HR leading Technology, or Technology leading HR?

Human Resources Management has emerged as one of the realms which are becoming increasingly dependent on technology. Technology has drastically changed virtually every facet of the functioning of HR departments, be it identifying talent, or recruiting people, or communicating with employees, or training employees,   or storing files, or analysing employee performance.

Before the internet and email, connecting with job seekers meant phone, face time or a letter. In the 21st century, it's routine for companies to post openings online, and require job seekers to apply through an online applicant tracking system. That frees up a great deal of time that HR would have spent dealing with paper resumes or personal calls.

With email, text and messaging apps it's easier than ever for HR staff to stay in touch with the rest of the company. If a manager wants to share a new schedule with a project team, one email with an attachment or a conversation on Slack can share the word with a dozen people at once. There's a risk of relying too much on tech as a time-saver though. Information in a two-page email may be better off delivered to the group face to face. That way everyone can ask questions and hear the answers.

However, HR practices don't always take into account how well the system works for the candidates. Online forms have a standardized format that often makes it hard to tell a star performer from a slacker. A badly designed system with confusing instructions and slow response times can actually turn job seekers off to applying with a firm.

Analyzing employee performance earlier used to depend on personal assessments and obvious standards: Did the employee finish the task on time? Does their boss trust them? Technology makes it easier to gather and break down data on employees to get an overall picture. Which tasks do they perform best? Do they meet all the goals from last year's performance appraisal? If they fell short, was it by 12 percent, 50 percent or 75 percent? Software programs can even take over much of the work in evaluating employees.

As HR makes more use of data collection and analysis, employees might feel their privacy shrinking. If, say, a company has security cameras that monitor employees every second, it can be easier to find the facts behind a harassment charge or someone drinking on the job. However, being constantly monitored can alienate employees as well. Good HR practices involve not only knowing how much data can be gathered but also how much should be gathered.

Another risk is that the HR department can end up getting more data than it can manage. After a certain point, wading through data to pick out the relevant material becomes an impossible task. It's also possible that HR will misread data or make assumptions that a face-to-face conversation could clear up.

Securing employee records used to mean locking a file cabinet. In the 21st century, best HR practices have to include security for the digital data. Some security is more an IT matter, such as a good firewall. HR needs to have good policies in place, though, governing who can access confidential data, both hard copy and in electronic form.

Over the years, the HR function has evolved from performing a functional/ administrative role to Business partner to Strategic Partner. And today, driven by data, technology and new interaction models, its role is shifting from managing bureaucracy to managing business assets and talent management. Information has become the key resource for the New Age HR.

Technology automates and streamlines processes in the employee lifecycle from hiring, onboarding, and training to compensation, benefits, retention, and exit. Other important areas under the purview of HR such as communication, compliance, centralized employee information, among others.

In a study report The Society for Human Resource Management identified employee engagement, talent retention, competitive compensation, and developing the organizational leaders for tomorrow as major human capital challenges. Technology will be a vital partner in dealing with these challenges, for example, Big Data helps to gain deep insight and allows HR professionals to make informed decisions based on  facts and figures.Most time-consuming, routine and repetitive tasks such as keeping track of employees’ time, preferences and work patterns are already being automated. This frees up HR to focus on engagement challenges, increasing productivity, and aligning the human side of the organization with business goals.

A large number of technologies, like the Microsoft HoloLens headset, are available to make HR more efficient. This headset could be used by human resource professionals for immersive, simulation-based training or off-site assignments.

Another field making inroads into HR delivery is Advanced Machine Learning which focuses on predictive analysis and talent relationship, mostly in the recruitment process – is one such AI-driven platform which takes marketing personalization practices and data analysis, and uses them to discover, engage, and retain top talent.

Many companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft have started introducing wearable technology in all devices which ensure that employees stay connected andit provides a wealth of opportunities for employee engagement, increased productivity, and security. And, some businesses like the Finnish company Bittiumare exploring new ways to turn a wearable device into a powerful tool. By simplifying secure remote access the company has made it possible for employees operating outside the office premises to safely work on their mobile devices with confidential data without worrying about leaks or cyber threats.

SaaS applications such as BambooHR, Google Docs are being used for recruitment, performance management, etc.

Blockchain technology is the safest option for transactions and information exchange that require a high level of security. Recruitment websites would typically have an applicant’s authenticated metadata for the hiring firm to verify before making a job offer. Recruit Tech is one such organization building recruitment solutions on the blockchain.

In the near future a robot similar to TARS from Intersteller, programmed to respond with wit and humour,could probably become an internal information network, responsible for streamlining communication and increasing the organization’s efficiency through access to the right data, at the right time.

The Internet of Things platforms appear to be fragmented as of now, however these platforms will follow a trend of integration in the coming years, which will lead to more data being available and accessible throughout enterprise environments. With easy and instant access to employee data, part of HR activities will be performed by line managers, and HR will be able to focus on business performance and execution.

The trend now points towards human resource managers and their departments transitioning to being strategic data managers, managing smooth information flow to ensure that employees have access to the right data at the right time.

On the “administrative role” side, self-charging phones and wireless electricity will free up office space and help in redesigning the workplace experience.

The future of any human resource team is linked to technological development, and challenging it encourages innovations that will add to the employee experience. The question that HR professionals is asking could be – “Are we leading technology, or is it leading us?”



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