What does the word “technology” do to your blood pressure when you hear it? How about “digital space?” “Social media?”
Your answer may be different depending on a few things:
- Your age;
- Your geography;
- Your career choice; and possibly,
- Any expectations you’ve been given for using (or not using) technology.
For the record, I’m 53. I’m an HR professional – I am in banking, now for 13+ years, healthcare for 5 years prior, and in small business for 7+ years, with an even earlier working stint in the public welfare sector. I remember when the fax machine came out – I was ecstatic over the ability to move information faster, but had to wait until some of our vendors and clients “caught up” and caught on to the efficiency. I remember when I refused to use a computer mouse – I told my husband, “why should I, when I have all the function buttons memorized?” Remember F1, F2, F3?
I remember calling my husband (he was so tech-savvy back then!) from work so he could teach me this thing called ‘mail merge.’ Once I had a staff of 35 employees, I wasn’t going to type and retype names & addresses in my quarterly employee newsletter. And finally, did anyone delete all those requests back around the years 2002 – 2005 to “connect with your colleague Joe Schmoe” on something called LinkedIn? Yes. I did. I deleted them.
I live in the conservative Midwest, and in a smaller community. Hence, our population in general may be behind in the learning curve and usage of social media. My age group is, too – I’m often frustrated because I seem to still have close friends (who live thousands of miles away) who refuse to use social media. Any of it. I occasionally get a phone call, “did you know that Susie is fighting thyroid disease? No one told me, I’m so upset.” And actually, Susie posted the information herself on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere in the digital world. Ce la vie.
At a recent round table of HR banking professionals in my home state, we gathered to discuss HR topics. One of our frustrations was our trade association’s change of communication from a list-serv email to their website. To ask questions and share dilemmas with colleagues, we need to now learn something new. And different. And that is hard – for everyone. We HR professionals had to take a (difficult) look in the mirror and do what we often coach others to do – get with the program, learn new technology, adapt to change. Tough one.
I have to say, even for an “oldster,” I was surprised to hear that some of my HR colleagues still use paper applications when recruiting, aren’t engaged in the digital space, and aren’t on LinkedIn. I believe I also heard some of our collegial competitors still discourage internet usage and social media usage in the workplace. For me, I found that sad – even freely stating that I was NOT an early adopter, and I am still fairly tech-UNsavvy.
I contend that for HR to earn that proverbial seat at the executive level table (aka the C-suite), HR professionals need to be disruptors. Using social technologies can be disruptive and when learned and used in a positive way, a change agent. We need to question the status quo, make some decisions then ask for forgiveness, and we need to step up and lead. Human Resources has been administrative – almost forever, right? The “Personnel” departments of old were there to support operations, process paperwork, deliver payroll, file employee records, administer benefit programs, and write policies.
We still serve some of those administrative needs, but HR can be so much more to the organization. We need to ask the question “Why?” Why are we doing it this way, why aren’t we adapting new technologies, why don’t we invest in an HRIS? From my small corner of the world, we can help drive cultural shifts and mentalities, albeit slowly, and often with much assistance from other business drivers. Some of that comes from learning to use technology – it’s not going away.
Here are some ideas for HR professionals to consider:
- Have an open mind to change. Most of us no longer hand out cash on pay day, and many of us no longer hand out paper paychecks either. We have electronic means of delivering pay, so why wouldn’t we want to move along that continuum with everything HR does? From recruiting to performance management, HR is getting electronically delivered out there in many places – more efficiently, and often more effectively.
- Get social. Take a look, in your off-time, at the social spaces out there. LinkedIn is NOT just a tool people use for a job search. Not anymore. Ease into social media, one place at a time. It can be overwhelming. Join Facebook and just look around for a while. You don’t have to post. Same with LinkedIn – see what other HR professionals are doing in the social space. There are a ton of HR blogs out there, many are fabulous to read, and provide good tips. Seek out one you like and follow them for a bit to get a feel.
To move the Human Resources profession up, each of us has a responsibility to be continuous learners, and mostly, to learn to live in the digital spaces. Good luck! You can do this!
[One of these days, I might even get that blog started…. Yes, change happens slowly.]
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.