HR has been historically reticent to adopt new technologies and processes. But the increasing speed of digital adoption and the continued emergence of new HR technology trends make this a critical concern for HR departments. How can teams make the most of advanced solutions without losing the "human" aspect of their organizational mandate?
According to Raj Uttamchandani, VP of Information Technology for ADP, the value of initial HR software deployments was two-fold, performing "some level of record-keeping for the clients, and some level of calculation to deliver some kind of output." In practical terms, this meant storing data inside software solutions rather than forcing HR leaders to search through paper documents and filing cabinets for specific information and providing foundational HR reports such as payroll or benefit elections. For many HR teams, however, justifying the move from existing methods — however cumbersome they might be — to software that delivered straightforward information rather than actionable insight was a tough sell.
Thanks to advancements in big data analysis, cloud computing and machine learning, however, HR technology trends are now driving solutions that do more than simply store and serve up HR data. According to Uttamchandani, we've seen the rise of solutions that give HR leaders "some measure of intelligence that may help them make better decisions." What's more, this kind of intelligence goes both ways, offering benefits to employers and employees alike thanks to cloud-based platforms that allow streamlined access or prediction-based data modeling, which allows HR staff to preemptively address staff concerns.
Uttamchandani points to hourly employees who are required to clock in at the start of every shift — it's easy for staff to forget this task if they're focused on other work concerns or distracted by personal matters. Under the old HR model, this oversight meant an email to managers, follow-up with HR to adjust clock data and a potential meeting with staff to discuss the importance of accurate time recording. Using new technology, however, it's possible for employees to clock in using apps on their mobile device. This both reduces the follow-up work required by HR and streamlines the process for employees, driving increased business value.
On The Horizon
So what's next for HR technology trends? While there's virtually limitless potential, what can organizations expect in the near future? The Society for Human Resource Management suggests that the automation of performance management, real-time engagement evaluation and the expansion of "people analytics" are all on the horizon, while research from Deloitte points to the kind of mobile-enabled HR described by Uttamchandani along with HR in the cloud, which offers a "seamlessly integrated HR/IT landscape."
But the adoption of new HR technology isn't without growing pains. As noted by Uttamchandani, it's still "early" in the deployment of effective HR technology as organizations "try to figure out how to deploy these technologies in a manner that makes them as valuable as possible." In other words, there's huge potential here backed by significant advancements in technical capability and autonomous processes, but organizations need to discover how these technologies best empower HR departments. In addition, HR teams may struggle with the adoption of new technologies if they're perceived as disruptive to current HR operations or too intrusive for employees.
Consider the emerging role of predictive analytics. Uttamchandani describes the new capabilities of HR analysis tools — using big data from multiple sources, these tools are able predict employee "flight risks" based on information such as commute time, current salary (compared both internally and externally) and performance metrics, then present a streamlined version of the results to corporate decision-makers.
But there's potential to overreach here, with software providers discovering "where they can provide technology that appears to be helpful, and does not appear to be intrusive or invasive or creepy," according to Uttamchandani. In effect, both technology providers and HR departments are learning how new developments can empower their mandate without overstepping privacy and personal boundaries.
HR technology trends are on-track to significantly impact the way organizations hire, retain and proactively engage staff members. But it's a learning curve for both providers and HR teams as they seek out the ideal intersection of advanced automation and collection tools with human-focused policies and procedures.
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