According to statistics published on the Internet World Stats website (http://www.internetworldstats.com/), there has been an over 140% growth in the use of the Internet in North America since 2001. Analysis done by Nielson Online shows that over 259,000 North Americans (or 76.2% of the population) use the Internet. According to an April 2009 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 56% of adult Americans have accessed the Internet by wireless means ( laptops, mobile device, game console or MP3 player) In fact, according to the article published on the pewinternet.org website:
The report also finds rising levels of Americans using the internet on a mobile handset. One-third of Americans (32%) have used a cell phone or Smartphone to access the internet for emailing, instant-messaging, or information-seeking. This level of mobile internet is up by one-third since December 2007, when 24% of Americans had ever used the internet on a mobile device. On the typical day, nearly one-fifth (19%) of Americans use the internet on a mobile device, up substantially from the 11% level recorded in December 2007. That’s a growth of 73% in the 16 month interval between surveys
The full article summary can be found at http://bit.ly/14SgMe
What does that mean for HR professionals?
Well, for one thing, we need to face the fact that whether we think so or not, our employees are online. Even our lowest paid employees are accessing the Internet thru public libraries (see a summary of findings from a 2009 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation study that showed almost half of all poor Americans – living below the poverty line- depend on the library for Internet access http://bit.ly/b3p7or ) or other means. The Internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity and significant source of information for Americans of all economic and social classes. For HR professionals, we have the opportunity to utilize this technology in a couple of important ways.
- There has never been a better time to institute employee self service. Employees who are doing their banking, shopping and learning online, want be able to access their employee data, payroll history, company forms and policies in the same way they can get at their credit scores and network with their family and friends.
- Managers need new tools to be able initiate changes; track performance; and share data in the frictionless environment of the Internet. They need to be able to access critical HR data and analytics in up to the minute, real time to be able to make informed decisions.
- Notifications can be communicated immediately and directly to employees and managers via wireless technology. Automated alerts can let employees know when they are due for license renewal; how much their direct deposit was or if their time off request was approved. The notification can be via a web page; a dashboard or an SMS text to cell phone.
I recently watched a presentation entitled ‘HR Service Delivery for the New HR Agenda’ presented (via the Internet naturally) by the Human Capital Institute. One of the presenters made a comment I found interesting. In the move from “High Touch to High Tech”, the choke point now is not the technical side, it is the training of and adoption by HR professionals. We need to be willing to let some of this ‘administrivia’ go as a justification for our reason for existence. When we do, we will open ourselves to a broader and more strategic role for Human Resources in our organizations.