Keeping Up with Tech: Preparing and Empowering
The implementation of HR technology to achieve organisational goals and increase efficiency has been increasing year by year. Never before has it been so important for HR practitioners—regardless of their specialisation—to be tech-savvy.
Around the world, we have seen a rise in demand for such talent from our clients, and in a more competitive talent market, the alignment of core HR strategies and firm technological capabilities are key to organisational competitiveness. As organisations grow, the adoption of enterprise software and ERP systems to simplify transactional and administrative processes to manage large amounts of employee data is essential to running an efficient HR operation.
HR Tech is integral to this. It drives strategic initiatives and improves the employee experience through employee surveys, employee engagement, performance management and development programs. There are also more specialist HR vendors than ever before offering a variety of software platforms and apps to support employee welfare, well-being, and development.
How Did We Get to Where We Are Today?
The extent to which HR Tech is utilised by HR within an organisation has traditionally been determined by factors including its size, the industry (tech firms naturally lead in this), and the approach of the leadership team. Larger organisations have had a greater need due to the amount of data involved and they also tend to have more significant budgets to invest in the software and implementation. Recently, HR practitioners in small- and medium-sized organisations have been scrambling to quickly learn and adapt to new technology from both an operational and strategic perspective. To ensure any success, the more the leadership team understands, embraces, and advocates the adoption of new technologies the more likely the support the HR Tech agenda will receive, and that applies to organisations of all sizes.
Program rollout can be a complex and time-consuming process. Data integrity and compatibility across various software platforms and through different departments are factors that need to be taken into consideration for the implementation to be successful. Historically, many organisations have put this responsibility firmly in the hands of the IT team as they have the knowledge and expertise of installing programmes into the business. However, it is essential that HR remain a key stakeholder in the planning, testing and rollout stages to ensure success. This not only establishes compliance with local regulatory environments (including employment and data protection laws) but also ensures employee experience, employee requirements, and organisational objectives are achieved. Left to their own devices, the IT team may develop a cool initiative from a technical perspective but miss the mark in terms of a useful tool that brings value from an HCM perspective.
Impact on Talent
COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic has brought additional complexities for all organisations regardless of their agility and readiness, from both a technological and HR perspective. This has thrust many companies into an accelerated adoption of technology.
The first stage was the move from a work from office model to allowing remote working models. As cities (and in some cases, entire countries) were forced into lockdowns, companies needed to respond quickly to ensure that they could provide sufficient PCs or access to company systems for their employees. Whilst procurement and IT teams were scrambling to get the technology (hardware and software) to employees, HR were busy putting into place new work rules and agreements relating to the usage of company-owned devices and security systems particularly for organisations handling significant amounts of confidential customer data.
Once the technological infrastructure was in place, the next challenge was how to manage attendance and working hours in a remote environment and measure productivity where it was not possible to physically see people at their desks. This brought the accelerated adoption of cloud-based HR systems.
With many working parents struggling to balance the demands of childcare and remote work, work and private time became blurred, requiring new HR regulations for the calculation of attendance and working hours. Whilst many companies recognised these challenges and allowed a flexible approach to working hours some organisations continued to insist on standard 9 to 5 attendance.
Many line managers had been used to observing their staff directly. Now they had to adjust to managing remote employees and teams, leading to doubts over productivity and eventually the breakdown of trust. To monitor employee attendance and productivity, some companies rolled out software and hardware (such as keyboard or mouse activity) to measure employee activities, mostly to a negative reception from staff.
The next challenge in hybrid working models was presenteeism. This is where employees who go to the office are more favourably evaluated than their peers who work remotely regardless of objective productivity output. Now HR has to find a way to coach business leaders on how to manage remote teams and ensure fairness taking into account individual circumstances and performance rather than their visibility. Employees joining meetings virtually where most of the team were physically present felt discrimination and exclusion. To overcome this, some companies introduced policies whereby even in hybrid environments everyone would join meetings “remotely” to ensure equal opportunities to participate.
The third stage saw HR focus on engagement, employee welfare, and mental health. Whilst many employees enjoyed the flexibility of remote work, many struggled with the transition often feeling isolated and lonely missing the social interactions of water-cooler moments and coffee machine chats. Organisations struggled to maintain their culture and fostering an engaged, motivated workforce became a priority. HR data showed that despite the remote environment, the average number and length of meetings per week increased, leading to fatigue and burnout from constant online meetings. A term for this phenomenon, “Zoomed Out”,was coined. Business and HR leaders had to balance the advantage of improved technology with the potential negative effects on employee welfare. This led to initiatives such as online well-being support and “no meeting day” policies, for example.
The Influence of Technology
The essence of HR Tech is to drive better efficiency and support the business objectives. When it comes to managing performance management and continued learning, HR technology would get the best out of the process by saving costs, simplifying processes, and maximising output.
Technology comes in handy in generating reports and analyses by utilising data. Comprehensive reports can identify organisational effectiveness and people’s capability with quantified data. It can also link back to continued learning and talent strategy for organisations.
With instant networking and responses, performance management can be monitored by sharing continuous feedback. This then supports managers and the leadership team in maintaining and evolving their employee strategies.
Artificial Intelligence helps to improve recruitment efficiency, recruitment process, and internal resources utilisation. Some notable artificial intelligence implications often involve software (application tracking system), CV screening, and assessments. However, what standards should we use to drive recruitment efficiency with artificial intelligence?
Here are four considerations for the inclusion of AI Tech for HR:
- Hiring managers and recruiters should set sensible criteria for facilitating the decision making of the process. Artificial Intelligence needs to be used to help and support decisions, with the removal of subjective judgments but by then providing additional information for consideration.
- Based on the programmed model, AI recruiting removes human biases and focuses on key factors such as a candidate’s personality, skills, experience, and qualifications for deciding suitability. By eliminating the manual workflow and human biases, it maximises efficiency and outcome.
- In competitive markets, speed is key. Standardised systems allow the recruitment team to run the recruiting processes 24-7. By saving time and HR resources, it increases a company’s competitiveness for identifying and selecting the best talents.
- AI recruiting might not be the best tool for all positions. If we look for a diversified workforce, it will often neglect the soft skills, personality, work ethics and character of the individual. Using AI will certainly improve efficiency; however, it reduces the diversity of the workforce in not being able to acknowledge those character attributes and so other factors needs to be considered to ensure that D&I standards are still met.
Planning for the future of work is high on the HR agenda. Whatever your view on this, there is no doubt that the pandemic has brought about a significant shift in the employment relationship and the expectations of employees. Balancing organisational objectives with strategies to both attract and retain top talent while remaining agile in the post-pandemic world will be key to an organisation’s success. The draw of office fruit bowls, snack bars, pool tables, and cool hang out areas has been replaced by increased demand for flexible and remote working styles.
Work-from-home—or increasingly, work-from-anywhere—and the management of flexible, hybrid working arrangements will rely heavily on the successful development and implementation of HR Tech to manage employee data, achieve employee engagement and motivation, and thus productivity. Organisations that fail to get their strategy right run the risk of not being able to attract and retain the talent they need, and this will mean candidates may be targeted by competitors, leading to accelerated attrition.