Does HR need tech training?

It’s critical for today’s professionals to develop ‘digital fluency’

We work in a world that is increasingly global, dynamic and digital. In recent years, we have experienced massive disruption in business as the rise of social media, economic pressures and increasing numbers of millennials in the workplace force leaders to think differently about how they manage work. 

Human resources is strongly feeling the impact as it needs to attract, develop, retain and engage talent differently. Technology and the ability to use it effectively in all of these areas has become absolutely critical for HR practitioners — I call this competency “digital fluency.”

Digital fluency is the ability to use technology to find and filter information, to connect and communicate with customers, employees and organizations, and to conduct business. Digital fluency is about developing the confidence to try new technology and to learn how it can be used at the workplace. 

So why is digital fluency so important for HR practitioners, and how can it be developed?

An employer brand is what employees say it is 
We are living in a “Rateocracy”, a term coined by Robert Moran in the Futurist Magazine. The power to distribute information and reviews about companies lies with everyone. Customers and employees are rating our business, leadership and brand, and sharing their opinions online.

In recent years, Edelman’s Trust Barometer has shown a shift in who the public believes about certain messages. One of the most interesting findings for HR is employees are considered three times more credible than the CEO about an organization’s working conditions. 

The openness and transparency of social media means employees ultimately own the employer brand.
It is critical that HR professionals have the digital fluency to find out what people are saying about their organizations, so they can identify possible issues, coach leaders and put practices in place so the online message about the employer brand is a positive one.

Get started by searching rating sites such as and Look up your organization on Twitter and Facebook to see what is being said. Set up a Google alert for mentions about your organization. 

These are all simple ways to get an idea of where to focus your efforts internally so what is shared externally is positive.

The recruiting game is social
In today’s world, a strategy for finding the best talent includes social media. Recruiting is no longer about posting jobs for active jobseekers but building relationships using technology. 

Social media creates new opportunities to connect with passive candidates. Recruiters who create online “talent communities” are able to gauge skill and passion as they connect and interact with possible future candidates. 

Another factor that is critical to a recruiting strategy is the use of referrals. In the online world, that means making it easy for employees and connections to share opportunities on social media. 

There is a vast array of new technology solutions to help with this, from simple job referral links to gamified referral engines where employees win points for participating in referring candidates.

HR can get started by reviewing what it is posting on any social networks it uses (such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook). If it’s simply posting jobs, it’s not taking advantage of building a community. 

Think about what the ideal employees’ interests are. Share blogs, images and videos related to those. Post job search advice and interviews with employees. 

By sharing interesting information and tips, you’ll build a level of trust and community with people who may become job candidates in the future. 

HR should also take a look at HR technology found at sites such as,,, and, all of which enable them to find passive candidates through referrals and social networks in different ways. 

Technology enhances informal learning, collaboration
The rise of social media shows that people want to have a voice and to share and be connected. Internal social enterprise software such as Microsoft’s Yammer can quickly connect people across an organization and provide an opportunity for informal learning and sharing of information.

The implementation of social enterprise software often lies with the information technology department, with HR sometimes completely left out of the project. This is an issue since this technology is meant to provide a space for listening, connecting and communicating — all of which are core HR competencies. 

Human resources needs a level of digital fluency so it can work hand in hand with IT and develop effective strategies for social enterprise software. There are so many opportunities within this sort of platform that may be missed if HR doesn’t consider how to engage people in using it.

Get started by understanding the features of social enterprise software. Sites such as Yammer have a free version and visitors can test out polls, posts, sharing files, shared notes and praise. Once HR professionals have developed their own digital fluency with tools like these, they’ll be better able to develop a strategy for implementation and engagement. 

Technology helps build culture, engagement 
Recent studies, such as Gallup’s  2013 State of the Global Workplace, indicate alarmingly low rates of employee engagement (13 per cent globally and 29 per cent in North America). Gallup estimates that those disengaged employees are costing businesses billions of dollars — more than US$450 billion in the United States alone. 

It is becoming more important for HR leaders to have a finger on the pulse of the attitudes and engagement of employees. They need to enable their organization to act quickly when issues arise, to provide leadership development, to adjust people practices or, at least, to dive deeper into the information to find out what the cause is — before it’s too late. 

There are many technology platforms that simplify performance management, encourage regular feedback and provide regular “pulse checks” on culture and engagement and tips to improve problem areas. When technology is leveraged to make processes more efficient or to provide more relevant data, HR can focus on more strategic priorities that prepare its organization and people for the future.

Get started by learning what software is available by looking online. Many providers offer free trials. Think about key focus areas such as recruiting, learning, engagement or workforce analytics. Test one of the technologies with a small team to see how it works. 

Digital fluency is deeper than training on a specific technology. It is developing literacy and achieving a comfort level with technology. 

The greater a person’s fluency in the digital world, the better he will be able to connect with the next generation of workers, develop talent and implement technology solutions for people practices. Digitally fluent HR practitioners will be more prepared to lead their organizations into the future of work. 

Pam Ross is a culture development consultant and producer of Impact99 and the Reinvent Work Summit, which connects ideas and people to change the world of work. She can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @pamelamaeross.

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