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The Future of HR is Open Source

We are living in a time of unprecedented change. This applies to politics – following the tragic recent events in Paris, to economics – in the wake of the financial crisis and to technology – where Moore’s Law has multiplied and is set to go into hyperdrive.


The impact to the world of work is already multifarious and set to reach epidemic proportions. It’s rare that a day goes past without the likes of Harvard Business Review, The Economist or Forbes declaring that humans are set to be imminently supplanted by robots in the workplace. Even if some of the most dramatic headlines are hyperbole, most of us would concede that the next 10-15 years are going to see work change beyond recognition to an extent perhaps not seen since the Industrial Revolution

As custodians of the people that work for their organisations, HR is right in the frontline. How should it face this onslaught?

Traditionally, HR functions have worked in splendid isolation but perhaps it is time as The Beatles once sang to try to ‘get by with a little help from our friends’. It has certainly served the tech community well where collaboration or ‘Open Source’ has become the norm. Not before time this ethos seems to have arrived in HR.


HR Open Source (#HROS)

Collaboration or shared learning was one of the key themes of the recent HR Tech World Congress in Paris where Ambrosia Vertesi of Hootsuite outlined the concept of Open Source HR. As outlined on the HROS homepage, Open Source HR (also check out the #HROS hashtag) is an initiative conjured up by Ambrosia and Amplify Talent’s Lars Schmidt. The intent of #HROS is:


“…to make it easier for practitioners to access the resources, tips, tools and tricks they need to succeed in today’s world of work while hiring and developing the top talent of tomorrow.”


The two key components of the Open Source HR initiative are firstly the sharing of resources across social platforms and talent communities via the #HROS hashtag, and secondly the creation of case studies designed to showcase cutting edge innovation and emerging best practices. Ambrosia and Lars certainly seemed to have created quite a buzz and already organisations such as Dell, Oracle and CA Technologies have signed up as contributing members of the #HROS community.


‘Let’s Make Work Better’

#HROS is not the only high-profile example of Open Source HR either. Validation that Ambrosia and Lars have helped create a concept that will fly can be seen in Google’s re:Work initiative. Similarly, re:Work provides a set of tools and lessons from Google and partner organisations, which are designed to ‘make work better’ irrespective of the organisation. re:Work is organised into four key areas: Hiring, Managers, People Analytics (hooray!) and Unbiasing, which are four areas Google believes HR practitioners can make a big impact in their respective businesses.


There are other examples of Open Source out there too. For the second consecutive year, Glassdoor has published its annual recruiting metrics in recognition that the vast majority of recruiting teams struggle to see how they compare to other organisations. Whilst the positive publicity these initiatives will generate won’t do Hootsuite, Google or Glassdoor any harm, the concept of giving something back to the wider HR and recruiting community is to be applauded.


Open HR – the end of single vendor suites are gone

The concept of ‘Open HR’ extends beyond practitioners too. For years, HR has been sold the promise of a ‘single source of truth’ by the Holy Trinity of HRIS vendors. Forget best of breed applications and shift all of your HR technologies to one single vendor was the utopian clarion call. The fact this was made compelling even when accompanied by 18 month implementations, a bus load of expensive consultants and a transformation journey with more twists and turns than the Cresta Run is a credit to the marketers. But thankfully times are changing here too. The likes of IBM are leading the way by helping organisations select the best HR technology options and integrate them together on a single platform. This is good for users, organisations and vendors alike, and also means that people data can be integrated and analysed too.


Open Source in People Analytics

In the people analytics space I inhabit, collaboration and open source are arguably vital to help what is still a nascent concept go mainstream. Josh Bersin has recently suggested that the exponential growth of people analytics could be set to go into overdrive. I certainly hope so, but still feel HR has some way to go to overcome the three C’s Volker Jacobs of CEB recently described at HR Tech World in Paris: Criticality (being able to prioritise efforts based on critical business questions), Capability (being able to apply business judgment to data science), and Credibility (being able to drive end-user ownership of talent analytics).


It is good therefore to see initiatives like one I am privy to (that for now needs to remain unnamed) where several organisations at a relatively advanced level of maturity in the application of people analytics are working closely together to define ‘what next’.  They have gone from sitting around the table together and sharing best practice to effectively going into a joint-venture, investing equally in order to experiment, collaborate and share in what will likely be significant and mutual benefits in the future.


As I wrote at the outset of this piece, the pace of change in the workplace is already phenomenal and set to increase. Attempting to cope with this on your own will likely prove impossible. Collaborating with your peers may seem an alien concept to many, but bold initiatives are required for the future of work and open source is one such initiative that may help HR functions keep up.

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