In today’s age of disruption, technology is one of the key enablers to upskill and side skill, thereby, encouraging continuous learning. According to Forbes, it is one of the key competitive differentiators, and as it increasingly comes under the ambit of HR, HR leaders must keep asking, “Can we provide a great learning environment to employees at work?”.
The need for HR tech
Companies are tapping into technology for years, but it is in recent times that its pervasive impact on people management is seen. This is because HR as a function gets to hold and see the maximum amount of data a company can create. Whether it is a person’s leave status, in-time and out-time, contribution to the employee intranet or external voluntary activities, the data points are out there and are connected for big data tools to show a critical mass of insights. Hence, over time, organisations have come to realize that every HR person has to be a data scientist. “You will find the next CEO hiding there. You just have to look with the right tools”, says Rajendran Dandapani, Director of Engineering, at Zoho Corporation. For example, McKinsey is now looking at AI tools to handle the great resignation shares of Rajendran.
The business case for HR tech
Technology must become as integral to HR, as it is to business. It should fuel the energy efficiency of living beings when done right. For example, when Steve Jobs was launching the Macintosh and intended to sell it to people who did not know what a computer could do, he launched an ad campaign, which to date is considered one of the world’s best. Steve Jobs said, “I am launching a computer which is like a ‘bicycle for your brain’”. Indeed, tech is like a bicycle which has the capability to drive forward various elements of HR. Recruitment and selection, performance management, learning and development, succession planning for future scenario planning, compensation and benefits, are only some of the areas data and analytics touches upon and transforms. Talent tech should integrate all these, individual tools will not work. For example, Zoho has 50+ tools that work together by sharing data. Right from identifying a person who has applied to the journey of transferring that person as an employee, to seeing which projects he or she succeeded in today, to be able to see how the person performed in the interview five years from now, integration is key. The right set of tech tools will give a big picture. “We may think AI is about data, but the next wave is all about gaining AI insights with very little data i.e. self-learning tools”, believes Rajendran.
Balancing tech with touch
Rajendran says, “Today, on my presentation, I used a digital backdrop which represents being digitally interconnected, with all the dots joining together. In my view, this represents HR more than ever. Because HR is about shaking hands, talking, meeting, connecting; not sending an email when a meeting will be more useful”.
This is true, food for thought for HR practitioners. The oxford meaning of “digital” comes from the Latin word digitus i.e. finger. “Touching your employees, colleagues, prospects, to connect with them, is more important”, says Rajendran. ATMs became popular because people were not willing to stand in queues and wanted access anytime, anywhere, own place and with privacy. Similarly, self-help tech tools will work only when they enable the bottom of the pyramid. Simple steps like enabling people to create a form and share information with whomever they want to, or creating a self-help group and discussing, go a long way. Tech is about building a platform that empowers employees (even those who joined yesterday), to feel one with the system. It helps move from unconference mode to conference mode, from closed view to transparency. To create a true impact, HR must learn to openly share the collected data meaningfully, and not hoard it, advises Rajendran.
The way forward
Technology has a bad habit of exponential speed; it makes everyone believe that we have to keep running at the fastest possible speed even to stay in the same place. “But we in HR are dealing with human beings, and their heartbeat hasn’t changed in millennia”, quips Rajendran. Humans have their own pace. Hence, to make HR technology a success, organizations must understand that while there can be a certain impatience with the implementation of tech, there cannot be impatience with the adoption of the tech. “We must focus on creating a powerful employee experience. When it is time, the fruit will anyway come”, says Rajendran.