Social company: the future of HR technology

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In less than six years millennials will make up almost half the workforce. It’s one of the biggest transitions HR faces, and technology will play a big role in how Gen Y’s priorities influence organisational changes.

What's the most important technology HR could introduce now to make sure you're prepared for future developments? HRM put that question to SAP Canada managing director Bob Elliot, who said there was one clear answer: social platforms.

"If you think about the expectations of the new generation in terms of technology, they want ease of use and an intuitive 'walk up user interface'," Elliot told HRM. "Things like email are becoming ineffective - more communication is collaborative and opt-in. IT allows people to collaborate and participate and feel more engaged with their employer."

 SAP has used its own technology to build SAP Jam - essentially an expanded chat room where some of its 67,000 global employees can ask questions, trade tips and get answers through the night from all over the world. 

"A huge problem for us is reinventing the wheel the hard way," Elliot said. “You’ve got to believe someone else has come across the same problem or request."

From trading tips on analyzing workforce data from major mining companies, to helping troubleshoot and sharing efficiencies, social platforms empower employees to solve problems, interact with peers and develop new approaches to common problems, as well as making them feel like part of a community. It's also a vital way to pass on knowledge, which is an increasing concern as baby boomers retire.

"That knowledge walks out the door unless you have a way to collect it," Elliot said. "The companies doing the best in the war on talent are the ones that embraced social enterprise the fastest, leaving other organizations racing to catch up.”
One challenge in introducing and making the most of social technology is in encouraging baby boomer pick up. Elliot suggested that the fear of falling behind can be a powerful motivator for older workers, but fear can also hold them back. A number of organisations have had success with reverse mentoring, where an older worker is paired with a younger colleague.

"It's really successful on both sides of the fence. The new workforce feels they are being appreciated immediately for their current skills and the older generation feels they can ask the 'dumb' questions," he added. "It's critical that these tools, for both the new and old generation, be dead simple to use."

Since TELUS introduced its SuccessFactors program four years ago it has seen employee engagement scores increase from 53% to 81% and consumer satisfaction has increased from 62% to 73% in the same time frame. The jump in stock price from $28 to $72 didn't hurt either. While a few factors contributed to the increase, the company, it credits the social enterprise as making happier employees, customers and stockholders.
"I honestly think that companies have got to embrace someone’s tools urgently or they’re going to risk extinction as more nimble competitors steam roll past them," Elliot said.

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