Reinvention and transformation are the flavour of today, as businesses undergo three sixty degrees changes in their business models, thanks to technological shifts. We get to hear about path-breaking advancements in fields such as the future of work, predictive analytics, cyborg, artificial intelligence etc. These technological advancements trigger fundamental business transformations. But to understand the role of technology in transformation, it is important to understand what exactly transformation is all about. Most of us have heard of automation, process improvements, system upgrades- all tagged as transformation. But at the core, the transformation is about looking for what strategic direction is relevant for the business, and not simply following an emerging fad. It does not happen overnight and requires a lot of effort. In fact, contrary to popular perception, technology alone does not transform a business. The transformation journey is all about aligning with the business strategy, using technology as a lever to make that happen. When we talk of HR transformation, that technology under purview is primarily HR technology.
The HR Technology Agenda
HR technology can be seen donning three kinds of roles:
- Improving HR efficiency and effectiveness, including controlling HR costs and driving other favourable HR metrics.
- Supporting business transformation i.e. revenues, costs etc.
- Breeding a digital culture in the organization.
This last point is often overlooked. As HR professionals we keep asking the business how they are leveraging technology to build greater revenues and better business opportunities. But we sometimes ourselves fail to don the technology hat to understand the techno-business perspective. An HR organization which is not tech savvy, can do little to help the business on its technology journey. So, in effect, the most powerful impact of HR technology is to build a tech-culture. It is high time HR lives up to this role and challenges the status quo, moving into an area of better effectiveness, efficiency, and optimization.
How can you make your HR technology implementations successful?
Transformation is not a one-sided affair. It is a humongous shift which impacts everyone at every level. Hence everyone must get involved from the outset. Here is what HR leaders must keep in mind while driving an HR technology transformation.
Get active involvement of all stakeholders: All the stakeholders need to embrace the change and not just HR. Leadership buy-in is essential, only then the actual reality of the change can be seen. Everyone needs to embrace technology, only then will the company realize true tech-adoption, and the scale of change will move for the better. Non-involvement often leads to a new HR tech initiative simply sitting where it is and dropping into oblivion.
Encourage a mindset shift from records to engagement: A distinct feature is a shift from a “system of records”, to a “system of engagement”. This is more than a systems-change, it is a mindset shift. For example, we see that LMS has moved from a pure learning-system to an engagement tool. Another example is where companies these days use WhatsApp to help employees find their like-minded groups independently and keep themselves engaged and enthused. The right HR technology empowers people to find their own way to engagement.
Manage the change effectively: HR technology transformation is ultimately about change management. The biggest change being, the change of ownership- the ownership of data is back to the line manager. Hence it is important to set user-friendly expectations and workflows. Organizations need to trigger changes in the processes, culture, and systems, to propel adoption of technology. HR technology enriches the employee experience, so it is important that these life-changing experiences are shared, communicated and branded across the organization to encourage people to accept the change. The idea is not to be in a rush, but to find ways to encourage adoption of new technology. Be patient and you will see gradual changes in behaviours and psychology.
Measure and evaluate outcomes: There is enough research published around the fact that HR technology positively impacts productivity. The impact is difficult to measure because it involves a mix of man-hours and machine-hours, but it does add value. Direct access to data without middle layers helps make line managers more productive by empowering them to take talent and business decisions. Those who deal with data are at an advantage and that’s going to be the competitive edge for future performance. The decision-making currency is going to be data, it is important for leaders to know how exactly this data is contributing to performance.
Clearly, technology is definitely up for grabs, but if HR professionals don’t help it land efficiently it does not help.
Carving the Way Ahead for HR Technology
75% of HR heads feel the need for data in decision making, says a Deloitte survey. Unfortunately, its prevalence in practice is only limited. There is ample opportunity to fill up that 75% need, and go further ahead to 100%. Whether it is for Social, Mobile, Analytics or Cloud (SMAC), HR professionals must clean the data lake, and understand what to do with it. But before that, HR leaders need to set objectives to know what they are going to touch upon by going hi-tech in HR. Without this, there is a possibility of falling prey to the pitfalls of technology such as techno-stress (stress created by always-on technology), misuse, security threats etc. To do away with this dark side, HR and business together should commit for the long term and sustain this commitment. Above all, HR must maintain the balance between bench-versus-tech because, while MIS and robots will do well, we humans are better informed in our thought process. We must control technology and not vice-versa.
(This article is curated from the Session: HR Technology: Up, Close & Personal by Madhavi Lall, MD, Head-HR at Deutsche Bank, and Murthy MVS, CPO & Workplace Solutions at Future Group at the Cornerstone OnDemand Converge India 2017. The session was moderated by Chandana GC, Associate Director, Employee Experience, IDFC Bank.)