Wednesday, 17 September 2008

CIPD Annual Conference and Web 2.0

I chaired a highly enjoyable interactive session at the CIPD Annual Conference at Harrogate yesterday, during which we took the chance to gain feedback from around fifty-five members about the relevance of this topic for their jobs and organizations. This cannot be described as a representative sample in any statistical sense, but provided us with an indication of the high level of interest in Web 2, but relatively low levels of understanding of its potential. This contrast was even more marked at a presentation we did at Olympia in June for the CIPDs software and recruitment event, where well over a hundred people packed into a space that could only seat sixty or so.

The session comprised of three purposefully short but highly informative presentations by three industry speakers on different aspects of Web 2 and its application to HR. These were followed by questions and break out groups to discuss key some of the key issues raised by the presentations and by our research for the CIPD. Andrew Unsworth, Head of E-Government at Edinburgh City Council, began with some evidence on the Virtual Generation and how it is and would affect models of organizational learning in his organization. This generational driver is one of the most important in getting HR to think seriously about how to incorporate these social media into their communications and ways of working, a point taken up in the following presentation by Tom McCabe, Head of Human Capital in IBM's North East Europe Consulting Division. IBM is a highly sophisticated user of the complete family of Web 2 media and a serious experimenter, which was demonstrated by a short video of how they are using Second Life as an induction and conference tool. He also explained how they used wikis, blogs and their in-house version of LinkedIn to create and share knowledge in the organization. For me, however, one of the most interesting applications was the Jam, where thousand of IBMers collaborate online to generate ideas for the company and to share their views. This demonstrated the power of Web 2.0 to reach parts that surveys can't reach, in ways they can't reach, which shows how employee voice can be surfaced and acted upon. Finally, Andy Hyatt, who leads Web 2.0 for Hodes, a recruitment and HR consulting firm, drilled deeper into the potential of social media for recruitment and selection. He provided a number of examples of how organizations are using interactive online media to connect with potential recruits, including passive candidates, which were topics of immediate interest to many of the audience.

Following questions of clarification, we posed five questions to the audience, which they discussed in groups. In true Web 2 spirit, they were also given the opportunity to discuss any other questions they thought to be more relevant. Our questions were of the type: what are the implications for knowledge sharing and collaboration, surfacing employee voice, etc in your organization. Also, what are the implications/ dangers for loss of control over the corporate message and/ or brand. We gained two strong impressions from participating in the groups and listening to the feedback from them. The first was that our questions weren't particularly relevant to them at this stage in their understanding; most participants were at a level of finding out about the basics of these new technologies. The second was that many were still pre-occupied with the dangers of open/democratic communications, and with the damaging impact on brands.

As Martyn Sloman from the CIPD suggested, these impressions were similar to those he gained during the early years of e-learning. Most HR professionals have not been in the vanguard of adopting new technologies in businesses, which was evidenced by the lack of interest in technological issues on their website - technology and HR ranked 400 and something on the list of important issues for them, some distance below many of the traditional 'tea and toilet' issues.

However, given the interest shown by the numbers of people that have turned up at these events on these new social media, we remain encouraged that the HR function is beginning to 'get it', an impression supported by many of the comments from participants in the room


Mike Morrison FCIPD said...

Hi Graeme, We were introduced to each other by martin Sloman in the exhibition hall as you were preparing for your session, I was unfortunately not able to attend your session, however I have embraced 2.0... indeed I was maintaining a commentary on my experiences if the event at

I spoke to a few people that were in your workshop and they all were enthused about your session.

Graeme's HR Blog said...

EXcellent blog Mike - you must have put in a lot of work at Harrogate. There is so much going on in this medium. Great for my post experience students

Mike Morrison said...

Hi Graeme, I have recently completed a blog from World of learning -

do you twitter? I would like to know your addy - I have recently started experimenting with this for use at next years L&D conferences..