Earlier this week, Econsultancy’s UK Research Director explored the increasingly apparent permeation of digital within different organisational disciplines.

Following a recent roundtable event held by Econsultancy, one of the areas where we have found this to be more obvious than most is within Human Resources.

The HR sector certainly seems to have been left behind as companies scramble to get into the digital space, with many professionals displaying lack of knowledge as to how best to use digital tools and techniques to supplement their daily roles. 

Additionally, it’s becoming apparent that HR roles are blurring into other disciplines across businesses, with digital concepts at the root of this. Suddenly those responsible for staff recruitment and retention are finding themselves thrown into digitally-driven areas of customer service, reputation management, marketing and PR.

This raises the major question as to where digital sits within an organisation, and who is responsible for it overall. 

One of the biggest emerging concerns is that there is increasingly a feeling of isolation amongst those in HR, both from their peers and their colleagues in other departments, due to significant shifts in working culture. This is far from ideal, as isolation in any job role can ultimately have an extremely negative impact upon the individual and their organisation. 

Yet, this can be countered by digital means, especially within social media. Forums, blogs, Twitter and the like can all contribute towards support and development, but tellingly, many individuals in the profession seem to be failing to embrace these technologies. 

This also highlights the second major issue that seems to exist: a distinct lack of knowledge about the tools and techniques which are readily available to HR professionals, alongside implementing them using best-practice methods. This extends to both internal and external communication and resourcing activity and consequently this may well develop into the equivalent of a staffing Achilles heel, as organisations are failing to implement HR-based digital strategies.

The result of this can be seen in the recent failings of Virgin, Dominoes and DSGi, where unclear digital polices resulted in major PR fails and led to negative sentiment towards the companies. 

However, this then returns to the issue of blurring HR boundaries. Should digital polices of staff be the responsibility of HR or marketing? Who should be monitoring staff engagement and dealing with any consequences? The fact that staff are being monitored opens up even bigger debates surrounding numerous topics, from privacy rights through to intellectual property.

Overall, HR’s relationship with digital is one that runs much deeper and wider than first thought. Equally, it’s one that’s very rarely explored, leaving many in the industry feeling somewhat in the dark, trying to find a light that can help them do their job better. 

Training is one way forward, but what areas need to be focused on? There’s no real definitive answer, as every HR team is as individual as the organisation to which it belongs. However, if you are an HR-pro, to help you identify any possible areas of weakness, you might want to take a look at Econsultancy’s free trend briefing, where various issues, ideas and developments between the complex relationship of HR and digital are examined.  

Furthermore, you might want to consider taking our quick survey to help us explore this difficult area and figure out how best Econsultancy needs to be focusing on delivering relevant digital information, training and events for those working in the Human Resource sector.

[Photo credit: victoriapeckham via Flickr]

Jake Hird

Published 11 March, 2010 by Jake Hird

Jake Hird is Econsultancy Australia's Director of Research and Education. Follow him on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn or see what he's keeping an eye on via diigo

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Comments (2)

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

Good post Jake. In all the rush and hype to "listen to the conversation", "be social" and generally engage in marketing led activity, many organisations seem to completely miss the wider and more significant potential of the social media channel. 

HR is a good example of one functional area that is often left behind, so it is encouraging to see this post increase awareness. 

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that many organisations (and experts?) struggle to differentiate between social marketing and social media?

over 8 years ago



It's not really surprising that HR are failing... For the last 10 years HR have been the enigma of the company, often producing one bizarre document after another in order to justify their own positions within the company.

Because of the way HR have often behaved within the company, I know of at least five major companies that have changed HR back to Personel, in order to make them more approachable to staff.

HR... You really need to listen to this really informative article and learn and stop employing Employment Agencies to do a job you're often very well paid for!

about 7 years ago

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