Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Human Resources and adaptation to change 9: in a deeply interconnected and interdependent context

Posted in business and convergent technologies, HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on March 10, 2013

This is my ninth installment to a series on business and marketplace change and on the impact of this on Human Resources as a department. And as a crucial part of that I also seek to delve into how an effective HR department and its functionalities in turn help to shape the business and its operational planning and strategy (see HR and Personnel, postings 137 and loosely following for Parts 1-8.)

I began this series by outlining two baseline business models:

• One centered on startups and the initial hiring and onboarding of employees, and the beginnings of need for HR and Personnel policy and processes, (see Part 2: building a baseline for comparison for organizational opportunity and challenge 1),
• And the other centered on a stable, ongoing business and its Human Resources (see Part 3: building a baseline for comparison for organizational opportunity and challenge 2.)

Since then I have been adding and discussing a series of business lifecycle stages and circumstances that can arise, and how they impact upon Human Resources and its operational and strategic position in the overall organization. My goal for this posting is to add to that list of perturbing business situations, to consider what might be thought of as the emblematic evolutionary step for the business model paradigm going into the 21st century: the ubiquitously connected business. And I begin that by noting what should be the obvious:

• When a business is globally, real-time connected, and to its supply chain and other partner businesses, and to its marketplaces, its employees are also real-time ubiquitously connected too.
• So in a real sense the walls that have traditionally separated a business from its outside context have become porous, and in some respects they have even at least functionally evaporated away.

I developed and presented my stable, ongoing baseline business model of Part 3 as an essentially pre-internet, and certainly pre-web 2.0 and pre-ubiquitous tablet and smart phone phenomenon. I add in all of the changes and complications that they can bring with them here.

Human Resources has traditionally held responsibility for, and hands-on day to day ownership of personnel policy, and of managing what is and is not allowed and expected as far as attendance and work participation, and terms of employment. In this enlarged and more open-ended context that means setting and managing personnel policy where employees who are physically present at work might effectively be anywhere but there, and legitimately as well as inappropriately. And with telecommuting and distance working that goes way beyond the scope of managing in-house and present employees plus perhaps some road warrior sales and technical support staff, this means developing and managing policy for employees of all types who might be physically away from the business’ workplace but effectively be there and full-time.

• Business strategists and senior management tend to focus on one half of this larger and interconnected set of issues: strategically and operationally developing and maintaining effective value-creating relationships with partner businesses and with outside marketplaces.
• Human Resources policy and practices help or hinder that as they address or fail to address how all of these higher level considerations play out at the individual employee level, as all of those individuals use or misuse the tools and opportunities provided to connect out and to everywhere and anywhere, real time and all the time – and connect in from the outside too.

As a starting point, this is all about finding and bringing in the right people, who can stay focused and effective and who will do so, in this porous interconnected environment. And performance measures and even a basic understanding as to what effective performance means, have to be reconsidered. As a starting point to that, and just as a starting point:

• A simple measure of amount of time physically present in a business owned or managed space – a traditional measure of presence there as a baseline performance criterion, becomes essentially meaningless and certainly as a universally applicable standard when employees can and do connect in and out of the business, for the business from anywhere to anywhere and at any time of the day or night (remember time zone differences there, if nothing else.)

To summarize a key line of reasoning that I have been developing here, and to bring it into explicit focus:

• It is a fallacy to simply assume Human Resources to be an entirely internal part of the organizational infrastructure, and with an area of focus and responsibility that is limited to being entirely internal to that organization.
• HR’s operational and policy walls have to become porous and open in keeping with corresponding shifts and changes that the business as a whole face and adapt to.

I am going to follow this with a discussion of one more perturbation from the baseline models that I have offered in this series, with a discussion of the role of Human Resources in a merger or acquisition context. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at HR and Personnel. I also include this posting at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2.

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