A seamless mingling of enterprise and consumer technology and social media has resulted in the conception of “platforms”
Whether it is the company's leave policy, the taxi service, salary slip or the regulation dress code, it's all there in that one place
Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist visionary said, “The only irreplaceable capital an organization possesses is its people - their knowledge, ability and their state-of-motivation. The productivity of the organization depends on the productivity of this human capital and how readily and effectively people share their competence with those who can use it.” Little has changed since. In a recent survey of top executives of several Fortune 1000 companies, 70 percent of respondents said that attracting and retaining key employees and then corralling intellectual capital were their top priorities. In other words, organizations are looking for the equivalent of a “semipermeable membrane” that allows talent, knowledge and skills to pass through it in only one direction – outside in. So, how to achieve this?
The answer is served on a platform. Literally.
A seamless mingling of enterprise and consumer technology, Cloud computing, process outsourcing, and social media has resulted in the conception of “platforms”. The business platform brings together the best of three worlds – Cloud computing, Software as a Service and Business Process Outsourcing helping enterprises achieve several ambitious goals. The ones that’ll most interest human resource managers are the innovations in cost-effective talent acquisition, hassle-free operations, knowledge conservation and skill development.
It all begins with finding and then inducting the right talent into the enterprise. Here’s where the seemingly-impossible is made possible. With one unifying masterstroke, job-boards, job postings, applicant searches, resume extractions, background checks and results from testing centers and interviews are all integrated and made available, in a 360 degree online view - as a single source of talent-truth - to the enterprise, accessible through an easy-to-use Facebook–like interface. With the efficiency of talent acquisition optimized for costs and efforts, you’d think you must now prepare to labor on with employee engagement programs. Surprise, surprise! That’s something you won’t have to lose sleep over.
If yours is a firm like most enterprises, you are, in all likelihood, already leveraging an employee intranet – one of those “for-your-eyes-only” portals with resources to help employees manage their personal work life better. Whether it is the company’s leave policy, the taxi service approved for use for official purposes, the (invariably misplaced) salary slip or the regulation dress code, it’s all there in that one place. The platform has taken this very basic, humdrum specimen and exploded it many times over. So, now, there’s a nifty front-end to aid navigation across a space that is also open, in parts, to the outside world, and a back end of managed services to step in where self-service cannot. But the platform’s killer attribute is its ability to gather, process and preserve knowledge belonging to both, the outside and inside world, and make it available, to your workforce, on tap. Forever.
In contrast to the top-down knowledge dissemination – from enterprise to employee – facilitated by the employee intranet, the platform takes a more democratic approach to allow true knowledge sharing. Figured something out? Put it in an enterprise Wiki. Feel strongly about something? Blog it. Need the perspective of a chemical engineer, perhaps, on an app you’re developing? Find one on the World Wide Web, rope him in, co-create! And, if you want to talk about less highbrow, but no less important things like movies to catch over the weekend or the best playschool in your neighborhood, well, there’s surely a chat room or two that’s already debating the subject. So, if you think the platform is nothing but intranet on steroids, think again. The platform’s analytics engine can trawl through external and internal social conversations to extract information relevant to a user’s search, so a query about an HR policy or a business problem will find useful responses served by a context engine with relevance ratings. Now, get your intranet to beat that!
So far, so good? Wait, it gets better. The ingenuity of the platform is in the fact that it pervades beyond the walls of the enterprise. So, when an employee is, perhaps, traveling and needs to respond to a business situation, she can do this on her personal smartphone or tablet device. The platform “syncs” that screen to the office computer the moment she switches it on, so she can continue to work from there. Alternatively, the employee can log into the platform’s intranet portal from a personal tablet.
To top it all, the employee can also access pockets of specialized knowledge within the organization by reaching out to various teams offering counsel, guidance or information as a managed service. But, more on that later.
The platform can be equally effective in mitigating attrition of talent through employee resignation, retrenchment and the big R - Retirement. In the United States alone, 77 million workers from the baby boomer generation will exit their workplaces by 2025, and only 48 million Gen Xers will take their place. Apart from the shortage of talent, large scale retirement of key employees will also create a disproportionate knowledge vacuum, unless organizations do something about it. Which they can now.
Research indicates that only a minority of workers aged between 55 and 65 consider themselves “fully retired”, which means that most are still willing to be employed, albeit at a scaled down level. The bigger insight is that these employees will only work on their own terms, which include flexible hours, the respect of colleagues and a sense of fulfillment. By meeting all these expectations, the platform enables organizations to continue to tap this valuable knowledge source easily, even at a physical remove. Employee advisory or mentoring services managed by knowledge owners, retired from full-time work, presents them with the option to work flexible hours, from wherever they are, and still contribute to the organization. Platform-led facilities for e-tutorials enable them to transfer knowledge in a standardized manner. Those retired from senior roles can contribute as consultants, and interact with the organization through those parts of the platform that they’re allowed selective access to - such as enterprise-only social networks.
Fittingly, the platform also curates “its own knowledge” for the use of the organization. Built on an enterprise-wide human resource database that serves as the single source of all HR data, it drives manager-employee self-service with timely information and relevant process automation. Start counting those savings in administrative costs right away! In addition, human resource managers can access smart assist widgets, to gain insights into users’ patterns of activity, the most popular searches or applications, the stickiest portal pages, and their biggest user peeves. Social collaboration can help create an informal network to effectively leverage the collective skills of the enterprise and propel its innovation agenda.
Think about it. In trapping this “irreplaceable capital” of people, their expertise and then reinvesting it all repeatedly, could easily be where your next big source of competitive advantage lies.
Samson David is Vice-President and Global Head, Business Platforms and Hariprasad BK is Head - Strategic Platforms at Infosys Limited