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We Are The Web: HR 3.0

One constant frustration people have with HR is that they are stereotypically behind the times. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not, HR must be gently cajoled into participating in something new and innovative.

So are you strapped in and ready for this? There is a movement afoot that HR *must* get involved in now and it’s called….(drum roll please)

web 3.0

Ok, I assume some of you laughed at this and your internal dialogue went something like:

“Web 3.0?? HR hasn’t even adopted Web 2.0!”

I understand that reaction, I really do, but let me explain why Web 3.0 is different. Some of this may seem a bit esoteric but I promise it’s worth it.

What is Web 3.0?

Although definitions vary, many refer to Web 3.0 as “The Semantic Web”, a term coined by the actual inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, which he defined in 1999:

“I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.” – Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Well we’re getting closer, and the good folks at the upcoming Web 3.0 Conference described it this way:

“Web 3.0 technologies make the organization of information radically more fluid and allow for new types of analysis based on things like text semantics, machine learning, and what we call serendipity — the stumbling upon insights based on just having better organized and connected information.”

Serendipity Matters

Business and HR leaders has always wrestled with leveraging their employee’s minds and bodies by organizing them in a way that achieves optimum productivity. To attain this lofty goal, we’ve dissected the thoughts and processes of the most successful leaders in industry. We’ve investigated decision making and what truly motivates an individual to perform at their peak. We’ve tried to stem the “brain drain” which accompanies the retirement of our most experienced and knowledgeable workers.

We’ve surveyed and interviewed and measured and rewarded and mentored and trained …. and we repeat, hoping to strike gold and evolve our organization forward. And although we don’t like to admit it, much of our innovation and success remains a complete and utter mystery, causing us to scratch our heads and reluctantly acquiesce to serendipity.

5,000 Days

In his fascinating 2008 presentation (video below), Wired’s Kevin Kelly reminds us that the internet is only 5,000 days old and that the processing power of this current web is now comparable to one human brain. He speaks to our always-on world and our increasing codependency on “the one” (his term for the one computer which is the entire internet). We Google instead of memorizing and are amputated when our PDAs are taken away. This is our current reality, and in thirty years (if not sooner), this new web will be equivalent to 6 billion human brains.

“We Are The Web”

Web 3.0As this future fast approaches, the idea of a separation between ourselves and the web begins to falter. We live more and more in the web and the web becomes us. For many employees, this concept seems not only mysterious but somewhat frightening. And when the workplace gets scary, who is responsible for governing the behavior and participation of employees in the new world order?

That’s right people, it’s HR.

You didn’t have a social media policy before Twitter, Facebook and blogs took off. HIPAA evolved from concerns surrounding the electronic transfer of personal information. We enroll in benefits, receive paystubs, apply for jobs, assess our skills, train and do performance reviews online. Work is the web and the web is work.

So if we claim to be in business of people, we cannot simply be reactive once change arrives. Start reading up on Web 3.0, watch some videos (including the one below), attend a local event and get involved now. The future may be closer than you think.

Please share your thoughts, comments and concerns, and let’s keep the conversation going.

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I agree. HR should be out front on a lot of these issues. And they can be as with new technology people become more and more important which is HR’s sweet spot. A lot of the new approaches are about connecting people, the wisdom of crowds, skill finding, which are HR capabilities….


As an HR professional, I do try…it’s oftentimes others within the organization who don’t seem to recognize the importance. The response is putting up hurdles, road blocks, or simply saying “no”.

I of course am not speaking for all HR professionals, as I do know a handful of individuals in the profession who want to continue with the status quo. Not sure if it’s technology that scares them, that they are uncomfortable with change, maybe they are just happy with doing the same things they have been doing, or that they are not challenged in their position or what….but they also make it challenging.

My marketing approach to get the buy-in on adopting these “new ideas” now includes pages of documentation – examples, articles, statistics, etc., and assuring others that it’s little to no work for them, with myself taking on the bulk of it.

It’s always a challenge! 🙂

Mark Danielson

HR has to pick up the ball and run with it or get out of the game. Whatever the technology, whatever the times.

You’ll find plenty of naysayers whatever you propose. Just say yes. Nice article Mark, thank you.

Mark Stelzner

@AJ Malik – I agree 100% (hell let’s call it 1000%) with your summation.

@Tricia – I think you’ve touched on a key point which is organizational buy-in. HR can’t do this alone and needs support from the ecosystem to truly make this both possible and probable. Thanks for the comments!

@Mark Danielson – You speak the truth my friend. Great comment, thank you!