Let me get right to the point. What we are seeing today is rapid changes in technology that is impacting most aspects of our lives both at work and at home. Technology is becoming more personal and pervasive. IT and HR now need to work together to understand the impact on a wide range of activities be it recruiting, training, career development, performance management, data privacy, et cetera. As leaders in our organizations we should be sensitive not only to the changes in technology but also the impact these changes can have both for good or bad and on the people in our lives.
From my perspective, there are four main areas of technology that are game changing for HR.
Social – we are now connected with whomsoever we want to be connected with and can interact with them in real-time from anywhere. And, because we are sharing so much about ourselves, we can be grouped with like-minded people with common interests. Which leads to..
Analytics – we are swimming in oceans of personal, organizational and environmental data. What effect does weather have on buying patterns? We probably have the data to establish a cause-effect relationship. Because we now live digitally, we are generating vast amounts of data about others and ourselves. How small can we make our customer micro-segments so that we can micro-target our sales, marketing and support? Historically even if we did have the data to do such analyses, the compute power to develop the multi-variable models was too expensive. That is no longer the case as the cloud has made massive compute power available on-demand and much less expensive. That leads to . . .
Cloud – almost any service is available via the cloud. This leads to a world of specialization in which our organization defines its few areas of uniqueness. We can then use the specialization of others available as a service from the cloud to do everything we must do in order to have a successful organization. Which leads to . . .
Mobile – we now carry our technology both personal and work with us wherever we go. This has at least three implications. First, we can work all the time or be distracted all the time. Second, everyone now judges their workplace on their experience with their at-work technology that is because some of the best technology in the world is always with us via our smart phones. Third, there is a risk that we reduce our human interactions in favor of digital interactions.
Let me now share with you how these technology trends might have an impact on Human Resources (HR) and employees.
1. As every organization becomes more technologically advanced, it will be more and more important to attract and retain your best employees. Enlightened organizations are realizing that in a world driven by technology, we need employees who are agile, adaptive and influential. But such employees are in high-demand and so we need a way to identify and develop such people.
2. In an environment of rapid change and immense competition we need all of our employees to become like our best employees. Unengaged employees do not do their best work, are not very innovative, do not provide great customer service, et cetera. So what can we do to help all of our employees become our best employees? Research and my own experience indicate that workplace cultures that are trusting, accountable, have a common purpose, allow people to develop their skills and talents, focus on the relationship between employees and leaders and make effective use of personal and public recognition unleash talent and help everyone get better. To get to such cultures, HR and HR technology must take an employee-centric rather than an organization-centric approach.
For example, many of the legacy HR Tech systems approach employee development and career management from a succession planning perspective. The organization identifies those (few) who should be in someone’s succession plan so that the organization can track their progress. A better approach is one in which the employees define their paths and the HR Tech supports them with training, opportunities and feedback. Likewise for performance management, most HR systems treat performance management as a corporate compliance or a legal activity. An employee-centric approach provides continuous, meaningful interaction between an employee and leadership with compliance being an outcome of those interactions rather than the goal.
3. We can now all utilize advanced analytics to better understand our employees and our processes and align them both in a way that improves our most critical results. We use analytics to better understand employee retention through cause and effect. We use analytics to better understand the needs of leaders and employees and feed those back into training and development plans. We use analytics to identify our high potential leaders primarily those who develop other leaders.
4. With readily available cloud systems HR teams can change their focus from transactions to culture and employee engagement. Of course, doing this requires that the HR team accept the functionality offered by standard cloud systems, but HR transactions are rarely what make for a compelling workplace culture. Instead, accept just having HR transactions work so that as HR professionals you can be in the culture and employee-leadership development business.
5. It’s a fact that employees live on their phones. What we can do is to make everything mobile so that you can reach every employee where they live. What percentages of our employees spend their time at a desk and have real-time access to a desktop or laptop? Compare that to the percentage that are always near their mobile phones. Mobile allows us to build culture broadly.
There it is, the four technology trends most changing our lives and how I believe HR can utilize these trends to make a meaningful impact on the health and future of the organization.
[Niel is an evangelist, author and speaker on transforming IT and IT leadership. He holds a master’s degree in engineering from MIT, as well as a master’s degree in business and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Utah State University.]