Digital IQ and Social Business: Seven HR Hotspots


By Christine McLeod, CHRP

HR has not traditionally been known for its propensity towards ‘early adoption’ and while HR has come around to game-changing technology like email, cell phones, the internet, the Human capital side of the organization tends to lag behind other innovators in the business world. Whether stymied by legal fears, swayed by gloomy stories from their peer networks or simply because of technophobia HR has always taken a more cautious approach to new technologies.

However, lagging behind is no longer an option in this time of unprecedented change in the workplace. Today’s array of technology resources  are so simple to use and readily accessed that everyone can use them ? transforming how, where and with whom we work. These technologies now directly impact and indirectly define the workplace with which HR is entrusted. HR can no longer afford to look at technology as anything other than both a reality and an opportunity to achieve the goals of their organization.

“The talent management world is being rocked by emerging social learning practices that leverage the wisdom within us all,” said Chuck Hamilton, social learning & smart play leader, IBM Center for Advanced Learning. “Our new social technology thinking is the glue that bonds the HR organization to its key business drivers, meaning HR can now be the enabler of game changing crowds everywhere.”

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, YouTube: business is increasingly, for lack of a better word, socialized. Today, we talk about “social” media and “social” business because we need to have a name for this new way of conducting ourselves. Most likely, five years from now ‘social’ will drop from the vocabulary and these tools will be recognized as just media that helps us do business.

As a profession, HR is facing a tsunami of technology issues it could have barely dreamt facing 10 years ago, all of which are impacting business, culture, employment brand and organizational strength.  Social media interest becomes a social business mandate at this point.

“Social business is the blueprint for the transformation of an organization—bridging the external communication initiatives with internal operations and change management, which creates shared value for all stakeholders – customers, partners and employees,” explained Michael Brito, SVP, social business planning at Edelman. “And, human resources should serve as the enabler and change agent for such transformation to occur. “

While chief information officers (CIOs) are immersed in the technology 24-7, HR has an opportunity to add a valuable employee perspective through tools and an social best practices to help transform the organizations. This all starts with raising the HR professional’s personal level of Digital IQ.

Price Waterhouse Cooper defines Digital IQ as an assessment of “how well companies understand the value of technology and weave it into the fabric of their organization. Growing your organizational Digital IQ entails more than merely adopting the latest tools or having a large IT budget—it is about integrating technology into the way a company plans, innovates, measures results, interacts with customers, and ultimately creates value.”

So what kind of issues is HR being bombarded with that require  a greater level of tech savvy? Here are seven important topics that ten(or even five) years ago, we would never have thought would enter into an HR professional’s daily conversation.

1. Mobility: We are  leaving the age of the tethered consumer and the tethered employee. In 98 countries of the world, cell phone penetration exceeds 100 per cent of the population. Every possible aspect of communication has already been impacted and will continue to do so. Leveraging mobile in every aspect of the employee life cycle will be paramount.

2. Social Media: The lines between personal and professional, communication internally and externally, as well as what to do and how to react when things go sideways, are all hot topics right now: Understanding which platforms make sense, how to listen, what to listen for, how to measure, how to monitor, how to train employees at all levels to use it in a business context is now a critical skill.

3. Social Business: A generic definition for “social biz” is a company or business that leverages social communications and the social graph to accomplish a business goal: sales (chatter, Salesforce), talent management and retention (UpMo), team collaboration (yammer), recruiting (JobVite), performance management (Rypple, Worksimple) … to name a few. Right now all this is so new, one of the challenges for HR is how to help raise the digital IQ of the whole organization- externally and internally.

4. Cloud Computing & Business Intelligence: How can HR and the companies they work in leverage applications that are cloud-based? This will influence how flexible, collaborative and nimble an organization might be. The landscape of traditional HRIS is changing drastically; we need to understand what  expertise is  required to navigate these waters?

5. Multiple Personal Devices: The effects of a 24-7 plugged-in culture have yet to be fully evaluated, but there are certainly a host of HR issues on the radar ?
some are positive while other issues mayraise red flags. Mobile apps, texting and emails pushed to smart phones increase the need to be responding immediately to communication. What is that plugged-in cultural norm doing to our lives outside of work? Is it enhancing them because we are not tethered to a desk or depleting them of time to pause and process the flood of info?

6. Content Curation: HR is experiencing a flood of information. It will be critical to have an effective means of filtering necessary and relevant information. A new term in the digital space is ‘curation’? suggesting you are going have vast collections that you need to curate. For recruiters, the ability to sort through loads of information, including applications from various platforms and employment data, will be a skill worth honing. Even within an organization, how content can be accessed, processed and used will be critical to productivity. Simply opening the floodgates and having MORE is not the answer. Can HR play a bigger role in the management of information?

7. On-demand self-service: More than ever, HR is faced with a growing appetite for on-demand, tailored learning and information. Whether it be company orientation, sales training, or benefits program details, employees want bite-sized learning content that is accessible to them as needed, ? content that adds value, solves a need or answers a question on demand. HR need no longer be the bottleneck where programs and communication get held up.

By taking an interest and setting aside time to increase their own digital IQ, HR leaders position themselves to stay abreast of the monumental changes sweeping our workplace.

There is a quote I love in The Business Wisdom of Steve Jobs: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology – not the other way around.” If you replace the word customer with EMPLOYEE, then I think you have a pretty compelling case for why HR should care about understanding the technology around them: to design the best employee experiences possible.

As for the future? Dan Pontefract, head of learning and collaboration, TELUS said, “The future of HR is to act as the simultaneous translator of social business intelligence for the organization. If HR doesn’t get in front of defining & embedding new behavioural norms & expectations of social technologies into the workflow of business operations, it may result in an unproductive workforce downstream.”

Tech tools will not CREATE a culture, but if your organization values creativity, innovation, and collaboration, and recognizes the value of feedback and the importance of “connection to team and fellow colleagues”, these resources will enable HR to impact the people who impact results. Jump in! What are you waiting for?

For those interested in all things Innovative with HR feel free to ask to be included in the closed facebook group Innovative HR run by Christine McLeod, CHRP or visit to find out about Canada’s only HR “Connected Workplace” conference.

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