Pamela Harding on social and tech HR

Pamela Harding: Community Chair of Linked:HR and CEO of Metzano

Pamela HardingPamela Harding is the Community Chair of Linked:HR,  the #1 networking group for Human Resources professionals. At last count it had 977,211 members, just shy of 1 million mark. Linked:HR is the fourth largest overall group on LinkedIn and the largest single-profession group. She is also the CEO of Metzano.  Metzano operates Vertical networks in HR (organization development, learning technologies, talent acquisition etc). From the early days of forming groups on LinkedIn, Pamela has nurtured high quality interactions among  professionals who are passionate about sharing their knowledge. She has weeded out self-promoters, spammers to maintain an engaging and value-added discussion forum while hugely growing the number.

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As a run up to the SHRM Tech 2016 event, as part of the elite Blog Squad, here is a conversation with Pamela about the future of Tech in HR:

Q1: What are the three biggest and most disruptive technology changes sweeping the HR world right now?

Pamela Harding: Analytics, analytics, analytics! The ability to collect and synthesize useful data for applying to HR activities is revolutionizing HR tech. I doubt there is a single viable technology that does not have analytics as a critical component and functionality. We are now employing data scientists to help us utilize this vast information which I think is the right approach. HR doesn’t need to be a data scientist – but they do have to know and embrace the opportunities that data can bring to HR.

See “A Short Guide to Big Data and Analytics in HR” here –

SaaS is also driving technology changes. For many years, we saw a shift from large Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that did a lot of functions adequately to more specialized technology that did certain functions extremely well. Think Oracle & SAP that could manage not only HR, but also Finance, Supply Chain and Marketing & Sales to do a bit of everything. Then specialized technology started evolving that could be bootstrapped to the ERP for tasks such as talent acquisition & employee engagement. Now, because of the capacity of cloud-based solutions, I think some of these specialized solutions are now expanding their repertoire to include something that might be considered a “lite” ERP. For example, Bamboo and Namely.

The technology that supports the “gig” economy, virtually changing the landscape of how we can acquire our necessary resources in a “just in time” fashion. It has torn down workforce silos and has enabled the growth of a global and freelance workforce.

Q2: What are your most important lessons from managing what is perhaps the largest community of HR professionals in community management, online forums and advancement in HR?

Pamela Harding: The hardest part of managing Linked:HR is creating an environment that is productive for members within a framework (LinkedIn) that has many restrictions. LinkedIn and Facebook are what we call Horizontal Vertical Networks whereby they are a one-size-fits-all approach to members – it doesn’t matter if you are a truck driver or rocket scientist, you can use LinkedIn. However, that broad scale, combined with platform limitations (textual based, no multi-media or dynamic interactions, etc.) makes it challenging to create a community that can only go to the lowest common denominator in serving them.

We are now moving towards Vertical Networks that are designed to be an ecosystem for a particular industry, function, or profession. Some of the more commonly known vertical networks are Edmodo, Spiceworks, GitHub, and Doximity. We have studied these pioneers in vertical networks and are applying that knowledge to create a vertical network for HR that will provide a vast range of functions for HR professionals. To learn more about Vertical Networks, please see

Q3: Can you talk about how UX (user experience) is changing HR – what lessons can we learn for creating superior Employee Experience?

Pamela Harding: With the rise of consumer technology, we are seeing the same functionality being demanded for our organizations & workforce. We want to be able to narrow down and focus our search to answer our questions to obtain immediate & targeted answers. For example, when I look for something on Amazon, I want to be able to quickly filter my search for a specific type or brand which has free Prime delivery and then sort the results by customer rating. Employees want the same type of functionality. I see that this will push out more HR tech applications to employees instead of the usual audience of HR & management.

Q4: What impact has Social, Mobile and Cloud had on HR in recent years?

Pamela Harding: What hasn’t been impacted by social, mobile, or cloud technology? I venture to say absolutely nothing. And each piece begets more off of each other. Cloud technology increases the ability to use mobile devices, which increases the spread through social media. As the three of them evolve, we are seeing exponential growth and application of these technologies. Just think about how things have changed for us in just the last 5 years – we’ve gone from being alone in our office working on a massive spreadsheet to gather information for a formal presentation to our colleagues to using cloud-based tools at any location to spread this knowledge throughout the world. If it wasn’t for these exciting new opportunities, I would not be answering these questions!

Q5: What is the most inspiring use of predictive analytics and big data you’ve seen in HR?

Pamela Harding: Tough question as analytics is permeating every facet of HR. I would have to say the most visible and fast growing area is in the Talent Acquisition & Management space. We can now use predictive analytics to accurately identify in advance our upcoming needs, know where we are sourcing our best talent, how to keep them motivated & productive, and how to groom their replacements. That is allowing our search for talent to be much more proactive than reactive. How many times have you been floored by having one of your brightest stars suddenly leaving your organization? What if you could predict who they are and what their needs are in advance to take positive steps that will avoid their departure? Seems like a no-brainer answer to me!

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Sharad Verma is currently HR Head (CHRO) for Sears Holdings India.

Sharad’s blog on leadership, talent and innovation is available at Sharad has been named one of the Top 20 Social Media HR Influencers by SHRM, featured as one of the Best HR Heads in India and his column featured in the top 5 most read career advice on Star career website.

A graduate of the prestigious XLRI, Sharad has more than two decades of HR experience. He has previously been Global Head – Human Resources for Polaris Consulting & Services Ltd, Director, Human Resources for SunGard Global Technology, Head of Human Resources for Berkadia (subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway),, and The Bank of New York Mellon India.

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