Fast-forward to 2009 and sites such as LinkedIn, online job boards and virtual job fairs are a thriving talent community and source of hiring. Employee self-service has made HR administration more efficient and employee-friendly, career development and learning is at one's fingertips (literally), and blogs, wikis, webcasts and podcasts are the emerging ways companies collaborate and communicate with a globally dispersed workforce.
Web 2.0 and beyond allows employees in an organisation to take ownership of their own experiences and is often described as a ‘people centric web'. Popular web 2.0/3.0 applications include the various new communications media such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and streaming media, social bookmarking, instant messages, social networking and virtual reality.
In the knowledge economy, the ability to share knowledge and exchange ideas is key and a few examples of what is possible are given below:
1. Talent acquisition: I know of a recruiter who regularly scouts for talent at external social networking sites (for example, LinkedIn, Facebook and Orkut). For new college hires, she created an online community on Facebook. That way, people got to know each other even before they started with the firm. Not only was this cool with the college grads, it creates a strong sense of belonging and connect with the team.
Companies can use their corporate websites to create interactive alumni groups for former employees. Another emerging trend is to move beyond job boards to interactive virtual job fairs.
2. Career management: Performance management systems integrated with e-learning solutions will help employees get customised learning recommendations and a real-time dashboard that provides status updates against the defined goals. Assigning online mentors is a particular favorite, since it allows one to work across geographic boundaries and leverage experts across the globe.
3. Engagement and communication: Companies are creating internal corporate social networks and communities. In these uncertain economic times, leadership engagement and visibility can be enhanced by having CEO blogs. Having a new hire section on the intranet with information as well as the functionality of a corporate social network and buddies will accelerate on boarding. Other ways include web chat sessions, webcasts and podcasts to talk about what is going on. Wikis are a great way to know more. Spot surveys and discussion forums can be used to evaluate change readiness.
4. Learning: In Web 3.0, the application will have the ability to analyse an individual's areas of interest. It can conduct intelligent searches and suggest material that will be relevant. You can make use of wikis and podcasts to know more about anything and access videos and audio material by renowned trainers. You can bring in a trainer via chat or assign online mentors for individual or group work.
So apart from the technology adoption challenge a concern about these technologies is that it takes away the organisation's ability to centrally control the flow of communication, and often may put the employees in charge of the message. This causes some alarm, especially in organisations with stronger, top-down cultures. Companies use some features but not really unleashed the full power of what is possible.
Like email, which replaced the ‘inter-office-memos' I saw in early 1990s, social networking has dramatically changed how people connect with one another. And while the overall adoption of web 2.0 and beyond in HR is still work in progress, it is the future, and it is here. Various theories on human behaviour tell us about the different needs of employees. Whatever your favorite theory, you will find that web 2.0 and beyond is going to be integral to fulfilling those needs. The possibilities of using these technologies to engage effectively with a multi-generational, globally-distributed workforce are very exciting.
Raja Veluswamy is vice president, international HR, at Wipro Technologies
This article was first published on hrmagazine.co.uk