Taken together the articles are testimony to the very real interest this theme is generating and provide a useful snap-shot of the changing relationship between HR and the opportunities provided by technology.
In the Editorial, Dr Rick Holden of Liverpool Business School provides a context, a way of thinking about the various accounts which follow.
The framework is drawn from Deloitte‘s report on the digital workplace. Although produced in 2011 I think it is still helpful in providing a ‘big picture’ view of how digital technologies – both the ones in operation and the ones yet to be implemented – affect and influence workplace processes and practices and to what end. It helps us think holistically about the adoption of particular HR tools that might be deployed within the workplace, whatever the focus - recruitment, development, communication, teamwork etc.
I sense a tendency when discussing digitisation and HR to start with a list; a list of all the things that HR could do with new digital technologies. “Let’s use social media”. 'Let’s develop online training'. 'Let’s get this mobile app for all our staff'. This is layer 2 thinking – the Technology ‘Tool Box’. Fine, but the importance of ensuring some layer 4 thinking is crucial. What are the business drivers and business needs? What are the cost-benefits of digitising something and what sort of controls might be needed, including, for example, important ethical standards that need to be considered? In other words, the framework reproduced here helps us ask what I call ‘fit for purpose’ questions in relation to HR and digitisation and helps prevent us getting side-tracked by the technology.
Allow me to make one further, closely related point - this time with reference to the inner layer: ‘connect’, ‘collaborate’, ‘communicate’. This is a nice way of thinking about what we all do, day-day, as part of our work. As HR professionals, we are in the people business. We are not computer programmers or software developers. HR, for me anyway, stands for relationships, interaction, dialogue or, as depicted in the Figure, connecting, communicating, collaborating. Technology may well help us do these things but we should be wary of it removing what is uniquely human about our HR work and activity.
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At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.