Technology, analytics, data, life – start from the beginning

I’ve just got back from the HRTechFest in Washington. Last time I went to one of these, I wrote this about Technology being HR’s biggest asset. I still think it is – so take a look.

This time, I was struck this time about the commonality of a lot of the themes that people were talking about inside and outside of the sessions. I heard a lot about:

Transparency – the increasing expectation from employees that they can see the workings of an organisation beyond their own personal experience. Whether that is of compensation, decision-making structures, or promotion opportunities – to name but a few.
Customisation – no single person is the same and we therefore need to create employee experiences that recognise the different choices that individual employees will want to take at different stages of their lives and careers.
Experimentation – we need to be more comfortable with being less perfect and in trying things out to see how and if they work. Whether it is data, technology or traditional interventions, we need to love and embrace the pilot.
Analysis – data, data everywhere….and we need to start using it sensibly. Almost every presentation or conversation I had talked about the data underpinning decisions, but used it in a practical and sensible way – not for show, but for real, purposeful thinking.

But the biggest thing that I realised was that the companies talking about this were drawn from right across the board. The likes of Twitter and Hulu and Google and Hootsuite were rubbing shoulders with the likes of Barclays, Cimpress, NBC and health and education providers.

The challenges and themes were the same, but the routes to the mountains were different. And I think this is a factor that we sometimes overlook. If you want to develop transparency of compensation, then you’re going to take a different route in a company which has been in existence for less than 10 years and has a couple of hundred of employee to one that has thousands of employees and a lot with a length of tenure two or three times longer than the other company.

Our skill is in understanding our organisational starting place and identifying the path to take. That’s a significant part of what we bring to the table. Sometimes change is fast, sometimes change is slow. Sometimes things aren’t achievable right now because a whole load of other things need to be done first. And that’s ok.

We all need to aspire to be better, we all want our organisations to change and develop, to create better working environments for our employees and better workplaces for society. To do that we need to constantly take a step forward from the place that we started. Recognising the challenge is as important as recognising the goal. That way, we make long-term sustainable change. The sort that really, really makes a difference.

Technology is HR’s biggest asset

Last week was a bit of a tech week. Starting in Sydney at the incredible HR Tech Fest and ending in Berlin at a digital “bootcamp” (including a visit to the games developer Wooga) looking at the latest consumer digital developments. Having finally got back to some semblance of normality, there are a number of things buzzing around my mind, causing me to reflect and think about the future of our profession.

1. Our employees are consumers, and as such are increasingly immersed in technology. If my expectation of the world is one where I can do pretty much anything at the tap of a screen, then why would my expectations be any different at work?

2. HR technology has changed and is changing. The future of technology is not the big, sole vendor, enterprise systems (although they are still dominant) that restrain you to one platform and one solution. The future is individual, integrated multiple vendor solutions that are best fit for your organisation.

3. We have the opportunity to excite and engage employees through the use of technology, rather than report on and process them. In the same way we willingly spend our time (and money) on consumer technology, the right solutions will lead the right behaviours and engagement within our organisations.

4. Cloud based and SaaS (software as a solution) technologies improve our ability to implement technology more quickly and at lower cost. Gone is the need for long project plans and implementation projects, we can trial, measure and develop a lot more easily. But successful implementation still comes down to good training and communication, nothing has changed there.

5. The opportunity to take our HR technology out of the work environment and in to the home, the commute, the coffee shop or the pub is going to become crucial. Being fully mobile, fully portable, whilst remaining secure is going to be a challenge, but our expectations as consumers is to access the content and services we need, when we need them, wherever we need them.

6. Good technology means good data. And intelligent use of data, as we know, is critical to understanding and leading our organisations to be better.

But the big tech-away (did you see what I did there?) for me, is that as an HR leader, you need to understand and embrace the opportunities offered by the new generation of technology solutions. It isn’t good enough to say, “I’m not a technology person” in the same way it isn’t acceptable to say, “I don’t do numbers”. The HR leader of the future is going to be immersed in technology and see it as their greatest asset.

If that isn’t you, then its time to brush up. Otherwise, you’d better start looking over your shoulder.