I originally went into HR because of an interest in human psychology. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick and how to get the best out of them. I suppose there are certain stereotypes in the workplace – you’d expect an HR manager to be a people-person, while the IT crowd tend to be cast as geeks who prefer online anonymity to social interaction. I’m not exactly a technophobe, but back when I started my career, the only IT I ever had to contend with was sending email and inputting records into the employee database.
So it was refreshing to hear Jon Ingham’s 20 Minute Master Class webinar today about how HR and IT need to work hand-in-glove to help businesses innovate and grow. And I was even more interested to note Jon had started out in IT and subsequently transitioned to HR – certainly not a conventional career path!
But it appears the boundaries between the two functions are blurring: HR is becoming increasingly technology-enabled, while IT strategy is now geared towards empowering people to be more productive and effective. I suppose when I consider how IT impacts my job, I still tend to think of traditional systems of record. But when I mentally walk through a typical day, I realise how I’ve come to take for granted the analytics that drive our KPIs, the eLearning and knowledge management tools that allow us to extend the reach of our training and development, and the self-service portal that lets our employees and line managers access their own data on demand.
Until now, I have admittedly been wary of mobile and social technologies, regarding them as a distraction or drain on productivity rather than an enabler. But Jon’s presentation reminded me that the workforce is changing, and we can only empower current and future generations of employees by liberating them to work in their preferred ways, rather than trying to control them according to conventional wisdom.
I’ve seen a number of analyst reports recently, citing that companies which embrace technology as a means of dismantling the barriers to information tend to be more collaborative, innovative and agile. So on that basis, it would be churlish to turn down my invitation from the IT Director to a working lunch next week. Even if we can’t solve all our business challenges in the space of an hour, they do a sublime steak and ale pie in the pub across the road.