HR technology: “It’s almost always a hearts and minds decision.”

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We caught up with Dean Forbes, CEO of CoreHR, to discuss the importance of embracing change at work, why HR needs to stop expecting technology to improve culture and how to get senior buy-in for technology implementation.

Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: The way people are working is rapidly changing. Where is this change coming from and how can HR adapt?

Dean Forbes, CEO, CoreHR: One of the positive things about workplace transformation is that it has been talent led in a lot of respects. We are seeing changing ways of working that stem from people and lifestyle choices, for example more freelancers and independent contractors are coming into the workforce.

It’s good to see that talent is leading change from the outside. The contract between employers and employees is driving change, the technology used to find, attract and retain talent is driving change, and the general consumerisation of technology is driving change.

But employers still need talent. And to be able to embrace that talent, to bring it into our companies and keep it there for as long as possible, we all have to change.

We’ve built our organisations over the years using a traditional employer-employee dynamic. But to reach the smartest talent needed today, organisations have to adapt.

Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: Finding, supporting and keeping high-quality people is a big focus for HR right now. Is a trick being missed by organisations vying to win this ‘war for talent’?

Dean Forbes, CEO, CoreHR: It would be too broad to say ‘yes we are missing a trick’ across every industry, every type of employer and every CHRO. But we do see a lot of organisations that are very wedded to their traditional talent acquisition and retention strategy. And it is these organisations that are missing a trick because there’s a world of people, talent and skills out there that will never find their way into those organisations by design.

Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: Can you tell us about a tech trend you are most excited about coming to fruition in the next few years?

Dean Forbes, CEO, CoreHR: For the last 15 years I have been saying mobile. And I hate to say it again, but mobile reinvents itself sometimes in its applicability. An interesting trend we are seeing, even with GDPR, is location-based services. Where previously people didn’t want to be tracked, and didn’t want others to know where they were, we are now much more comfortable with this.

Companies often rely on technology to achieve their cultural aspirations – but this won’t work.

This is a mobile-only element that has thousands of use cases both for employers, such as duty of care (where are your employees, how do you service them when a certain issue arises), and employees, such as logging in and out of a shift at work. The comfort that is being gained from location-based services is really exciting.

Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes HR is making with technology implementation?

Dean Forbes, CEO, CoreHR: The biggest mistake is when HR professionals misunderstand or expect technology to change the culture. That never happens – the technology can only support the culture and tone of the company.

We spoke with a company recently that was concerned about its diversity and inclusion activity and they misunderstood that by implementing the technology this will give them the data they need to understand their own diversity metrics. But that won’t change the outcome. It will tell them how bad or good they are, but it takes a cultural shift to promote diversity and inclusion. Companies often rely on technology to achieve their cultural aspirations – but this won’t work

Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: What advice would you give to HR practitioners who want to implement new HR technology but are struggling to get senior buy-in?

Dean Forbes, CEO, CoreHR: What we’ve learnt is that it is almost always a hearts and minds decision. It’s not like a manufacturing software application, where you can say that the technology will take 2 hours per day out of the manufacturing process for each worker. The ROI is not as tangible or clinical as that when it comes to HR technology.

But it also doesn’t have to be as intangible as simply saying the technology will result in employees feeling happier at work. It’s always a combination of both.

When it comes to your own HR technology projects, my advice is to think about those two tracks: hearts and minds.

Going back to my earlier point on successful technology implementations, the business needs to understand both tracks: the cost savings and operational efficiencies that they can quantify, as well as the cultural benefits of implementing the software.

One way that companies attract the right kind of talent is with a technology strategy. For example, in our company we’re looking to attract new graduates because they bring fresh ideas and skills into the workforce. We know that they gravitate towards environments where great collaboration and social tools are being used, so we need to be leading the adoption of these technologies.

When I think about HR technology implementation in our own business that cultural aspect creates a competitive advantage. It is as important an issue as saving money on the bottom line. So when it comes to your own HR technology projects, my advice is to think about those two tracks: hearts and minds.

About Becky Norman

Becky Norman

Becky is Editor of HRZone and Trainingzone, global online communities of people working in the HR and L&D industries. Becky works closely with leading HR and L&D practitioners and decision makers to ensure the publications offer a rich source of real-world insight and fresh advice to their audience.

HR and L&D professionals today must adapt to a complex mix of challenges caused by ongoing business disruption, technological advancements, a changing political landscape, varied employee needs and more. Becky aspires to make HRZone and TrainingZone the destinations for professionals to seek guidance, analysis and opinion on how to tackle these challenges and continue to deliver value.

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