A few years ago, after some fashion guru had announced that “grey is the new black”, variations on the saying became a common cliche for describing any social change or shift in attitudes. So Slovenia is the new Switzerland, Gay is the new Straight, Amy Winehouse is the new Brigitte Bardot (really?), Coffee is the new Wine, Forty is the new Thirty and Thursday is the new Friday. I’m especially glad about the last two.
But at least we us knew it was a cliche and most of us used it with some sense of irony. Private Eye even runs a regular Neophiliacs column to poke fun at people who sound serious when saying anything is the new anything else.
I wish I could say the same about the latest manifestation of changespeak but it appears that many people are being serious when they say “2.0.” prefixed by whatever it is they think they have found some brilliant new perspective on.
Web 2.0 has been around for a while as a term to describe the trend towards collaboration between users on the internet. Blogs, social networking sites, Wikipedia and Twitter are often cited as examples. However, even though these new technologies are exciting, the FT points out that few of the companies involved have worked out how to make any money from Web 2.0.
But that hasn’t stopped people from claiming that their new thing, or rehash of an old thing, is the 2.0 for their profession or sector. So we have Marketing 2.0, PR 2.0, Public Services 2.0, NHS 2.0 and, inevitably, HR 2.0. Even some of the HR-related activities have their 2.0s. Recruitment 2.0, Hiring 2.0, Talent Management 2.0 and, of course, Coaching 2.0 are already out there but, strangely enough, no-one has yet come up with Disciplinary 2.0, Redundancy 2.0, Firing 2.0 or Pensions 2.0.
All these 2.0s are about using technology and social networking and localism and the breakdown of hierarchy and, erm, that sort of thing.
But given that social hierarchies, at least in the West, have been breaking down since the Second World War and technology has been steadily moving along with HR, as ever, the last business function to embrace it, just what is so radically different about today’s environment that we need something called HR 2.0? Aren’t the basic issues of motivating people, attracting talent, managing performance, attracting staff and getting rid of them when you don’t need them the same as they were five or ten years ago? OK, attitudes and technology shift, sometimes gradually, sometimes more quickly but does that really mean that HR will be so radically different? As I have said before, I am surprised less by how much has changed in organisations over the past twenty years than by how little has changed.
Is HR 2.0 really something new or is it just a way of re-packaging the same old stuff? I suspect you could say the same about Marketing 2.0, NHS 2.0 and all the other 2.0s.
It all sounds like just another set of buzz-words. 2.0 is the new New.
Anyone for Bullshit Bingo 2.0?