Enterprise Social-Collaboration: Where Is HR?

Human Resources departments should have a keen interest in employee engagement — including digital engagement. Yet, several years of survey research persistently finds that most enterprise HR teams take a back seat in shaping employee digital collaboration and social networking capabilities. If this is the case in your organization, you may want to rethink your strategy.

Some Background

This is not a new story. RSG's 2014 surveys showed HR playing more of a "follower" role behind IT and Corporate Communications. We then laid out the case for why HR should care about employee digital experiences as much as they care about employee non-digital experiences.

Anecdotally, we've seen progress among some of RSG's enterprise subscribers. In particular we've seen some HR leaders successfully separate out more transactional, case-management tasks from longer-term planning around employee well-being and professional development.

There's a digital component to this distinction as well: you can readily place self-service portals in front of your HR systems, but it's a very different set of skills and tools that drive a long-term plan to humanize and socially-enable the broader employee digital experience.

Which brings me to 2016...

2016 Survey Results

We posed the question a bit differently in 2016, but the results are largely the same. You can obtain a summary of the survey results here to peruse on your own. Meanwhile, here's some data on organizational leadership.

Corporate Communications and IT remain the twin pillars of enterprise social-collaboration, particularly when it comes to sponsoring and funding those efforts. This is not a bad thing; both departments bring important capabilities to the table.

Meanwhile, three other departments tend to participate less often, and less likely in a leadership capacity:

  • Knowledge Management (KM) — an important capability, but to be fair, not every enterprise has built out this function
  • Sales and Marketing — often involved because they may represent the most important users of social-collaboration technology, but also because they possess important digital skills and experience
  • Human Resources (HR) — still not commonly in a leadership role

Of course there are exceptions. On a hopeful note, we're beginning to see more interest in the model followed by AirBnB, of a "Chief Employee Experience Officer."

Why Not HR?

In cases where HR isn't leading, what accounts for their reticence? Based on conversations with RSG subscribers, various shortcomings can hold HR back:

  • Distractions in the form of day-to-day work with employees; people are more complicated than data
  • Painful experiences with previous HRM technology implementations — can make HR gun-shy to invest time and energy into other technology areas
  • Incumbent HR vendors — especially SAP and Oracle — are pushing a story that their HRM suites already have social capabilities, so HR's work is done

The first two are understandable, but the third is a pernicious myth (for more on why, consult RSG's vendor evaluation research).

What You Can Do

If you are an intranet or digital workplace leader, I encourage you to reach out to your HR colleagues. They may need some encouragement, education, and examples showing what's possible and why it matters.

If RSG's reference models, benchmarking tools, and vendor-evaluation research can help you on this journey, go ahead and begin a conversation with us.

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