People & Culture, Strategy & Decision-making

Is HR the missing player we are waiting for in the digital workplace?

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in May 2013 ……


What’s different when HR co-leads the digital workplace?

This is part one of a three-part series on the theme of “Is HR the missing player we are waiting for in the digital workplace?”

  1. What’s different when HR co-leads the digital workplace?
  2. Why is HR late in social collaboration?
  3. What future for HR? Call to action for HR professionals

I studied the 15 organizations represented by HR professionals in the digital workplace survey of Q3 of 2012 that served as the basis for “Digital Workplace Trends 2013”. This sampling of 15 organizations is representative of the full survey population in terms of range in size of workforce, wide variety of different industries, different international footprints and a mix of “desk-office” and “floor-field” organizations.

The only difference between these 15 organizations and the others is that the organization was represented by an HR professional rather than a Communication or IT professional (who make up the large majority of the survey respondents).

All survey respondents are key digital workplace players in their own organizations and, given the HR participation in the survey, I have assumed that HR co-leads digital workplace initiatives in these 15 organizations.

At a strategic tipping point

Organizations with digital workplaces that are co-led by HR are at a tipping point where their actions are on the verge of elevating the digital workplace into a strategic position.

Three data points stand out:

  • The digital workplace is more often positioned as part of an organizational transformation program.

40 percent of the organizations represented in the survey by HR report that “the digital workplace initiative is an official part of a higher level organizational-wide change program”.  This is much higher than the 10 percent of organizations represented by IT and the 12 percent represented by Communication. (The survey average was 20 percent.)

  • More Digital Boards are being formed.

53 percent of the HR-represented organizations have a Digital Board that is either “fully functioning” (13 percent) or “exists in theory but not yet fully active” (40 percent). Again, this surpasses the 40 percent of IT-represented organizations (8 percent and 32 percent) the 34 percent of Communication-represented organizations (11 percent, 23 percent).

  • However, senior management resistance is higher.

70 percent of HR-represented organizations report considerably more resistance from senior management to integrating social collaboration into the way of working. Both IT and Communication report 55 percent.

So, strategic steps are being taken even in a context of ‘less than strong’ senior management support for social collaboration, a basic capability in digital workplaces.

Employee voice in communities and crowds

HR-represented organizations give greater space to the employee voice.

I wrote previously about the fact that the right to self-expression in the digital workplace is low in over half the organizations.

In the 15 HR-represented organizations studied here, people are more likely to have capabilities in place that let people converse, connect, create communities and participation in idea generation and open innovation.

  • 47 percent of the HR-represented organizations provide people with the capability to converse, connect and create communities. The survey average is 38 percent. This capability was defined as “enabling people to ask questions, have dialogue, get feedback and create groups and communities around topics, using micro-blogging or social networking tools”.
  • 40 percent have capabilities enabling crowdsourcing, ideation and/or open innovation. The survey average is 26 percent. This was defined as “enabling people across the organization to propose ideas in response to an issue, a challenge, a need, etc. and to interact with other people’s ideas by using crowd sourcing, ideation, social networking, enterprise jams or other tools”.

Mobile and personal

Investment in mobile is higher in the HR-represented organizations and there is greater freedom for BYOD (Bring your own device.)

  • 27 percent say mobile “is high priority and significant investment has already been made” and another 55 percent say it is “considered important and some investment has been made.” This makes total of 82 percent that are actively enabling mobile capabilities. Survey averages are 15 percent and 54 percent, making a total of 69 percent.
  • 36 percent have a BYOD policy and allow personal mobile devices, which is only slightly higher than the 30 percent survey average. However, what is more striking is that 45 percent of the HR-represented organizations are moving ahead rapidly in to define their BYOD policy compared to the survey average of 27 percent.

Is HR responsible for these differences?

The data above raises several questions:

  1. Is the presence of HR as co-leader in the digital workplace a trigger for these differences?
  2. Or, do enterprises moving ahead rapidly in their digital workplaces have more HR involvement than others?
  3. Why are there so few HR-represented organizations visible in digital workplace initiatives and forums?

Are you or do you know a proactive HR professional?

I would love to hear stories from proactive HR teams around the world about how they are helping prepare their people and organizations for the future.