Are we Putting the Human Back in to HR Technology?

Jim Whitehurst told us in the closing HRTech keynote “Study the great leaders and you see idiosyncrasy and uniqueness…not everyone with the same set of qualities“. Could the same be applied to HR technology too?

In my event preview I was looking at employee involvement. Are we buying the tech they would choose and are we using it to create a better, richer, more shareable employment experience. Are employees at the heart of design, implementation and UX research? Certainly all the briefings that I had with exhibitors led me to believe that employee usability was a key driver for developing products so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

One of the areas covered was how we use it to embrace the growing number of freelance and hourly workers, who are not employees but are part of how the business achieves its goals. This is clearly a growing area of interest. I saw Employee Relationship Management platforms aimed specifically at this space, with mobile the driver to help hourly workers organise and trade shifts, share documents, onboard and learn, and message each other and managers. How these will scale I’m not sure, but they interest me a lot as the engagement of ‘gig economy’ workers will become a growing issue for businesses looking to grow their brands within the recruitment space.

Is the future of talent management to be found in a sports computer game like Championship Manager? It was an interesting observation form Marcus Buckingham. The talent profiles of each soccer player contain all the performance stats that a player of the game needs to build their teams. The image of the next generation of leaders within a business building their teams around snapshot overviews of performance statistics may sound like gamification gone too far, but it’s the way the next generation are getting used to seeing team building operate in one of the few activities into which they invest 10,000 hours.

For the individual employees to have ownership of their data is key, so it was encouraging to see this as a growing trend, particularly amongst some of the start ups. If they own it, and see how it enhances their work and development, then they are more likely to create it and use it. Interactions with work technology that do not bring this sense of ownership, but instead are more of a reporting obligation with no immediate benefit to the employee, are much less engaging. Many speakers referred to the need for capability over functionality.

Software for culture was talked about a lot. The way to bring culture to life, collect information on it, understand it, share it and let prospective new employees find out if it is one for them, informed many demonstrations, again particularly amongst start ups. It also dominated the first HRTech Hackathon.

This was a new addition to the conference and gave teams of software engineers and designers from 7 companies the chance to design, build and then demonstrate live on stage brand new solutions that address real HR and business challenges, all within 48 hours. With most research this year showing that the number one priority for HRDs and CEOs is the attraction, retention and engagement of talent, it was no surprise that culture and recruitment dominated the solutions. This was a fun and well received session with some interesting insights. Culture was something that was clearly on the minds of those participating but, given current recruitment priorities, it was using it to engage the passive candidate that was at the heart of the 2 presentations getting the highest ratings from the audience.

The overall winner was from Jibe – effectively developing a way to send personalised messages to passive candidates who have visited your website or career site, or looked at your vacancies, but not proceeded. Second came Ultimate Software with an organisational culture scoring index; a way for companies to strengthen their own cultures by quantifying and encouraging employee engagement, sharing content related to culture, values and employer brand.

For employees, their experiences of business technology will be informed by those they have with consumer technology. Their mobile provider offers them a state-of-the-art new phone every two years. Their user experiences with shopping and entertainment sites are seamlessly woven in to their daily lives. Their expectations of customer service are similarly shaped and it was noticeable that there was much talk comparing HR’s role to customer service, delivering the support needed. The consumerfication of HR and business technology continues.

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