Many moons ago when I was lost in one of the many twists and turns in my BBC "career" my father asked if there wasn't someone in HR that I could speak to. I am sorry to say that I laughed out loud. Yes there were some notable exceptions but most of my experience of HR departments had been of people who saw themselves as maintainers of order rather than enablers of staff. People who made up rules and made sure I stuck to them, rather than people who had my long term career interests at heart.
Likewise communications departments seem to see themselves more as "managing" communication on behalf of senior management than enabling communication within their organisations. And of course when it to comes to IT they have sadly been the ones who have picked up on the motivations of the other two and come to represent control of risk rather than enabling the business. Of course I have made some sweeping generalisations in the last two paragraphs but I don't believe I am dreadfully wide of the mark in describing many, if not most, organisations.
The sad thing is of course that it doesn't have to be this way. As I said before I have known some very notable exceptions and good people have always found ways to go against the tide and do the right things. But for many, processing stuff, conforming to norms and doing what is expected of them is the most that they can aspire to, and of course having turned these corporate functions into commodities they are now being offshored or outsourced in their droves.
So why should people in these organisational functions be excited about the social web? Because people are starting to do it for themselves. Increasingly staff are using web-based tools to perform some of the functions that have ostensibly been the responsibility of these departments. They are writing CV's and finding jobs for themselves, even within the existing organisations, using LinkedIn; they are using social sites like Facebook or blogs to communicate with each other; and they are increasingly using flexible tools such as Google Documents and calendar to provide basic platforms for working together. They are showing imagination, energy and a willingness to do what it takes to get their jobs done. These are the qualities that organisations keep telling us they want their staff to have.
This energy should be seen as something that can be tapped into and enhanced. Use these people as models of how to get things done, learn from them and encourage others to copy them. If necessary bring some of the tools in-house or work out how to make them easily accessible and secure but be prepared to see this change in behaviours as an opportunity and not as a threat. HR, Comms and IT professionals who manage to do this will add real value to their business and the people who work in them. They will be transformed from gate keepers to enablers and they will be more likely to have their jobs in three years time!
About the Author
Previously a Director of Knowledge Management at the BBC, Euan now helps people and organisations to better understand and manage social media, networking and today's web. For more information contact blue-infinity