HR and the Internet of People

July 11, 2017

HR and the Internet of People

The genesis of this issue of People + Strategy began with a casual conversation. We were wrapping up a CHRO roundtable hosted by Hitachi Data Systems, and Scott remarked to David upon a conversation with one of Hitachi’s top executives in Japan in which the leader had asked Scott about the implications of the Internet of things (IoT) for human capital. Meanwhile, David was seeing a similar challenge across multiple sectors, where category-leading companies were having to shift their strategies for an IoT future, but without a clear understanding of what that would mean for leadership, talent, or the role of HR.

We discussed the proliferation of new businesses and new business models, which are turning a whole range of organizations into essentially software companies to stay competitive. (Think of the lodging industry’s responses to Airbnb, or rental car companies’ responses to Uber.) Partly, this is a result of what is often described as the third platform (mobility, data, social, and cloud), but the emphases in business planning have been on technological pivots, while the conversations within HR have often over-focused on big data.

What interests us is something else: the implications of this sea-change on leadership and human resources practices. There, the sheer volume of data has become almost a polluting byproduct. What’s more intriguing and practical are the principle levers provided by a fully connected world and the increasing presence and sophistication of AI. We believed (and believe more strongly since curating this issue) it to be just the start of a paradigm shift set to revolutionize the world of work and talent strategy and tactics over the next decade. We phrased this change, the Internet of people (IoP). 

Scott is witnessing these challenges within his own organization. David is seeing them with organizations across the world. In our exploration of the topic for this journal, we sought to understand the implications across five vectors:

  • The structure and operations of the organization
  • The talent or workforce requirements of the organization
  • The leadership and leadership development implications for the organization
  • The pace and severity of change required of an organization to stay competitive
  • The ecosystem of relationships required to navigate effectively within such an organization
     

Notably, none are about AI or IoT specifically; nor are those five vectors exhaustive (innovation, to name one, could be a category all its own). Yet the presence of those two game-changing technological factors makes possible IoP and is driving a revolution of the physical and relational requirements of people within organizations.

This issue explores what CHROs and their teams are doing today to create an IoP future. Academics and the chief science officer at Hitachi worldwide also chime in on the changes that AI will bring for HR—ones that will allow human capital professionals to take a leadership role in changing their businesses.

IoP is uncharted territory. The discussion that begins in these pages is not intended as a conclusion; rather, we are together at the beginning of a journey. We believe passionately   in the need for change, and in the incredible opportunity of that change for HR. Never have we seen such a critical time for the profession. Scott often describes this as a crisis point for his function, not least of all because much of what HR has done up until now will soon be overtaken by technological capacity and capability, including AI.

To the positive, operating executives need guidance with this change, and HR can banish forever concerns or ambiguities over its contribution—and HR has never been better positioned to guide the organization than during this IoP revolution.

We appreciate the contributions from talented leaders and thinkers in the human capital arena, and we invite more—more discussion, more innovation, more experimental thinking—as senior human resources professionals shape the Internet of people. 

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Read David and Scott's article about HR's Leadership Role in Transformation.

The Authors: 

David Reimer is CEO of Merryck & Co. He can be reached at david.reimer@merryck.com.

Scott Kelly is CTO and CHRO at Hitachi Data Systems. He can be reached at scott.kelly@hds.com.