Net gains and losses for HR on the Web

It has been a few years coming to the UK but the irresistible draw of the
Internet finally seems to be making itself felt in the personnel profession. It
is easy to sneer at Tony Blair’s evangelicalism about the impact of the Web on
our society but the more it beds down the more it becomes clear that we are in
the midst of a major cultural shift – and it is already starting to hit HR.

First there is the issue of HR staff moving into dot.com companies. The
Internet offers the same opportunities to HR as a career as it does to most
other professionals – you can start your operation from scratch.

The beauty of getting involved with these kinds of start-ups, the
enthusiasts will tell you, is that the rulebook is thrown away. No one has set
up these types of businesses before so there is no precedent for how to do it.
HR professionals moving into Internet companies can expect a greenfield site.

There are challenges for those who want to take this route. Many of the
problems that are being experienced in the wider labour market are amplified in
the Internet world.

Take the skills gap for instance. Only last week, Microsoft unveiled
research showing that the UK alone will need 330,000 more skilled professionals
to feed the boom in e-commerce and web traffic (see story, right). That
increase alone dwarfs the number of people working in many traditional
industries. HR staff in these companies need be thinking how they can overcome
the lack of skills as well as other challenges such as retaining staff and
creating the right benefits package.

But perhaps the biggest issue for HR around the Internet revolution is the
impact it has on mainstream firms. Internet companies embody a whole raft of
ways of working that traditional businesses must respond to. It is not just
lucrative share options you are up against, many dot.com companies pride
themselves on their flexible working practices and an informal work culture.

To address just these issues, this week’s Personnel Today carries a major
report on the barriers to flexible working and how companies can overcome them.
To stay ahead of the game and avoid losing valuable staff – including from your
own HR department – personnel managers must keep abreast of new ideas emerging
in e-commerce. After all, better to surf the Internet wave than get washed up
by it.

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