Andrew Spence, HR Transformation Director at Glass Bead Consulting, gives his take on why HR professionals need to become workforce technology ambassadors in their organisations, ahead of speaking at the Natural HR conference at the end of November.
Some love it and some fear it, but regardless, increasing technology is not just an inevitability, but an exciting development within the HR profession. As experts in people management and change, it is imperative that HR professionals put aside reservations about increasing technology in the sector. instead I believe it is their place to become the ambassadors within their organisations, trying and testing new technologies and finding tech solutions for both wider business and specific HR challenges. Whilst, you may be reading this thinking “it just isn’t my job”, that now outdated viewpoint may risk leaving you and your business behind.
The fear of technology within the sector, in my opinion, is partly born of misleading or confusing marketing from the HR and Technology Industry, where words such as ‘robots’ (derived from the word slave in its original Czech), ‘Big Data’ (a term which has no meaning) and ‘digital transformation’ only serve to terrify professionals into believing their skills will be rendered redundant. The truth is, the only thing that will render professionals redundant is if they choose not to embrace technology, learn about it and use it to solve current business (or workforce) challenges.
It is worth considering the benefits of the increased ‘workforce intelligence’ as HR Directors or business leaders. Tech driven data collection in organisations can be used by the employees themselves, giving them insights about their working patterns and practices, which enable them to become more productive. Data can also usefully inform the recruitment process – such as providing insight into what makes a good recruit or what causes someone to be a positive team member. With good recruitment and increased productivity being the ‘holy grail’ within many organisations, tech is providing HR professionals a much better chance of ‘getting it right’. As technology has moved to the cloud, leading-edge tools are not just for large organisations with big budgets, but priced on per employee basis.
Software such as Textio, can even help inform the wording of job descriptions to ensure language is used that appeals to a target demographic you want to attract as an employer. For example, if you’re looking to recruit more females into a coding role, it uses tech to analyse the language that statistically appeals to females more. This technology and others can also be used to check for bias or discrimination in recruitment processes.
Beyond the many benefits of tech in the recruitment process, there is also a body of evidence to support the value of tech to support both productivity and wellbeing of employees. The likes of Saberr which provides a ‘Coach Bot’ to coach individuals and teams, offering offline interventions as a result of data gleaned from individuals is being piloted in huge organisations, such as the NHS and Unilever. Early results have found that employees are more honest when chatting with a ‘Coach Bot’ than they are when engaging with a human coach. This offers opportunities to give teams more accurate insights into their work and performance and can be used as a force for good. In reality few employees in an organisation can benefit from one-on-one performance coaching, but many more could benefit from the more cost-effective online coaching apps which will only improve over time.
Being an ambassador in your organisation for workforce technology can add to the reputation of a HR professional, support other core skills and help build more evidence-based decision-making. I would actually argue that with the increase of tech the ability to engender trust among employees, using better communication and interpersonal skills, will be critical to better workplaces.
Now is the time to let go of preconceptions and misconceptions and explore the world of technological possibilities that can contribute to your business’ strategic objectives and immeasurably improve your HR practices.