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Why HR must embrace tech

Yes, digitization of HR is here, but the trend shouldn't be followed blindly

The extent to which technology is playing an outsized role in our personal and professional lives is evident. But the critical question organizations must ask themselves is this: How relevant is that technology?

There have been endless conversations, and volumes written about the convergence of HR and technology. In fact, a recent industry report shows that the market for HR technology solutions is around $40 billion globally. Yes, digitization of HR is here, but the trend shouldn't be followed blindly.

Let's be honest. It's pointless to attempt to list the impact, benefits, or power of technology. We all know the role it plays in our lives. But in our quest to make HR faster, more real-time and responsive, we are often taking the easy road by using technology for technology's sake. The desire to ride this digital wave becomes the primary driving force behind implementing the technology. The end result: we're not paying full attention to whether or not it's truly fulfilling real needs.

Here are two examples I've seen in the past year that are noteworthy for different reasons. Both are from the performance management space, yet only one really worked. The one that was successfully implemented was in the area of network analysis—a tool based on “deep learning" used to determine whether an employee would be a “rock star" performer or not. As you can imagine, this is a goldmine of information for any organization. A single person using this tool can predict top performers across thousands of employees!

Yet an app that was designed to give employees instant feedback turned out to be a complete miss. Why? Because it lacked the human touch necessary for people to feel comfortable enough to provide developmental feedback. In other words, it became a tool for giving out good news only. That's hardly useful, but it was a great learning experience for us nonetheless. It showed us that good judgment is so important if we are to leverage technology that truly has a significant business impact. Again, technology just for the sake of technology is never a winning formula.

Therefore, here are my top three reasons for implementing technology:

  1. To empower employees We are in an era that revels in riding the wave of cutting-edge technologies for empowering employees. But it has to make life better and easier for workers if it is to be truly useful. Digitized processes and a strong self-service orientation will revolutionize the employee experience by giving them quick, easy, and virtual access to get things done anytime and anywhere.
  2. To enable quick and informed decision-making Real-time employee analytics is becoming essential for any organization's growth. Whether it is analyzing multiple sources of data in seconds, providing feasible solutions, or calculating the ROI on various employee initiatives, digital HR is the key to quick and informed strategy and decision-making. Additionally, with its ability to produce insights into the workforce, technology can help companies retain talent and spot employees who are likely to leave. The use of employee analytics allows HR professionals to have a richer and deeper understanding of employee needs and concerns in real-time.
  3. To make talent recruitment effective Hiring is not just about acquiring the best talent. It's also about elevating the experience of the people who are being hired, as well as the recruiters and organizations that are doing the hiring. HR and hiring teams can make this a reality by using advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning to enable digitized hiring and virtual onboarding—leveraging these tools to provide candidate analysis and insights. When used correctly, this is magic in the making.

So before you implement any technology in your HR organization, ask yourself these three questions:

  • What is the business challenge I'm solving for and is this technology addressing that challenge?
  • What is the purpose of implementing this technology, and is there another way to address employee needs?
  • Is the technology implementation aligned with my company's culture, and is the target audience the right fit?

Even though change is impossible without technology, a nuanced and clear-eyed understanding of what it can—and cannot—do in your organization is necessary. Implementing technology with a purpose, right from the start, is critical for success.

The article was authored by Piyush Mehta, Chief Human Resource Officer at Genpact, and was first published by BusinessWorld.