HR’s Role in Getting Work Done: Are You a Driver, Passenger or Pedestrian?

Typically we look to the CHRO and team to drive people management strategies and enabling technology investments across the enterprise. Yet it’s also routine for targeted people productivity tools to make their way into the enterprise with limited or even no involvement of the HR organization. Whether driver or passenger to these investments, the benefits of the journey can be leveraged by all. The role to avoid is that of pedestrian – entirely outside of the car and walking in the opposite direction! Close alignment between HR and business leaders can keep the organization on track, even when different drivers are making different turns.

Over the past few months I’ve been briefing with a series of technology providers that bring social and collaboration capabilities into the applications people use every day to get work done. Sitting at the intersection of people management and business management, these applications include Social Goals, Social Performance and Feedback, Social Learning, and Social Team Based Project and Task Management. Referred to by a variety of names (Social Performance Management, Social Work Management, or even peer performance applications), it’s clear that these applications are redefining not just how people are enabled to collaborate and get work done, but also how social business productivity tools are entering the enterprise.

Refocusing on People Operations

This new breed of applications is all about “getting work done collaboratively.” At their core, these applications are aimed at supporting the completion of tasks, projects and goals by teams. However, a transformation among this category of applications is underway, where vendors are innovating in collaboration, social networking and mobility to make their applications ubiquitous, engaging and impactful to today’s workforce. They’re becoming high-impact technologies that support people in their everyday work lives: connecting individuals and teams, supporting goal and initiative management across groups, surfacing the status of tasks and projects to a broad audience, and enabling feedback and recognition around work activities.

Despite these new capabilities sitting at the heart of what should be core considerations for HR organizations, a large percentage of these tools (especially social work management applications) are sold directly to Line of Business (LOB) leaders with little or no involvement of HR. Is this a problem? Not necessarily.

HCM and Non-HCM Technologies Meeting the Needs

Many of the work management tools come from vendors outside of the HCM technology space. Vendors such as Asana, FellowStream, CoHuman, Teamly,, Socialcast and many others (see my colleague’s more complete list here) specialize in collaboration and project/task management, and they position most directly to IT and LOB owners (such as the sales force facing productivity challenges; the services organization managing competing priorities for staff; the marketing team looking to move beyond an unending task list to focus on value-add projects.) Being outside the line-of-sight of HR, it is no wonder these value-add tools are selected and deployed without the foreknowledge of those responsible for HCM technologies.

Interestingly, even in those cases where vendors do position directly to HR buyers (as in the case of WorkSimple, Rypple, Achievers,, and others), HR is often but not always the primary buying center. Again, this is because these solutions transform the day-to-day methods of engagement and communication of people as they work to deliver against departmental/business objectives. Additionally, if support from HR or the rest of the organization for new productivity apps has been slow or problematic, the affordability and quick deployments offered by this new breed of applications makes it a no-brainer for individual teams to invest in these tools for immediate impact.

Driver or Passenger – Ensure You’re In the Car

HR can certainly be the driver behind such tools, and should be when employee recognition, engagement and performance management are at the forefront of the business objectives for such investments. However, HR can also be an effective passenger on this journey, taking a back seat to the Line of Business (LOB) buyers who are looking to these tools to address specific processes or challenges in their divisions. HR’s opportunity here is to help inform the final technology selection and ensure these tools are leveraged in broader people strategies and business initiatives (such as workforce and business analytics, enterprise social networking, workforce scheduling and other people-centric business processes). The only real failure here would be for HR to ignore these applications as being too focused on daily operations.

In the next few weeks I’ll be publishing a market overview of this category of social performance and work management tools and how they fit into a new technology layer I refer to as the Business Management Layer. You can also replay my interview on the Bill Kutik Radio Show, which covers this topic as well.

Let me know what you think. Is your organization adopting these emerging social performance and work management tools? Which ones? How is HR leveraging them in the context of your organization’s overall people management strategies?

Cross-posted at Constellation Research, Inc. 

7 Responses

  1. Great blog, Yvette! I think you really nail the role of HR – with both of these types of applications. It’s true, HR has such a vital role here and I really hope that HR as a whole can embrace this movement because I think it can really change the way work is done and better the lives of so many people!

  2. I am very thankful to you to provide this post as HR Department plays an important role. This will help the organization to get their work done but sometimes there might be some politics which HR plays with the employees which results in discouraging the employees and this results in lower productivity

  3. It’s interesting to me to see the sheer number of these types of tools and where they are positioning themselves in the marketplace. I find it sometimes difficult to ascertain which one might be the best fit for a particular culture.

    I use Asana at one of my jobs and that was the third project management tool that we selected (HR included) to use. Of the prior two, one didn’t fully serve our needs and the other had a user adoption problem.

    In my second job, we’ve broadly adopted the use of saleforce’s chatter. While it is somewhat effective, it is ultimately more heavily used by those involved in the sales process than the rest of the company. Since Rypple has now been acquired by Salesforce, I’m interested to see in how that integration evolves and if that impacts any broader adoption of salesforce.

    Similarly, with working for a smaller company, it’s interesting to see what technologies are a fit. For example, Achievers made the decision in 2012 that they are now only selling to large companies and are pulling out of the small business market.

    It’s an interesting issue involved in trying to determine the right tools for the company culture aimed at the right company size.

  4. There is a great dialogue happening on the HR Technology Conference Group in LinkedIn as well that I encourage you to tap into:

  5. Very insightful blog Yvette and it dawned on me how HR and IT project collaborations can become a hit or miss end product. My opinion is that both HR AND IT should be the DRIVERS at the onset of the business strategic change towards modern technology and capability to manage people and processes. As passengers, HR and IT will take its turn – HR as the passenger during the integration of IT solutions deployment in the company, whilst IT can become the passenger when its operations are well underway.

  6. […] using QR codes in retail. Yvette Cameron of Constellation Research shares more concrete examples of how HR can usher in a new era of work by embracing tools and technologies for collaboration and […]

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