In the very near future, Human Resources managers will be judged on their ability to get employees to link up successfully and to help the company capitalise on their ideas.
Digital is no longer the exclusive province of IT departments and Marketing teams. It is also becoming of ever-greater relevance to Human Resources, whose job nowadays is not confined to spotting, recruiting and developing individual talent. The HR professional of today needs to be able to“create links and foster collaboration between employees” as well, Yves Grandmontagne, HR Director at Microsoft France, told a Tribune discussion group of HR decision-makers hosted last week in Paris by the Digital HR Clubin partnership with L'Atelier. This opinion is shared by Patrick Hoffstetter, Head of Renault’s Digital Factory and Richard Collin, Director of the Enterprise 2.0 Institute at the Grenoble School of Management. They are all united in the view that nowadays a leader must be someone who can get people to connect and who places him/herself at their service, helping to channel and speed up the flow of information between them. The result will be a switch from a traditional pyramid organisation to a networked organisation, in which digital channels obliterate hierarchical boundaries. The challenge is that this means re-thinking the entire organisation.
The tools to hand
The managers at the Tribune indicated that, although French companies have for a long time been rather reluctant to do so, they are now gradually arming themselves with tools and systems such as in-company social networks. Is this the way to break through the silos? Yves Grandmontagne reckons this approach will help to speed up the process of connecting people up in the workplace, provided that these social tools are properly orchestrated, but if it is to be really effective the technology must also make for greater overall transparency and facilitate employee-management interactions as well. And this means that “you have to trust the employees to self-regulate,” underlined Emilie Lanciaux-Jous, Head of Internal Communication at Axa France. Some sort of follow-up sifting and control might be feasible, but the basic aim should be not to trammel the debate too tightly. Employee-participation in the interchanges must be on a voluntary basis and they should be left free to make use of the tools provided. The question is: how can you encourage people to engage?
If you’re going to make a success of the change process which the digital era is bringing about, Patrick Hoffstetter thinks you have to start at the top – by securing the full backing of the Executive Board. Then it’s up to the Internal Communication manager to drive the initiative forward, bringing the available tools to the notice of the employees and developing training modules and hand-holding mechanisms. Thirdly, you need to build a community of ambassadors, people from various departments or subsidiary companies who are well-placed to “spread the gospel”. Last but not least, you should try to avoid creating a ‘digital divide’ – i.e. you have to ensure that the entire workforce, not just a few enthusiasts, gets involved in using the new tools, stressed the Renault man.