HR Technology — Is It Really Helping?
Management of Human Resources dates as far back as when man first started to put armies together. Selecting, Motivating and keeping a strong, capable and dedicated army was often a competitive advantage (As seen in many cases in history). Excellent domain knowledge of your troops coupled with technologically advanced tools could give the emperor great benefit in his endeavors to further his empire or simply protecting it from external hostile attacks.
Come to think of it little has changed in these fundamental principles in the business context even today. In the 21st century it’s not access to technologically superior tools but how they are used and deployed is creating a big differentiation for companies and individuals alike. For example we all have access to Google Search engine but surely there are people who make far greater and better use of the tool than others to access information available.
While there is no doubt that all of us use some or other technology today let’s stop and take a look at whether or not these technology tools are really helping us. The focus here is largely on HR Technology tools as we have seen proliferation of HR tools in the recent past.
Most companies today use HR Technology solutions which at least have automated the underlying processes — whether the technology solution simplified the process and made it easier to do the underlying process is anybody’s guess.
One of favorite HR Tech Analyst — Josh Bersin puts it rightly when he says — “I believe we are in a funny cycle where the attractiveness and the addiction of the technology is bigger than the productivity enhancement of the technology.”
In my conversations with HR and business leaders across organizations, I routinely see that people focus on “features” available in one software vs the other while rarely looking at the real need and the problem being solved by the technology solution for their business.
The HR & business leaders will have to move out of their comfort zones and really ask some tough questions, if the investment of time, money, & resources should contribute to business results.
I present here an indicative list of 5 questions that you must ask yourself:
1. Does the technology simply automate underlying process or is it helping me solve a real business problem?
2. What “old-age” technology solution competes with this “new-age” what is the key difference? Who will benefit? How? — Especially important if you are simply going to replace spreadsheets with online records
3. If the task takes x amount of time to complete amongst various stakeholders — how this technology solution will impact each of these stakeholders? Are they all consulted in the technology selection process?
4. Will I have to fundamentally change the way I am organized for this technology solution to work effectively? If yes, am I ready to undertake that change? Am I putting the cart before the horse here?
5. What “additional” work I am bringing inside the organization via this technology implementation (For example — Employee Support on HR Tech solution) and how much will that cost? How is this justified?
As you would look at these and some more logical questions that these initial set of questions will generate you will soon realize that many a times, we are chasing the technology solution while having great blind spots about real business challenges — most of the times unconsciously.
In conclusion I would leave you with this thought, If you are a college going student and all you want to do is to have the most popular girl/ boy as your boyfriend then I am not sure how long lasting that relationship would be. But if you are clear about what you are looking for and why, the chances of success, survival, and growth are far more.
I am happy to receive your comments, critiques and other perspectives you may have on this topic. Most interesting would be to hear from people with “failed” HR Technology implementations and lessons learnt. Most of my wisdom around HR Technology comes from my failures while some from my successes too.