HR has been accused of an ambivalent attitude to technology in the past, and there are those in the profession at senior levels who would far rather discuss issues like rewards, diversity, and talent management.
There is also an increasing number, though, who recognise that the cost, time, and efficiency savings technology can bring means it has a major part to play in helping HR secure the ear of the board.
What Are the Key Upfront Decisions to Make?
If HR directors are to realise the benefits of technology, its implementation has to be carefully thought through. One of the big challenges is the disparate nature of the technology available, since it spans from tools for recruitment and onboarding to performance management and appraisal, all the way through to reward and benefits.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since it merely reflects the subsections of this professional function, but it does make the choice of systems and suppliers a potential minefield.
With some HR departments looking to upgrade their legacy systems, they have to consider whether to opt for a more enterprise-wide approach from a supplier, which can provide modules in all of the function’s core areas, or focus on best-of-breed solutions from specialist providers in the field. There’s no easy answer, and HR directors need to put the right project team in place for each stage of the exercise to evaluate what’s available.
Identify the Aims of the Technology and Prioritise
Of course, much will be dictated by the motivations for the technology. If the recruitment team aims to reduce time-to-hire and build better internal and external talent pools, then the company should look at the capabilities and efficiency gains that one of the new generations of applicant tracking systems (ATS) can bring.
ATSs have come a long way in the last five years, and clients should take their wish-list of functionality to providers. Integration with online psychometric testing, analytics software that predicts behaviours and performance in the role, video interviewing, social recruiting tools, and sophisticated search-and-match software can all be integrated. Such systems also provide candidate portals that give job applicants the opportunity to find out more about the company, as well as the progress of their application.
Another area of interest to the business is big data, and while the concept is a bit overhyped, HR should exploit its use just as the sales or marketing departments do. As the custodian of information on the company’s most vital asset – its people – HR is sitting on some of the most important datasets the organisation possesses.
From this data, reporting and analytics software can provide real-time access to information about the workforce on highly visual dashboards. This can better inform decision making and provide HR directors with tangible evidence to back up a business case when they talk to the board.
While it is the area of analytics software and big data that attracts the lion’s share of discussion and debate when it comes to technology, it is important to look at how it can help at the more routine end of the function’s role and where its cost benefits can be significant.
The last ten years have seen the march of self-service HR systems and portals into the department that allow employees to input or change personal details, view online payslips and benefits packages, and perform a range of tasks that would otherwise land on an HR person’s desk.
Not surprisingly, there was initially a fear among HR staff that such systems might make their role redundant, and indeed, they may have been responsible for reducing headcount in the department in some cases. For those members of the HR team willing to embrace change, however, such systems free them up to add value in other areas of their role and enable them to make the move from being purely transactional to strategic.
HR Technology Should Be a Two-Way Street
When considering the implementation of any relevant technology, HR directors should put on both a member of their team’s and an employee’s hat and assess how it can bring benefits for both sides.
The area of career and learning portals, which can sit on the company intranet, is one that enables the learning and development team to work more efficiently, but also makes employees feel more empowered and in control of their career. Many organisations are encouraging employees to take greater ownership of their learning and development, rather than see training as something that is done to them. If implemented well, career portals are a big step to achieving this.
The rapid pace of technological change and the array of choice adds up to a lot of tough decisions for the HR director when it comes to technology. To ensure HR remains relevant and a true business partner to the organisation, though, they are ones that must be made sooner rather than later.
(Main image credit: 드림포유/flickr)