Five Prerequisites for HR Technology to be the Next Technological Revolution

Amar Tejaswi Change Management, Human Resource, Performance Support
HR Technology the next big revolution

In theory, there is quite a bit of subdued noise around HR technology revolutionizing  workplaces. There’s talk around Artificial Intelligence being able to predict if an employee is going to churn or if he/she is happy with the pay package.

Many believe that this will be the future of the workplace HR technology.

The reality, however, is much different. Back in the present, less than half of all organizations are using cloud based HR tech yet. As Gartner analyst Brian Kropp points out, HR technology, at this moment, is just about automating the rut work rather than completely redefining the space. Which is a shame because, HR technology counterparts, like those in sales tech, are already leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics to make much more powerful decisions and ultimately be more productive.

Unfortunately, the HR discipline is much farther behind other functions in being ready to adopt cutting edge technology that is on offer now. One reason is that enterprises don’t have much of the underlying data that is required to make use of new age HR tech. The other reason is that organizations are hardly ready.

Greater Ownership for HR Function and HR Technology

Traditionally, the HR department hasn’t the most important. That position would go to the engineering or sales departments because of their direct involvement in generating revenues for the company. The HR function was just about keeping the house in order.

But, as we dive deeper into the digital economy, the Human Resources function, like all other disciplines, is undergoing a drastic change. By drastic change, we mean something that actually shakes up the industry realigning priorities and objectives.

Like we said, HR, in the past, was about keeping the house in order. No offense meant to HR professionals here but it was just like running the household albeit at a much larger scale. It’s tough but a thankless job with the perception that it doesn’t require much application of brains although that is not true all the time.

But now, there is a realignment in the industry resulting in a significant departure from earlier paradigms. The HR function, today, is about ensuring:

  1. That employee productivity, motivation and drive stay up above par levels.
  2. That employees remain highly engaged and the employee experience is top notch.
  3. That high quality talent is acquired and nurtured.

In short, as a recent study found out, HR will have a greater ownership at the physical workplace than ever.

HR Tech will Lead the Technology Revolution

The three pointers listed above encompass most of the new age objectives that HR functionaries have ahead of them in the digital economy. Clearly, they are not easy to achieve, definitely not without the aid of modern cloud technology.

As the importance of HR functions become increasingly relevant to improving topline revenues, there is an increased investment in HR technologies. At the other end of the funnel, there is also an increasing investment in developing HR technologies. Investment in HR technology increased by a whopping 7 times between 2011 and 2015 topping more than $2 billion.

If there’s one definitive sign that an industry segment is going to be the next big thing that’s coming, it’s the amount of investment that’s going in there.

But, even otherwise, with the kind of central role that HR functions are taking up in organizations, they can’t make work with the legacy software that they have been using for decades now. A change in paradigm also needs a change in the tools required to fulfill the new objectives which is where modern cloud HR technologies come in.

New age HR Technologies Are Already Here But Are The Helping?

Improving employee productivity is one of the cornerstones of modern HR functions. But data suggests that productivity has remained stagnant, at worst, or not increased significantly, at best, over the last few decades. But, that’s one of things modern cloud HR technologies were supposed to help with leading to the inference that something is wrong.

Of course, these statistics should used with a slight amount of caution since they factor in multiple industries. Data at a much deeper level would suit our purpose. At the same time, there is no evidence of zooming productivity from any vertical as a result of modern HR technologies.

All this raises the question that if HR technologies are helping employees at all. As Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte explained at the recent SHRM conference, “Whether we like it or not, technology has not made work easier. Work is actually getting harder. We are a little bit overwhelmed by information. The average U.S. worker now spends 25 percent of their day reading or answering e-mail.” He rightly pointed out that the HR technologies companies are buying are not actually fulfilling the purpose or adding value to employees.

Some even suggest that multiple tools have even turned out to be distractions for employees since they spend time on trying to use them but never actually put them to effective use.

HR Technology can be distraction

Are we helping employees? Source: Deloitte University Press

The obvious question in mind is how can HR technology bring about the next revolution in business and be the driving force in organizations if it’s not working.

To be honest, it is hard to broadly measure the impact that modern HR technologies are having on HR processes. For one, widespread adoption of new HR technologies, built of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, is only beginning. There are other tools which don’t necessarily use these advanced technologies and are being adopted on a much wider scale.

However, it should also be taken into account that HR leaders themselves are unsure what kind of benefits a particular HR tool will deliver and what kind of side effects it will have. What organizations need right now is the right kind of strategy to implement their vision aided by the right HR technology.

A lot of times, organizations get carried away by the projected benefits of a tool and purchase it rather than creating a strategy and only purchasing tools that will help implement that strategy.

Only when the latter is the strategic method that organizations adopt, we will witness the change that modern HR technologies and tools can bring about in organizations.

Five Things That Need to Happen for HR Technologies to be the Next Revolution

Unlike sales or finance, HR is a multi-faceted vertical. There are many pieces to the HR puzzle and all of them need to come together for the puzzle to be solved.

Technology can’t be a saviour unless it is used correctly or to fulfill a need. Electric car technology works because there is a need for it now in view of ecological concerns. The same technology wouldn’t have been welcome a few decades ago. The thing about technology is that it needs to ally with time to be a breakthrough.

The same applies to HR technologies as well. People and organizations need to be ready for it.  As such, there are several things that organizations and HR leaders need to do in order for modern cloud HR technologies to be of value to them.

1. Strategic Planning: The good and the bad thing about HR technology is that there are plenty of tools available in the market. Some of them are exceptionally good and envelope the idea that HR is in this century. Some of them just claim to do so. But, it is up to organizations to strategically plan and pick the technologies they want to use and would fit their vision. In a lot of cases, enterprises seem to think that a particular product can take their organization in a very good direction but often that doesn’t happen. Companies need to understand that they can’t let HR software products define the path they need to take.

2. Adoption is not Automatic: Even in cases when the above strategy is followed, it might become difficult for organizations to extract the best out of their because, let’s face it, there is no one-stop shop here. HR functions can’t escape using multiple products and tools. The bigger challenge, however, for them is make the entire organization use some of these products when they are deployed organization-wide. Adoption at all levels is a very tough challenge which is why many HR technology conferences are debating about it at length. Whatfix provides an effective solution to this problem using interactive walkthroughs and performance support.

3. Need for Transparency: Unlike other functions, the HR manifesto spans multiple departments. So, it’s a sales function head purchases a specific sales automation product, his/her team, more often than not, knows the purpose of it. In case of HR, however, the opposite is mostly true. Employees need to be clearly told of the purpose of a specific HR technological product being put in place and the expectations and motivations of doing so. Transparent communication, like in the case of change management, goes a long way in providing employees with a reason to do something.

4. Realization of Truth: Often times, HR leaders expect deployment of a certain number of HR technology products to be the end all of a strategy and think that results will follow. There is much more to the truth. With the kind of insight and knowledge that modern HR technology can provide, it is easy to lose track of the ultimate goal. If a product helps you a potential hire, it is still a manual and subjective task to get the job done and hire that person. In cases this doesn’t happen, it can be very easy to be disillusioned with the technology itself, which played no wrong part.

5. Think from the Employee Perspective: Finally, it is important for HR leaders to think from the perspective of their employees. Again, it is very easy to get carried away being in a high level vantage point. Everything you think that should be accomplished may not always be possible to accomplish. Expectations and goals should be set keeping in mind the bandwidth of employees and the experience they desire. Remember that their primary role is something else and what HR leaders desire from them is, in reality, secondary to them.

HR technology is at an interesting juncture. It is maturing as yet but still moving the right direction. It is now up to HR leaders to pull the technology in the right direction and, if they are able to that with a good degree of success, there is no reason why HR technology can’t be the next revolution.

Amar Tejaswi

Amar Tejaswi

Engineer by qualification and marketer by profession, Amar contributes to marketing efforts at Whatfix in ways he can.
Amar Tejaswi

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