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October 17, 2013 / Mervyn Dinnen

#HRTechConf – We’re All Technologists Now!

HRTech

The final keynote at the recent HR Technology Conference was from Jason Averbook, who delivered an overview of HR technology – where we were, where we are now and where we should be going.

His rallying call was that we need re-imagination – we’re getting bright shiny new technology but we’re doing old school things with it. To emphasise this point he ran through 5 generations of technological development, the 4 different eras of what we’ve called HR, and concluded that despite all that change we’re still basically doing what we’ve always done.

He also had news for the HR professionals who think that technology isn’t for them – We’re all technologists!Do you call IT when you want to search Google?” he asked. “Who keeps their smartphone nearby when they go to bed at night?” got a clear majority show of hands.

Another show of hands revealed that only 5 people in an audience of many hundreds were from the payroll function, yet payroll is usually the first HR process that we get technology for. A couple of comments on the twitter channel questioned whether this was because the process didn’t innovate – but I’m not sure that’s true.

When I first started work I got paid cash on a weekly basis, then by cheque on a monthly basis, and more recently by direct transfer. I used to be given payslips with my cash/cheque but now I have to log in to a system to find them. And because I don’t do it regularly I invariably have to reset passwords – coming up with a new on each time! Payroll evolves much the same as any other process, yet where were the specialists at this show?

Jason also touched on the irregularity with which people interact with their internal technology. He asked when we last got married, had a child or moved house, as these are three key events when we will interact with the HR technology at work. Clearly for most people these events happen very rarely – maybe every few years – giving them little reason to interact with that technology, yet most HR professionals will complain that employees aren’t using the tech. Again you need it to do different things if you want more interaction.

The importance of measuring for now was another key point. Performance reviews, engagement, development are all measured and reviewed historically, yet employees are more interested in what’s currently happening. The technology for real time measurement is available so why not use it for now as opposed to what’s already gone.

Some other points that Jason covered:

  • People come to work and expect to get connected, most people keep their phone within 3 feet at all times of the day and night, yet we often deny them that connectivity.
  • If you go to a website that sucks, you don’t stay on it for too long. But do you ever go back to see if it’s better? Probably not, this is why businesses need to get their tech right.
  • For possibly the first time consumers now have better technology than businesses do. Expectations are raised.
  • The Cloud doesn’t change cultures – it’s just a delivery mechanism.
  • Give them real time access to social channels – or they’ll post on Glassdoor!
  • “HR sucks at simple”. Contentious, but it got a reaction.

The closing call was ‘If interaction is not embedded in the process then it won’t get done’ with a plea to ‘think simple’.

Jason is a good speaker who puts his points across with energy and simplicity. I took away a clear message that too many HR professionals see technology as something that isn’t really their thing, but a box that needs to be ticked. Clearly everyone in the room used technology constantly in their personal lives and there shouldn’t be a disconnect when it comes to embedding it in the workplace.

My view is that the things we look for in the technology we use in our personal lives – ease, relevance, convenience, enhanced experience – should also apply to the technology we use in our working lives. Technology should not be a barrier to getting work done but should be an enabler to getting a better job done. As Jessica Merrell tweeted ‘innovation & technology change isn’t just the vendor’s responsibility – amen!’

Laurie Ruettiman’s blog on the automation of HR is worth a read – ‘you might want to think about understanding the technology that’s about to upset your apple cart. If you know your enemy, you can destroy it’

After all, it’s never really the computer that says no….

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One Comment

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  1. Nick Emmett / Oct 17 2013 9:16 PM

    Some really great points in here Mervyn, thanks for sharing. I particularly echo around connecting people and how people want to be connected at work but most companies still deny this. I was reminded of something also that Adam Pisoni of Yammer said at an event earlier this year, how the technology and platform doesn’t create a revolution, its people that do that! And lastly we are pretty bad at simple in hr, improving for sure but still not great, thanks again.n

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