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    HR Tech Chat - HR and Collaboration

    This Wednesday, July 8 at 9:00 PM EDT Bryon Abramowitz and I will be hosting the third installment of the Twitter #HR_Tech chat. This time the theme is 'The Role of HR in Internal Collaboration Projects'.

    With the increased emphasis on internal collaboration using tools like wikis, blogs, microblogs, and internal social networks there is both a challenge and an opportunity for HR departments to take on a leadership role in organizing and leading these initiatives. We plan on discussing this and hopefully some good insights can be shared on how HR can truly be effective in these projects.

    But just what is #HR_Tech chat you ask?Flickr - Kamoda

    It is a Twitter 'themed' chat. Folks participate by sharing their thoughts, comments, and questions on the topic and append the hashtag #HR_Tech to all the Tweets. This makes the overall stream of conversation reasonably coherent, and allows the uses of tools like Tweetchat or Tweetgrid to assist in following the conversations. Amybeth Hale just posted an excellent overview of themed chats on her Research Goddess blog if you would like a better description of the idea.

    At any rate, I hope to see many HR and HR Tech folks in the chat on Wednesday and look forward to a great discussion.


    Measurement and ROI

    I read an excellent article earlier in the week on the Chief Learning Officer site on the inability of the traditional definition of ROI to adequately assess the importance and value to the organization of its employee's networks and the value that is derived from these internal and external network interactions, and by extension the technologies and processes that support these interactions.

    The essential point of the article was that these network benefits are intangible in nature, do not 'fit' the classic ROI model (that was developed to understand how tangible activities like buying a new factory, or upgrading an assembly line) of measurement.  It really is a riff on the 'what is the ROI of e-mail' argument that is often used when folks are attempting to justify time and expenditure on new tools and processes designed to increase workforce collaboration.Flickr - Darren Hester

    Can the organization really accurately estimate the ROI of 'increased network activity'? Does it even make sense to try?

    Unlike the new industrial machine, that is built to precise specifications for productivity, output, and operating costs, it is just about impossible to predict how new technologies and processes for collaboration will be embraced inside the organization.  You may be able to apply typical benchmarks on participation rates and utilization statistics, but I have to believe its just about impossible to intelligently make an argument to senior management that a specific 'return' is likely to be generated, at least prior to the introduction of these tools.

    In many ways organizations that embrace these projects, and the new ways of communicating, collaborating, and working that they introduce have to take somewhat of a leap of faith that there will be sufficient 'return' on the investment (which for all but the largest organizations is chiefly employee's time, the technologies that are most frequently utilized tend to be low cost, sometimes even free). It is very easy for management to constantly drive the focus back to the traditional 'ROI' measure, and it gives many leaders a convenient 'out' from having to address and show true skill and even courage. 

    But just like communication and collaboration advances like voice mail, fax, e-mail, and personal and network computing all moved from experiments to critical business infrastructure mostly without any idea of traditional ROI, so it will be for social networking and collaboration technologies. The smart and leading organizations have already embraced this concept, and I do not think it long before these technologies also become essential components of the modern organization.


    HR Happy Hour Episode 4 - SHRM 2009 Recap

    Well the HR Happy Hour Episode 4 - SHRM '09 Edition is in the bag and the HR Minion, Shauna Moerke and I had a blast hosting HR Bloggers Kris Dunn, Laurie Ruettimann, Lance Haun, Mark Stelzner and Jessica Lee as well as special guest SHRM COO China Gorman.

    The panel talked about their session at SHRM '09, their thoughts on where SHRM is heading, the impact and influence of Social Media on SHRM and HR in general.

    And to keep me on my toes we also had a couple of barking dogs and a police raid (COPS anyone?).

    You can check out the show on the web here here, or also listen back to the archive using the widget below.

    Thanks very, very much Shauna for coordinating the guests for this show and thanks to the superstar panel for taking the time out of your holiday weekend to come on.


    Be innovative (but only with the tools we give you)

    I am sort of but not really an IT person, so I understand why most corporate IT departments like to enforce consistent standards for the workforce's computers.  Security, compliance with vendor licensing, reduced maintenance cost etc. are the typical reasons why an organization will issue a company computer with an 'official' configuration and a set of applications pre-installed.  The exact mix of applications could vary depending on the user's role, but essentially, the employee is expected to perform their job duties using the 'delivered' configuration.

    And in many organizations this standard pc configuration is coupled with an aggressive internet filtering system that blocks access to unauthorized sites from the company's network.  Originally these filters were put in place to block pornography and gambling sites.  Then as now it does seem like employees whiling away the hours surfing porn and playing online poker would be a drain on productivity. But don't employees already know that?  Do you really need to actively marshal IT resources (that theoretically have more strategic, value add activities to work on) to make sure your staff isn't abusing the internet?

    Do we really need to put up a sign in the breakroom that says 'Committing a felony is against company policy?'

    I digress. 

    The main issue is how these risks and issues get quantified.  It is pretty easy for the IT folks to calculate how PC support costs are kept 'in-line' by enforcing a strict set of standards.  It is also fairly simple to determine the costs to the company if a malicious computer virus infected the network and rendered all the computers inoperable for a period of time.

    What is much harder, if not impossible to quantify is the 'cost' of employees not being able to download a free application or program to experiment with that may help them become more productive.  If a key piece of information or training course is available via YouTube, but the company blocks the site, who knows how long it will take the employee to find the needed information from an 'allowed' source. These costs are real, even if they can't be precisely measured.  And what else is real is the frustration level for employees who know that there is a better, and more efficient way to do things but have their hands tied by company IT policies.

    And don't even get me started on companies blocking access to social networking sites.

    In today's downsized, pressure-packed, do more with less world, we are asking our employees to be more productive and innovative, but in many cases not equipping them with the freedom to use all the tools in the workbench. Rolling out 'company-issue' PC after PC and clamping down on worker's online resources might have made sense 10 years ago, but that time is long gone.

    Note - This post is dedicated to Lisa Rosendahl of HR Thoughts, who was not able to watch a live stream of a SHRM 2009 panel during which the panelists specifically mentioned her blog as a great example for HR blogging in the public sector.


    HR, Barbecue, and a Blog Conference

    I am pretty much spending all my 'spare' time on two areas: HR (really HR Technology) and Barbecue. So for me it is great anytime I can combine those two interests. So a couple or quick notes on that front.

    First, Heather McCulligh from Halogen Software has a great post about how HR can spice up the annual employee barbecue (and thanks very much for the shout-out Heather).

    Second, Trish McFarlane from the HR Ringleader blog, Ben Eubanks from Upstart HR, Mike Owcarz, and myself and some others  have had a few conversations about creating an HR Blogger 'Un'conference.  A sort of casual, fun, 1 or 2 day event for the HR Blogger community to meet, network, and share their specific expertise to the larger group.

    What does that have to do with Barbecue? Well, we are thinking of having the Unconference in Cleveland, Ohio which is in driving range of Western New York which means I can easily haul along this:

    Yep, that is my baby and if we can pull of the Unconference in Cleveland I think I will try to come in a day early to fire up the Chargriller and do some brisket, ribs, and whatever else the HR Bloggers fancy.

    If you are interested in the HR Blogger Unconference, shoot Trish a note or a DM, she is the mastermind behind these evil schemes or check out the HR Blog Confernece wiki site.