No one can argue that technology doesn’t have a place in HR. With the growth of systems to track performance, deliver training, predict recruitment needs and even reach out to recruits through social media, technology has become central to HR practice. But as with any area of innovation, if we want to make the most of these changes then we need to think about how to stay ahead.
The growing range and power of HR software means that it can be applied for all sorts of benefits. You can use predictive analytics to foresee what’s coming both within and around your business. Is there likely to be a growth in the number of customer service calls, meaning that you need more contact center staff? Are you likely to face a high staff turnover in information systems, to lose key people in communications, to need to grow your sales team?
Technology is also reaching the point where it could help you to sift through CVs or to identify potential employees who would be a perfect fit but aren’t even applying for your jobs, enabling you to get the right people into place. And once they’re there, it can help to identify staff for whom you need to make an extra effort so that they stay with you.
The right tool used the right way
As in marketing, the growing power of this technology doesn’t mean that HR staff need to become experts in data mining and advanced analytics. What is needed is the ability to apply the data and the tools that analyze it, in the right way at the right time.
It’s easy to be blinded by the dazzling wonder of technology. Having a system that can predict the likely turnover of staff in a finance department is great. But if your biggest HR concern is recruitment for a growing production workforce then that tool may just become a distraction.
Tools that are great for predicting turnover and training needs among top tier managers may be less than useless in the lower ranks of your organization, where the vast majority of HR work will be taking place.
HR staff and the managers relying on them don’t necessarily need to understand how the new technological tools work, but they do need to understand their limitations, how they can be useful, and when to leave them alone.
But if you want to gain the technological edge in HR then you need to go beyond these immediate tactical concerns. Applying the latest must-have technology well will put you in the top half of businesses in your sector, but it won’t put you into the lead. Because the latest must-have technology is the same one your capable competitors are applying -- and probably applying well.
If you want to push your business up into the greats then you need to think strategically about the technology you have and how you apply it. Whatever technology is a big conversation now isn’t innovative - the size of that conversation proves it.
Look out for new and unusual ideas. Whether that means providing new technological solutions or applying existing ones in unexpected ways. Think about where technology isn’t being applied in HR and what could fill that gap. Don’t think just about how you can apply technology now, but where you want to be applying it in two or three years’ time and seek out those solutions.
Keeping on top of technology is good for your HR work. But getting ahead of current technology can turn that good into great.
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Mark Lukens, a managing partner of recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) company Method3, is a seasoned veteran of complex services consulting, business development, and business strategy. Mark has a demonstrated record of business success in health care/life sciences, technology, human resources, and diversified services businesses.