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Steve Boese on HR’s role in Enterprise 2.0

5 min read


Steve Boese, a member of the SmartBrief on Workforce Advisory Board, is one of the HR profession’s foremost experts in enterprise technology solutions. An instructor at Rochester Institute of Technology, Steve also hosts HR Happy Hour, a biweekly Internet radio show discussing the latest issues and trends affecting human resources.

MARY ELLEN: How are emerging technologies, such as social media, shaping how HR professionals do their jobs?

STEVE: I think the answer at most organizations is not very much — yet. Social media and other Web 2.0 technologies have really just started to impact the HR function, primarily in talent acquisition. In 2009, we saw a rapid increase in the number and sophistication of firms’ use of social media for recruiting. Most mid- to large-size firms now have some kind of presence on Facebook or Twitter, or have some kind of other “social” outreach efforts, perhaps in a blog. This trend will only accelerate in 2010, particularly if the economic climate begins to improve, and, as been widely forecast, many top performers begin to seek new opportunities.

Outside of recruiting, social media has had less of an impact on HR professionals. The emerging “Enterprise 2.0” discipline that is defined by the application of new tools to facilitate improved workplace collaboration, information discovery and innovation (among other benefits) is only just beginning to mature in organizations. In most of the well-known success stories, HR involvement has been as a supporting player, with IT or, in some cases, marketing or communications departments, taking the lead. This is a significant area of opportunity for HR professionals to assume more leadership and make more of an impact on business performance. For HR pros that want to begin to approach this field, I recommend the book “Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges” by Andrew McAfee as a good starting point.

What is the biggest mistake most companies make in choosing and implementing HR technology systems?

I think it may be a failure to adequately involve the real users of a given technology in the project. From needs assessment, to requirements definition, to vendor evaluations and finally, implementation — getting the true user perspective, insight and input is often not given enough consideration or even overlooked entirely. For example, a new performance-management system will be primarily used by front-line managers in the organization, but often this critical constituency is not consulted or involved until the system is ready to go live.

Name three HR technology vendors that actually impress you. What makes them stand out?

  • Halogen Software. Halogen markets a suite of talent management applications for performance management, succession planning, compensation planning, etc.  This is a crowded market, but what I think distinguishes Halogen is its customer focus.  They are careful not to keep adding features and capabilities without carefully assessing customer needs and desires.  Their commitment to customer success is well known in the industry.
  • Workday. Workday has taken the traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) market, with its high capital investments and onerous technical infrastructure, and completely altered the model. By delivering its solution in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, Workday has been able to compete with the “big boys” by offering lower costs, cutting-edge technology and much more rapid new feature development. The SaaS model, which has been so dominant in the recruiting and talent management markets, now has a viable option in core HR systems.
  • Sonar6. Sonar6 is a lesser-known vendor of talent-management applications, but it possesses what is likely the most unique and innovative user interface in the market. The interaction and flexibility of the applications make managing employee performance and developing reviews almost fun. Sonar also has a very refreshing and sort of offbeat approach to marketing and publicity that is a welcome change in what can be a very staid market.

The head of HR for a small, fast-growing company comes to you for advice. He is struggling to make sense of the disparate data he’s collecting across his payroll, health care, 401K plan, etc., which are all over different systems. None of it is connected to  job titles or qualitative assessments of people’s performance. As he puts it, “I want my HR function to be metric driven — where are my metrics?” What do you tell him?

This is a common problem with organizations that begin to grow faster than the capabilities of their existing systems. Depending on the size of the organization, and the expectations for future growth, at some point consolidating at least some functions/processes becomes attractive. However, a careful assessment of the key business drivers that impact business outcomes needs to drive the selection and implementation of technologies, and system consolidation for it’s own sake may prove to be an expensive and unsatisfying initiative. Start with what drives the needle of the business, determine the key metrics that will help managers and employees deliver results, analyze and optimize the critical processes and then apply technology to facilitate execution. It is not an easy process, but it is necessary to ensure that new technology does indeed deliver on its potential.

Do you have a question about HR technology? Share them with Steve in the comments, and let us help you find answers!

Image credit, Andresr, via iStock