Adopting technology in HR- Is it really a choice?

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I was at the HR Tech Conference organized by the Asia Pacific HRM Congress, held in Bangalore in Sept, 2015. During one of the panel discussions, a lady from the audience asked us one intriguing question, which is worth sharing.

“HR Technology is fast changing. It’s not worth adopting an innovation because another one might just be right around the corner”? Thoughts?

I found it to be quite interesting topic, since change is happening quite rampantly around us, disruptions being the order of the day, and cycle of technological and information obsolescence becoming very short. For surviving in this VUCA world that is constantly getting SMACed, need of the hour is to simplify things, slightly slow down, think through the solutions and innovate. However, this will not be possible if we were to NOT leverage technology in our day to day life, since otherwise, majority of the productive time will just go in “fire-fighting” and managing transactions.

Not adopting technology now means missing out on strategies and tools that are potential game-changers today and could give us a competitive edge for tomorrow. The opportunities that the technology enabled HR function offers towards promoting individual and organizational growth, leveraging globalization, and enhancing productivity and effectiveness of people, are virtually difficult to ignore.

Even the organizations which just want to think of the present, are going to find it tough, since any current efforts of the businesses to scale up (or down!) fast, improve performance, build capabilities, remain competitive, improve strategic decision making, or optimize cost, will remain slow, ineffective and challenged. Neither the HR nor the organizations will be able to meet the changing needs of their customers, and will find the going tough!

Bottom-line- If we don’t improve our present, we might not just exist in future!

Also, if we ignore now, the delta will keep growing bigger, as a result the quantum of effort and cost of future adoption would keep becoming prohibitive.

We need to realize that irrespective of the industry or company we work with, there are certain ‘irresistible forces’ – that HR has to confront with and which need to be accepted as the framework within which the new world of HR has to be envisioned:

  1. Technology will play an increasing role in the delivery of HR services, providing employees and line managers with greater opportunities for self service, and that HR processes will continue to standardize around technology; In manufacturing it is said that “having 80% standardization is better than living with 100% variability”!
  2. HR administrative backbone will increasingly be delivered by centers of expertise (whether in house shared service centers or out sourced service centers);
  3. The shape of the in-house HR Function will continue to change, with the balance of HR headcount shifting from administrative/advisory roles to higher value decision support /strategic roles;
  4. The delivery of HR management in organizations will continue to disperse across each of the delivery channels;
  5. There will be less dependency on specialist internal trainers, recruiters and other specialists, as organizations would seek to move their cost base from fixed to variable costs;
  6. The need for HR professionals to bring a unique value proposition to internal clients will increase, as line managers become more confident with self- service tools and seize opportunities for genuine choice in sourcing professional HR support.

The HR communities in many organizations have often struggled to accept the reality of these irresistible forces. For some in the HR community, the function may become something that they never joined and there may be a sense of deskilling, viz. “technology has taken over the work I used to do” and a “dehumanizing of service”.

For most others in HR, these forces will be welcomed, as the opportunity to recast the role of HR becomes real and imminent.

The earlier we realize, the better it is!

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