HR in Web 3.0
It’s known in technology circles as Web 3.0, or the semantic web. New programming abilities give websites and online tools the ability to analyse and interpret the meaning of online data; that means an employee’s next career move may well be predicted.
For instance, a middle-manager isn’t going to apply for a senior vice-president position and professional networking portal LinkedIn, using Web 3.0 technology, will know this and not place any ads for that kind of position on the user’s page, Harpaul Sambhi, author of Social HR, says. “Instead, it would place ads for senior manager positions.”
His book, which sheds insights on how social media is impacting the HR function, says technological evolution over the past three decades has indeed streamlined processes and created the capability to access vast resources very quickly and at very low costs to end-users.
“Whilst there are effects of such a rapid evolution which need to be managed carefully, the overriding result is positive in terms of speed and ready access to information, the ability to widen the search net to a more appropriate talent pool, and (the ability) to help people focus on the information – or in this case the candidates – most appropriate to them,” says Renata Janini Dohmen, Senior HR Business Partner – Asia-Pacific, Avaya.
Technology today can also lead to a greater element of ‘self-service’ for employees and managers, where they can handle people-related tasks online or remotely, rather than needing to contact HR teams, says Peter Baker, Global Head – Learning & Organisation Development, Maersk Line.
“While this drives efficiency and also speed, the risk of such a reliance on technology is that HR becomes more remote from employees and managers,” he cautions.
It’s important for HR teams to stay close to people so that they have a feel for the reality that their employees are experiencing. In the past, day-to-day interactions on employee issues would help ensure that HR had their finger on the pulse of the organisation. Baker says HR managers need to be aware of this and ensure that they adjust their behaviour accordingly.
Still, HR is a “people” profession and technology should typically be taken as more of a facilitator than a replacement, says Dohmen.
Tech in business today
In addition to changing consumer expectations and increasing employee demands, organisations find themselves competing globally as they expand and disperse across geographical borders, with the increasing need to be ‘always on’ and ‘always connected’ as well.
“Mobile technology and cloud computing, coupled with the rapid proliferation of popular consumer devices like smartphones, iPads and tablets, are helping fuel trends like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD),” says Dohmen.
It is inevitable that HR will see this dovetailing of employees choosing device and communication vehicles, and IT departments will have to adapt to and anticipate this radical change. “Employees today are ‘always on’ and ‘always connected’, which can be advantageous for companies, particularly when employees do not have access to the physical office,” says Dohmen.
When the tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Avaya’s infrastructure enabled the company’s Japan-based employees to work from home seamlessly, as if they were working in the office, and so business operations were not disrupted for long.
“With the right unified communications technology, enterprises can have richer, people-driven collaboration that helps improve productivity and hasten decision-making while meeting customer demands 24-7,” Dohmen explains.
Furthermore, in the search for top talent, companies are searching in the global talent pool and are increasingly enabling recruits to work from their location of choice, bringing about the emergence of the mobile workforce and the need for a collaborative environment.
“A collaborative virtual enterprise allows personnel to work anywhere in the world, without compromising their access to company resources and systems, leveraging on virtualisation technology, mobility, cloud computing, and social media,” says Dohmen.
As such, the HR function has to not only evolve but go through a dramatic transformation if it wants to avoid becoming redundant and extinct.
Security challenges ahead
Organisations large and small are looking at both public and private cloud solutions based on virtualised platforms. They aim to not only drive efficiency and give seamless access to corporate resources, but also bring about cost savings over the long run.
However, the increasing dependence and support for mobile devices also opens up enterprises to the unique challenges of manageability, security and access. The ability to find methods that can help integrate office tools with a variety of devices without jeopardising these key aspects will be critical.
“Enterprises must be able to incorporate all these technologies with unified communications solutions, such as the Avaya Flare Experience, and link them seamlessly in a way that drives costs and energy consumption down,” explains Dohmen.
Also, with increasing prevalence of such technologies, organisations’ data security is put at risk. Weak or stolen passwords and credentials are one of the biggest threats to an organisation’s data security. According to the Verizon 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 76% of network intrusions exploited weak or stolen passwords or credentials to bypass the organisation’s access controls and to gain access to sensitive and private information.
Furthermore, the report found that 14% of data breaches were conducted by insiders. More than half of insiders committing IT sabotage were discovered to be former employees who regained access via backdoors or corporate accounts that were never disabled. Most of these activities were financially motivated and ranged from simple credentials stealing to more sophisticated plans to transfer intellectual property from one organisation to another.
“Although insider data breaches happened much less frequently as compared to external data breaches, when they do happen, the impact is usually much worse,” says Patrick Lum, Senior Consultant, Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “More data was stolen and the impact to the victim organisation was much worse.”
In this regard, while data security is predominantly an IT department responsibility, HR also has a role to play in ensuring that their policies tie in and synergise with IT policies to ensure a safe and secure environment for the company’s data. For example, the education of employees using strong passwords or log-in credentials can potentially cut down on data breaches that arise out of weak passwords.
“With many organisations also embracing the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, it is crucial for HR and IT departments to work together to govern corporate data and put in place processes such as data deletion when employees leave,” Lum advises.
Notwithstanding the risks, technology is still, no doubt, a clear enabler of faster collaboration, smarter decision-making and better business outcomes.
“At Avaya we call that ‘The Power of We’. Because people do business with people – and ‘we’ are stronger than ‘I’,” says Dohmen. “As HR leaders, we too can benefit from the same tools to help manage the most effective workplace environment for our people, and to support the business results our companies are driving to achieve.”
Social networks can help maintain relationships. As Maersk is a very global organisation, with many staff transferred across the globe, it can be difficult for local country-level organisations to maintain relationships with their staff in other parts of the region.
“Maersk Line New Zealand actively uses social media to remain connected to the large ‘Kiwi Diaspora’ that exists across Maersk globally, keeping them updated on what’s happening locally and making these employees feel connected,” says Peter Baker, Global Head – Learning & Organisation Development, Maersk Line. “It doesn’t replace the formal talent and career management systems, but it adds a more human dimension.”
Social networks can also be useful to keep employees connected with each other. “We often find that younger employees who are brought together to attend a global training course or participate in a global project remain connected on social networks when they return to their home countries,” says Baker. “They can rely upon this network to help them solve problems and generate ideas.”
Avaya uses technology to facilitate communication and better interaction between employees. Our collaboration tools such as AvayaLive Engage – a virtual world platform which allows people to interact more effectively using their own personalised avatar – and the recently-acquired Radvision video solutions have helped employees globally communicate better.
“Indeed within three months of our Radvision acquisition, over 4,500 of our employees had their own personal video environment which they use daily for higher productivity meetings with colleagues and customers across the world,” says Renata Janini Dohmen, Senior HR Business Partner for Asia-Pacific, Avaya.
“We are also leveraging social media tools such as Salesforce Chatter to ensure that our teams have a ready environment to share ideas, access information more quickly and learn from one another – but ensuring that those conversations and exchanges stay within the organisation, where they belong,” she adds.
Employees at Avaya are increasingly encouraged to use external social media tools too, albeit with clear guidelines.