I’ve been reading Dave Ulrich’s new book on HR competencies, ‘HR from the Outside In’.
Given Ulrich’s ongoing prominence in HR and also that one of his new competencies is being a ‘technology proponent’, reflecting what we all know to be the rapidly increasing importance of technology in this field, I thought you might be interested in a short review here. (Although note that this one chapter in the book is actually written by a couple of Ulrich’s colleagues – Joseph Handleman and MS Krishnan who work mainly in the innovation area – and not by him himself.)
First up, just to note that this competency has the lowest personal effectiveness score of any of Ulrich’s six competencies by quite a margin – 3.74 vs other competencies all in the range of 3.89-4.23 (translation, as a profession, we’re still pretty rubbish at using technology well).
Secondly, what it doesn’t do is help our personal credibility – the impact on perceived individual effectiveness of this competency is by some way lower than the rest – 12% vs other competencies in the range of 16-22%. That makes sense – business leaders and managers will like a good HR system but won’t credit it to their local business partner. (Although of course we know it’ll help us do other stuff well which will then impact our credibility.)
But of course, credibility isn’t the important thing – it’s impact. And the third major point from the book is that being a technology proponent has just about as big an effect on our ability to impact our businesses as it gets – 18% compared to a range of 14-19%. Translation: this stuff’s really really important.
Diving more deeply, the book suggests there are three factors in being a technology proponent:
Factor 1. Improving the utility of HR operations
Fine, we know we still need to do this, but as the book notes, this is about dealing with technology as an efficiency driver: automating HR transactions and integrating HR with other functions within the firm, particularly through HR analytics.
Factor 2. Leveraging social media tools
This is a bit more interesting, though also a little more debatable – I’m unsure how much benefit HR teams and organisations get from picking up a tool and seeing how much value they can get from it. I know they can get a lot of value by deciding what they need, and then looking at how modern, including social, technologies can deliver this.
I think this comes out in the case studies too. For example, one of these is about IBM and its social platform, ‘The Greater IBM Connection’. But from both the case study and what I know about IBM, the system didn’t emerge from tinkering with social media but some smart thinking about how the firm could support its business strategy, particularly the need to become a Globally Integrated Enterprise. Ie it’s a good case study because the company has cascaded its strategy into its HR activities, not because they’ve been clever about using social media. I’ll try to remember to talk about this with Luis Suarez at the show.
Regardless of this, there’s definitely a sub-competency here, which is about meeting business needs through social media, and I’d suggest its becoming increasingly more important than factor 1 above.
And here it is:
Factor 3. Connecting people through technology
The book defines this factor as the main differentiator – using technology as a learning and knowledge platform to connect with internal talent and external stakeholders – and I’d agree. It even has more of a business impact than any of the other competencies or sub-competencies in Ulrich’s framework. Ie this area is where we have both the worst scores – and can create the greatest impact!
The book’s authors find that this supports the need for a Chief Information Flow Officer (vs a Chief Information Technology Officer) which could be an HR role and nicely supports Krishnan’s proposals in a previous book – don’t you love it when that happens!? No, well I don’t love it either and I think they’ve come to the wrong conclusions. For me, the most important aspect of connecting people isn’t about information (as in a wiki) it’s about relationships (as in a corporate social network).
So there you go, being a technology proponent is about doing all the HR operational stuff that we need to do, and then it’s about connecting your people to develop the right relationships. Expect to here more of this in the main show in Amsterdam shortly – and obviously even more so in the Social Enterprise Forum next door.
Note, all the %s I quote above are available in more detail here.
Jon is a writer, speaker and consultant on Strategic HCM.