transformation from being right at the centre of managing employees / resources, to be shifted around the edges facilitating alumni networks, freelancers, and a small core group of employees to be part of the same ecosystem. One that, at long last, is going to reach the final frontier: The Social Web. 

2013 may well be the year of Social HR, we will have to wait and see, but what I do know is that judging from the reflections I have shared above 2013 certainly is going to be the year of Open HR, where openness, transparency, publicy, equity, trust, engagement, meritocracy, purpose, meaning, online / digital reputation, recognition of networks and communities vs. just individuals are becoming common HR speak, that is, HR’s new narrative to be able to re-engage back the workforce and if we were just to learn a little bit from what we have done in the recent past, what worked AND what didn’t work!, there is only one way forward: focus on the success of your failure(s)! Essentially, learn from them, don’t make the same mistakes again and continue through that learning and sustainable growth path. Yes, I know, there won’t be a way back!

Fascinating and exciting times, indeed!

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