The world is going digital, and so should HR. The new trend is towards digitalization of all aspects of HR, by moving the function from web based systems to a fully digital version, with the help of SaaS (Software as a Service) based technology. Until recently HR systems were following periodic cycles ranging from weekly to monthly, quarterly and even annual, but now review and feedback is possible in real-time through interactive dashboards, and mobile-first and cloud based apps. Software companies are delivering a variety of solutions using social, mobile, analytics and cloud based technologies that the HR professional can choose from. These tools have helped in the evolution of the HR role from administrative and compliance to HR as a business partner, involved in the strategic function, adding value through hard data (collected from different points/ sources through employee engagement, feedback from line functions, tracking competition) and interactive dashboards, sharing valuable insights, predicting trends that help in planning the way forward and recommending initiatives that impact productivity, customer satisfaction, cost management.
What are some of the ways in which technology is transforming HR:
Hiring is no longer a periodic, need based activity. This function has evolved into what we now know as Talent Acquisition. It is a continuous process that through extensive research and constant dialogue enables HR to build a pipeline of the best candidates with the right skill sets, who can be brought onboard whenever a job opening comes up. There are many companies in the market that provide end-to-end talent search and hiring solutions right from candidate sourcing, to interviewing and assessment, to maintaining an ongoing relationship with suitable candidates, leading to improved workforce planning. Technology also makes it easier to incorporate new trends in hiring, for example, diversity and inclusion are a priority now and need to be an integral part of the people strategy of every company.
With many companies selling performance management apps the automation of such systems has been made possible, enabling continuous rather than periodic performance management. An automated PMS also has features like online assessment, pulse surveys, personality assessment tools, development plans and so on.
Automation is also helping design better tools for employee engagement featuring periodic surveys as well as event based feedback apps
Advancements in Learning and development have led to the function growing from just a site where one signs up for courses and training programs to portals where one can actually browse and read up or watch videos relevant to their area of interest. Such platforms are redefining and enriching the learning experience. Technologies like Learning Experience Platforms, LMS Platforms, Micro Learning Platforms, Content Libraries etc., will drive learning and development in the near future.
Managing employee wellness too has changed from simply providing medical benefits (medical cover and reimbursements) to nurturing the overall wellbeing of employees (physical, mental, emotional) and cultivating an environment that enables work-life balance.
What are the implications of all this automation for the HR function:
HR managers get more expertise in the field of IT, managing the systems relevant to their function. In addition to soft skills the HR manager now needs to get more technical expertise. There is a new breed of HR professionals entering senior management roles who, being technology natives, are able to leverage digital technologies to transform the work environment. However, they need to work alongside the current senior HR managers or technology immigrants, who may not be digital savvy, but bring their experience and wisdom to the table. A collaboration between these two “generations” can only benefit organizations.
Decentralization of HR function is possible as many of the HR activities like managing personal details, sick and annual leave, reimbursement claims are available online and can be managed by the employees themselves. HR activities like communication, goal setting, feedback, can also be decentralized to line managers.
A change in HR focus from day-to-day administration to adding value and providing strategic direction to the business. Rather than dehumanizing, automation actually enables customization of work, feedback formats, compensation and rewards to suit individual strengths and capabilities. HR can also focus on bringing about a change in the mindset of employees on how to manage the growing transparency brought about by readily available data, open communication and continuous feedback.
In conclusion, analytics tools are becoming more sophisticated and are helping HR professionals to predict workforce trends and employee behavior more accurately. Analytics are making data driven decisions more meaningful and aligned to the organizations vision. HR professionals need to sift relevant data from this explosion of information and use it judiciously and sensitively to help employees rather than invade their privacy.
A design thinking mindset is important in the digitalization of HR processes, integrating HR specialists, system and app developers, designers, employees, and business leaders to work together as a team.Incorporating design thinking throughout make the processes more employee-centric, and improves employee experience as it enables greater customization, thus ensuring that the rate of adoption is high. HR can learn from the experiences of early adopters of digitalization, most probably marketing, to make its own implementation smoother.
A whole range of products available in the market will reinvent how HRM is practiced and enable managers to deal with the disruption brought about by advances in technology.