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HR technology: why you can no longer ignore the deficit in 2020

HR, as a profession, is too obsessed with predicting the future at the expense of acting now – especially when it comes to investing in new technology. The arrival of a new year is the perfect time for organisations to take stock, and look at what they can do better in 2020.  

10th Dec 2019
Award-winning HR & Talent Director | VC & PE People Consultant | HR Tech Advisor | Editor | Keynote speaker | Blogger
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finger pushing a button marked 2020
iStock/Olivier Le Moal

Whilst it can be argued that HR technology doesn’t move quickly enough to satisfy the endless stream of conferences our profession indulges in, the ‘future of work’ narrative also gives the wrongful impression that tomorrow never comes.

We know that there is a temptation to remain wedded to the past. It’s comforting, it’s part of the historic fabric of the organisation and it seems unthinkable to replace it or even challenge its very existence – but challenge we must.

I appreciate that we’ve grown up with a love/hate relationship with HR technology. Too often it fails to deliver on the overinflated promises from vendors and it can also be high on functionality that is overly HR-centric or doesn’t seem to deliver on how work is increasingly being delivered in today’s digital age.

If you’ve been content to delay any investment, or you’ve been limited in the appetite to spend accordingly by an overwhelmed board, or perhaps your organisation has an addiction to some misplaced faith in old 20th century HR relics, then here’s what you’re in danger of having missed.

Experimenting with data

There are some organisations that have flipped away from an obsessive focus on data collection and storage, to utilising that data for good business practices. Long gone are the initial experiments focused on small and tangible business results. Organisations are now developing real core capability.

We’re now seeing an infusion of data science skill sets, partnerships with other parts of the business value chain, and a shift in enquiry towards the questions that matter most to the organisation, rather than decks of dead data reflecting last month’s attrition levels.

Flipping the old HR rituals and focusing on experience

We know that there is a temptation to remain wedded to the past. It’s comforting, it’s part of the historic fabric of the organisation and it seems unthinkable to replace it or even challenge its very existence – but challenge we must. All over the competitive landscape are businesses that have made the switch and they are reaping the rewards in both productive time and dialling up their employee experience.

There are those that have binned the old performance appraisal model for continuous performance discussions, those who create onboarding experiences linked to learning at the point of need, as well as recruitment and employee responses on an anytime, any device product set. Those doing this successfully realise that at the heart of it is the need to improve the employee experience, removing the boring, repetitive and rules-oriented tasks from humans and instead giving them to the machines to take care of.

Business models for agility

The old paradigm, where organisations employ only permanent members of staff, is about as useful as a chocolate teapot in today’s talent market. The companies that are racing ahead are those that have stretched their organisational mindsets to a wide, distributed model.  

They’ve binned the curse of presenteeism and are working with the developing platform economy to seek out skills. They realise that collaboration tools, knowledge-sharing products and expertise-finding capabilities will help them react faster to the complexity of today’s market.

podcast link

Augmentation and productivity

Can HR technology make you five pounds thinner or six inches taller? No! Equally ridiculous are some of the claims being made about artificial intelligence in HR technology.

Those who have already embraced the new capability of datasets now have several years of training the data behind them, which means they’re already ahead when it comes to getting rid of in-built bias from day one.

There is no system that offers the option to ‘plug in and play’ on day one, but you can avoid the old correlation and causation pitfall by ensuring that your inbuilt algorithms are refined, checked and worked upon regularly.

You could use the arrival of the seminal 2020 calendar year to begin taking your own technology stack seriously. 

If you’re happily sitting on millions of pieces of structured, semi-structured and unstructured datasets gathering dust, however, then of course you are cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Re-imagining business priorities

In summary, you can happily sit back and embrace the seasonal obsession with 2020 HR technology trends.

Alternatively, you can use the arrival of the seminal 2020 calendar year to begin taking your own technology stack seriously. You could re-imagine questions that matter to your business, challenge old established rituals you know make no sense, cleanse your data and experiment.

You can put employee experience at the heart of your designs, and you can reframe your organisational model in a way that recognises the value of micro working, crowdsourcing or any variety of outsourced gig platform (without the exploitation).

In short, you can stop obsessing about the future of (insert whatever frame) and develop a technology strategy for your business, with a roadmap and priority set that prepares you for the complexity of the market ahead.

The HR technology market is leaving too many of our businesses and HR functions behind, so make 2020 the last time you leave it to chance. You can no longer ignore the HR technology deficit.

Interested in this topic? Read HR technology: Is early adoption the key to success?

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