The Society for Human Resource Management helps members to cope with the onslaught of social media as well as imagining, forecasting and preparing for the future.

The Society for Human Resource Management helps members to cope with the onslaught of social media as well as imagining, forecasting and preparing for the future.

I went to the SHRM National conference again this year. Can you believe that with the entire event paid for by a sea of tech sponsors, there is no technology track at the conference?

That’s okay because there is a similar dearth of material to help SHRM members imagine, forecast and prepare for the future. The publishing industry was better prepared for its ultimate disruption. At least they were aware that it was coming.

Over the years, I’ve become a moderate fan of SHRM. They are helping members cope with the onslaught of social media by delivering fundamental training right on the Expo floor. The extraordinary blending of Curtis Midkiff‘s brilliance (SHRM’s Director of Social Engagement) with Terry Starr‘s (Dice’s Director of Social Strategy) street savvy is a very positive sign. The Hive and the Bloggers lounge are islands of 21st Century relevance in a sea of administrivia.

Even so, the way that the technology wave that is eating the heart out of HR jobs is completely unrepresented. SHRM’s idea of technical preparedness amounts to fiddling while Rome burns.

Imagine taking tech advice from an organization whose view of the future of the workforce is:

“They’re Facebook junkies bent on getting the next promotion; they’d rather text than talk; they openly tweet at meetings; they tend to have “me first” mentalities and self-entitled natures. But that skinny- jean-clad worker whose smartphone serves as a second brain is actually crucial to company growth.”
From a summary for “Millennial’ Comfort with Tech Key to Business” in SHRM’s technology section.

Impressive stuff, don’t you think. My goodness, those youngsters just might be on to something. That whole computer in your pocket thing might not be a fad.

Meanwhile, there’s no mention of what to buy, how to buy it, negotiating the deal, understanding the implementation, designing adoption programs that work. Nada, Bupkiss.

The truth is that two trends – the expanded use of best practices and SaaS implementations – point directly toward a rapid change in HR. The two forces share a common bond of standardization. The HRTech industry has spent 20 years standardizing HR practice.

Now, the administrative and transactional component of the business can be easily outsourced. Underline ‘easily outsourced’. That’s the economy wide benefit of standardization. In the rush toward sameness, any hint of competitive advantage is eliminated.

So, in the not too distant future, all those hard working folks attending sessions about getting the forms and procedures right will be taking a pay cut to work for an outsourcer or (somewhat more likely) waving goodbye to the job as it floats offshore.

Is SHRM letting the crowd know how to prepare fore the near-term end of their careers? Nope. Is SHRM helping members prepare for and embrace their coming disruption? ‘Fraid not. Do you think SHRM has a plan in place for the coming decline in membership? Not so much.

There is no doubt that the next years will bring anything but ‘more of the same’.

The future. the very near term future, is a place where HR can make an astonishing difference.

  • All of the other departments in the organization have been waiting. They need data and insight on the employee population. They’d really like it if that included the entire ecosystem (supply chain, contractors, temps and maybe even investors).
  • Employees are never just employees. They are customers, shareholders, community members and members of every imaginable stakeholder class.
  • Contractors, temporary workers and members of key vendors or channel partners are pretty hard to distinguish from employees. They are an essential element of the organization’s Human Capital (Talent Base)
  • Workforce planning has to address all of these components.
  • HR will become a publisher of data. The function is the guardian of employee privacy and the discoverer of organizational opportunity.
  • It’s likely that HR will have to have a product.

More to come.

Read previous post:
Modest Disruption

Disruption is what happens when prices fall and profits rise. There is no such thing as a modest disruption.