Sunday, 21 September 2008

Strategies for Web 2.0 and HR

We are in the middle of writing our report for the CIPD on Web 2 and HR, which, as well as helping HR specialists understand what is going on in this space, has to help them develop policies and strategies to take advantage of these new social media. With this aim in mind, I've been reading a veritable rash of articles,books, blogs and the like aimed at advising companies on Web 2 and their dealings with customers. Two of the best of these are by Charlotte Li and Josh Bernoff(2008) Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies, Bostong: Harvard Business School Press and Amy Schuen (2008) Web 2.0: a strategy guide, CA:OReilly Media.

I'll say a little more in a later post about the second, but having just finished reading the first one I'm happy with my practitioner hat on to recommend it to HR colleagues or students seeking to implement or talk about implementing Web 2 into organizations.

The basic thesis of Groundswell is simple enough, though perhaps written in an over-evangelisitic tone befitting of US consultants from the American technology and media sector. It is simply this: that the democrastising features of the social web is enabling the ever growing numbers of people who use such technologies to 'get the things they need from each other instead of from companies' (p. x), which is a phenomenon that organizations can observe but can't control. Like most such publications, they invoke a form of social contagion, resulting in a widespread groundswell through emotional, behavioural and ideational processes. Brands and employer brands, are increasingly in the hands of customers and employees, and those 'on the street' who have the potential to influence these people. Correspondingly they are increasingly out of the control of companies, conventional marketing departments, public relations, communications and HR departments.

So far, nothing much new here, apart from some dramatic illustrations of these phenomonon. But in later chapters they begin to sketch out some 'hardish' data on these developments, a form of analysis they call 'social technolographics' that helps segment potential customers (and employees). Thus, they usefully distinguish creators (of content), critics (of others content), collectors (of content), joiners (who follow fashion), spectators (who consume content) and inactives (which formed 41% of Americans and 53% of Europeans in 2007). Like all forms of segmentation, the power of such analysis allows organizations to target their product offerings more effectively, using one of more of five strategies for addressing the external customer problem with Web 2. These strategies easily translate into strategies for HR to deal with internal customer 'problems', including engagement, employer branding, knowledge sharing and knowledge creation, based on a four stage analysis of people (what are employees ready for), objectives (what are your people management goals in introducing Web 2), strategy (how do you want your relationship with employees to change) and technology (what applications should you build).
The five strategies they identify are:
  • Listening to understand employees through digital research
  • Talking to employees by spreading digital messages
  • Energizing by building on the enthusiasm of key employees and using the power of word of mouth to spread the message/medium
  • Supporting employees by setting up tools to help them support each other, and
  • Embracing employees into the design of new product and HR process design and implementation
Each of these strategies is discussed in turn using case illustrations to show how organizations are using social media rather than simply relying on conventional market research techniques of surveying and focus groups and communications techniques. For example, listening is illustrated by continuously tapping into the different ways in which customers use social media to voice their opinions (volume as well as quantity), including customer blogs, rating reviews, social bookmarking and tagging, and discussion forums on community websites. Talking, by contrast is illustrated through the use of posting viral videos, enaging in social networking sites and user-generated content sites, joining the blogosphere to write manager blogs and creating online communities to listen as well as shout.

While the authors have a chapter on relating to employees, it is easy to apply the five strategies to HR and people management. Moreover, as the authors predict in their final chapter, 'groundswell' technologies are 'exploding' since they are cheap and easy to create and improve. They also draw on powerful social networking effects for their adoption, the key message of Amy Schuen's book, which I'll review in a later post.


James said...

Hi Graeme,

These links should of interest to you.


Graeme's HR Blog said...

They certainly are James, just reviewing this kind of evidence now. Many thanks