Catching the Next Wave: HR and the Internet of People

July 5, 2017

Catching the Next Wave: HR and the Internet of People

A few decades ago, I worked at Bell Laboratories, which for a very long time was considered the paragon of innovation. Readers young enough not to recognize the name and reputation of Bell Labs might imagine the combined innovation horsepower of Apple, Google, and Tesla, along with five of your favorite start-up companies, and then you begin to get the idea. The amazing part was seeing early stage examples of what would eventually become standard technologies and transform the way we interact in five, 10, even 15 years’ time.

Leap forward to 2010 and the Internet of things sparks the imagination: connected products, technology embedded within appliances and equipment that can report malfunctions or even predict maintenance needs before a traumatic breakdown; QR codes that deliver video stories of sustainable agriculture via tags on the food you’re considering purchasing so that with the click of a smartphone app, you experience a new level of brand marketing. All the while, social media was becoming ever-present, as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Glassdoor, were growing at unprecedented rates. Many companies were caught off guard by the extent and power of these informal communication channels that bridged internal and external communities. The Internet seemed to be connected to everything—that is everything except human resource practices.

Today, the Internet of things is being heavily applied to human capital management and is emerging as the Internet of people

Today, the Internet of things is being heavily applied to human capital management and is emerging as the Internet of people. As it has evolved over the past few years, patterns of the future begin to take shape. It’s not just new technology; it’s what we do with technology that changes the landscape of the workplace. Data handling capabilities, easy access to volumes of information that would have been impossible in the past, and the potential of big data analytics, are all now being applied to understanding people within and across organizations. Tech and analytic-savvy HR professionals are finding they can predict people and organizational performance as never before. Many companies are forming entire departments dedicated to such insights to drive strategy and action. If you read Michael Lewis’s book, Moneyball, or saw the movie, imagine the same acumen applied to people at work. Imagine the competitive advantage those companies gain, or the loss of advantage suffered by those who ignore such potential..

This issue of People + Strategy is devoted to the front lines of change, specifically the Internet of people. Two guest editors played a large role in shaping this issue. David Reimer, a regular contributing editor to the journal, is the CEO of Merryck & Co., which helps C-suite executives lead organizational transformation. David regularly works with executives navigating disruptive technologies to create competitive advantage. Scott Kelly, as chief human resource officer and chief transformation officer at Hitachi Data Systems, leverages the Internet of people every day. Together they have curated a broad range of articles, case studies, and first-person encounters of how technology and related applications are transforming organizations around us.

You can catch a wave for a thrilling ride, but sometimes it crashes on top of you; surfers know both sides of the experience. Seasoned surfers, however, learn to size up the wave even before it fully forms, anticipate where it will break, and act before it is too late. With that image in mind, how do you plan to catch the next wave of the Internet as it relates to people and strategy?

The Authors: 

Marc Sokol, Ph.D., is executive editor of People + Strategy and the principal and founder of Sage Consulting Resources. An organizational psychologist, consultant, executive coach, writer, and speaker on workplace dynamics, Marc has worked in both the public and private sectors, with leaders and companies across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. He is also on the advisory board of the University of Maryland’s Masters of Professional Studies in Industrial Organizational Psychology. He can be reached at