Human resources (HR) and technology: How practitioners can ‘seize’ the moment

Human Resources and Technology have been in a dance for the last decade where a reluctant partner has slowly but surely taken tentative steps to tango with the other.

Every year, experts make predictions about trends to watch out for in HR tech, with an underlying effort to digitize HR in the long run. Over the last five years, trends have reiterated analytics, decision sciences, integrated environments, and employee engagement themes to be key to moving HR towards its digital avatar. All of these are geared towards bringing in a unique employee experience

The “Employee Experience”, while not being tangible in quantitative terms, is often assumed to be a barometer of success of any digital transformation exercise. In HR, this “experience” starts when the candidate is first contacted and continues throughout their journey with the company. In design and architecting parlance, this wide swath covers multiple systems that interact with candidates and employees and require a seamless interconnect between them. Such an architecture could be seen as the holy grail of people systems, allowing the collection of important people data that could be used productively.

HR’s embrace of technology

While experts envision what a utopian digital HR world could resemble, the biggest stumbling block in its implementation could be the very practitioners of this discipline who may not be ready to create nor participate in such an exercise. Upskilling and reskilling business programs in the current environment are designed keeping in mind immediate digital needs.

When it comes to such programs for HR, they are mainly concerned with soft skills or building traditional subject matter expertise. While programs on analytics are prevalent, they provide basic data analysis. Such programs are conducted in isolation, not considering a world view of the digital transformation that’s currently underway.

On the other hand, technology has grown in leaps and bounds. With the prevalence of the cloud, it has entered a realm where interconnection across multiple systems is possible without the baggage of restrictive legacy tools. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)-based tools have become more accessible to people, with products currently being used in hiring and employee engagement.

Where does HR go from here?

People data holds massive amounts of information that can be used to identify trends, create future people programs and generate incredible insights into the future of work. As social scientists can attest, it also brings a lot of variabilities that make simple modeling seem trivial after a certain point of basic analysis has been reached. In addition, the traditional mindset of HR being more “human” than data-centric has meant that the function has been more art than science. That is changing, thanks to technology.

 With advances in AI and ML, there is enormous potential in harnessing this data for use in recruitment, employee engagement and talent management programs. From a capability perspective, digital is already here for HR; it can create what is needed to build a truly connected environment. This can be HR’s true “carpe diem” moment – if only practitioners ‘seize’ the moment.

What does this mean for HR Professionals?

Embrace data

As commonplace as this may sound, the fundamental advantage of any digital transformation is the ability to drive change by using data that may not have been available before. Embracing such data includes doing more than just converting it into charts and tables; it means analyzing the data to extract meaningful insights, which HR professionals can use to make informed decisions.

People Digital Consultants

While HR professionals don’t need to be proficient in software coding, they must be able to fit into the roles of consultants and business analysts seamlessly. Bringing functional expertise and translating it into technology requirements would be a huge asset to have.

Professionals who have managed people and processes in their careers are already equipped with some of these skills. Sharpening these skills, locating mentors and building focused career paths for all employees of the function will be key to riding this digital wave and moving with the business as it transforms. This will also lead to HR truly partnering with business and contributing immensely to bottom-line results.

Such an embrace will lead to a fluid dance between HR and Technology, with one leading the other and the roles reversing at mutually agreed times.

Rahul Gurjar is the Senior Consultant for Compensation & Benefits at ANSR. He helps clients to design, deliver & manage rewards strategies that help attract and retain the best and brightest talent in the Indian market.

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