The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

Why HR Can’t Implement Web 2.0

Joel Cheeseman wrote an interesting piece on Web 2.0 a couple months ago in the Industry Insider.

An outsider is led to believe such cutting-edge tactics in the employment space are the rule. In reality, it’s the exception. The percentage of companies publishing blogs full of embedded YouTube videos, Flickr photos, a roll call of MyBlogLog users and links to Facebook fan sites is probably in the single digits. Fortune 500 companies taking this approach are easier to find than Bigfoot. 1

Cheeseman gives a good perspective on what’s going on and what’s going wrong.

  1. HR is at the bottom of the heap. A disconnect between recruiting and marketing is quite common in corporations. While creative brainpower focuses on selling products and services, getting candidates through the door takes a backseat.
  2. The IT department, like marketing, pushes the online needs of HR to the backburner. By relying on excuses like “we’re just too busy right now,” or “here’s why that won’t work,” IT easily pushes aside initiatives from the department that doesn’t understand technology, and doesn’t know how to push back.
  3. Legal says no. Just the idea of a lawyer getting involved can kill an initiative before it’s even born. It’s easier to just go on with business as usual instead of try something new and innovative. Additionally, even if blogging, video and social networking efforts are approved, they are viewed as potential legal land mines and headaches if site visitors get out of line.
  4. Turnover. HR departments tend to see a lot of turnover. Many employees spend limited time in the recruiting profession, hoping to land a less stressful generalist position or move on to higher-paying jobs in management or other departments. This leads to HR departments that prefer to play it safe and not stray from traditional recruiting tactics. People like to stay in their comfort zones, and recruiting is no different. Playing it safe means staying employed at most organizations. 2

Honestly, I’m struggling with what we’re using Web 2.0 for and wondering why it’s useful.  Do we really need blogs for recruiting, or wiki’s for employer branding?  Is a social network useful?  I’m a huge advocate of 2 things that have to do with Web 2.0.

  1. Networks are indeed very useful if we employe them for the enhancement of collaboration or innovation.
  2. Web 2.0 is great when it comes to usability.

Those 2 items aside, I’m not sure Web 2.0 is really adding that much value to HR.  Perhaps I’m not a visionary, or perhaps I just haven’t seen it work yet.  But unless we’re using this stuff to really create value, we’re just spinning our wheels and focusing on the wrong things.

I’d love to see organizations with good governance, processes and policies around the use of blogs, wiki’s and networks.  I’d love to see these enhancing productivity and innovation.  I’d also love to see them improving engagement.  But I don’t think we need to implement Web 2.0 because we think it’s the right next thing to do.  Let’s be thoughtful about what we implement, and how we do it.  I’d rather see us behind the curve rather than recklessly moving ahead because we think it’s the right thing to do.


  1. Cheeseman, Joel, February 15, 2008.  “HR’s Struggle with Web 2.0.”  The Industry Insider. [back]
  2. Ibid [back]

8 comments

  1. Thanks for referencing my post. I enjoyed your take on the issue.

  2. Thanks Joel:

    That said, while HR’s use of Web 2.0 is simply another technology, I do think that we should be spearheading the use of it as part of our strategic plans. For example, a social network just for the sake of having a social network may not be something I really care about. However, sponsoring the social network in tandem with rigorous change management to create a collaboration network is certainly something I think HR should be in.

    I think my point with this post is that the Web 2.0 issues we’re grappling with today are in their infancy and the value coming out of them is rather small. however, in the next few phases of how we think about and implement Web 2.0, I hope we have much greater vision and participation.

  3. Sometimes we need to worry about the box instead of what’s outside of the box.

    How good is HR today at finding good resumes from job postings on boards? How good is HR today in building skills of employees using technology? How good is HR today in evaluating trends in their company’s business to get people ready for the next (big) thing?

    From the outside looking in, there is just so much that could be improved in HR without Web 2.0 stuff that anything done in the space would look like pandering (too strong of a term, but not authentic).

    Unless, of course, we think that something in Web 2.0 would address some of these concerns…??

  4. Sorry systematic, no offense, but you’re off the mark with this one. College students estimate that they read over 2300 webpages a year and spend an average of 3.5 hours a day online. Gen Y doesn’t use the internet just for fun, it’s where they get their news, ideas, collaborate and work from a very early age. My three year old, who can’t read, but knows her ABC’s, can goto PBSkids.org and play games with a mouse.

    Employers who are oblivous to this new reality are losing the battle for talent and falling ever further behind the curve. Your post is a perfect example of why HR is losing credibility among top execuitves.

    Time to jump on this quickly moving train, before HR becomes as necessary as a stenographer or telegraph operator. (see my blog post for more on this topic)

  5. I think you miss the point Andres. I’m not saying that HR should not implement Web 2.0. However, most organizations who do it are simply jumping on the bandwagon without understanding why they are doing it and whithout knowing how it fits into their overall strategy.

    Web 2.0 in its current state is nice stuff. However, it’s value is limited right now. Is there really a change in the STRATEGIC value if HR has a Web 2.0 blog instead of pushing out communications on the intranet HR portlet? Was the fact that it was a blog that much better?

    Web 2.0 is going to be great. When we have collaboration networks behind the firewall and we’re able to measure that collaboration, we will revolutionize business. However, right now all we have is the next generation of communication tools and from a business perspective, that is NOT revolutionary.

    Never jump on a any train, no matter how fast it’s moving until you understand correlations to strategy.

  6. Systematic,

    Joel’s article targets Electronic Arts (EA) as a company “stuck in the 80’s” and asks “So how does EA get it so wrong?” By your blog post and it’s linking to the article, I’m assuming it’s a view you endorse. I must say, I’m disappointed in both of you.

    In all fairness, you might want to give http://jobs.ea.com a second review.

    I have worked on internal workforce management projects with many of the “big boys” in Silicon Valley that covered a variety of types of projects and “stuck in the 80’s” is the last label I would ever give to EA and the people that work there in their HR and Talent Acquisition departments. My opinion of them is quite the opposite as I think they are some of the most forward thinking…willing to take calculated risks…action based professionals you will ever find in any HR department….ANYWHERE!

    Joel, jobs.ea.com is like a “paper brochure” because it doesn’t have video? Seriously?

    Ok…it doesn’t have video…you got them there. Here 5 quick things their job site does have…

    1. A section dedicated to their University Recruiting program that gives special attention to College Students as they begin to enter the workforce.

    2. As EA is a global company, their site gets specific regarding their 6 US locations, 3 Canadian locations, 6 European locations, and their 5 Asia Pacific locations.

    3. They get specific in regards to Roles a professional may have in the gaming industry and how EA relates to them.

    4. Not interested in applying for a job right now? EA lets users sign up by just creating a simple profile that they can log back into at any time and update. This allows for immediate sign up for job alerts or industry events that EA will be participating at in their area.

    5. Although Joel doesn’t think there are many pics…I think there are plenty and yes there are employee profiles.

    The title of Joel’s article where he hammers EA is “HR’s struggle with Web 2.0.” You HAVE to be kidding me.

    This year EA removed its cliche ATS system and implemented the http://www.salesforce.com platform technology as its backend and database of record. Good by ATS, hello CRM …at a global level. Did I mention that EA has already integrated their regular recruiting teams with their university recruiting team on their Salesforce.com application? At many companies, the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing…not at EA.

    Struggling with Web 2.0? I don’t think so.

    • One click integration with recruiting tools like ZoomInfo, Jigsaw, and Spoke.

    • Want to run a marketing campaign or have an event and manage 700 attendees…got that.

    • Want to know who is on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter? Just check their Contact record.

    • Ever hear of a company called Google? They got this “new thing” called Google apps and gmail…can integrate that too in minutes. Since Joel is an SEO guy…did you know Google Adsense comes prepackaged?

    • Reporting? More reports than you will ever want…created in minutes by any user. Got pretty pie charts and dashboards too if you want them.

    • And because I can’t wait to get the new G3 iPhone this summer, this was music to my ears, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwo2VbDA1Io .

    Those are just a few points that make me seriously doubt your analysis of EA as a company “stuck in the 80’s.” You guys could not be more wrong.

    Regards,

    Sean Rehder

  7. Thanks Sean. Good points all around. I’d like to clarify that my opinions don’t reference an endorsement or disapproval of any organization’s practices or technologies. I had not realized that simply by referencing someone else opinion and adding to the conversation amounted to total agreement. However, as this is the blogosphere, you are also entitled to your reading of the situation and your unedited opinion.

    Let me clarify, I don’t state any opinion on any organization’s practices (positive or negative) unless it is explicitly stated. Period. Please don’t read any more into it.

    I think my point has already been expressed. Jumping into the social media bandwagon without some planning is trouble. I’d hope that giving some forethought and analysis to implementations that will change the culture of any organization would be important.

    -Dubs

  8. Wow, I miss you all.

    I didn’t have any problem with Joel’s original statement / article. At the time it was published he was right. And Joel gets paid the big money for picking fights. Nothing wrong with that. The world of recruiting and recruiting technology is a better place with him in it. But what’s with the glasses Joel? I’m just saying. Time to get to Lenscrafters.

    And I didn’t have any problem with Dubs comments. He’s right – reading an article like Joel’s will lead a lot of HR people to focus on getting Web 2.0 right when their core processes, systems and perspectives are stuck in 1960′s. Recruiting should probably fix recruiting 1.0 before it focuses on web 2.0.

    And of course I love Sean’s comments, because I am one of the smart people at EA that he is talking about and that’s just how I roll. But more importantly, I think EA now has state-of-the-art across multiple areas of recruiting, including systems, marketing, analytics.

    All kidding aside (those in the know understand that I didn’t have anything to do with the successful launch of EA’s recruiting technology overhaul and that the credit goes to people like Cindy Nicola, Michele Macready, Sean Rehder, Kristi Cavanaugh and many others who are far smarter and better looking than I)….

    This was a great discussion. Joel generates a lot of those. My dear friend John Sumser generates a lot of those. Sean generates a lot of those. Dubs is still the classiest act in the HR technologies space. It really is an honor to get to hang out with you all, even if for just a moment.

    Now get over to jobs.ea.com and check it out.

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