The HR Tech Conference is the place to see the latest, greatest, coolest, most awesome HR software and products. If you walk the expo floor, every exhibitor will tell you they can make HR more efficient, or at least effective. And they probably are right. But only if the product is a good match for the company and the way people there work. So it’s good to consider the tech, data, and people together in order understand what you are seeing and whether it’s useful to you.
The heart of all HR Tech is code and algorithms. Algorithms are amazing tools. At their essence, they are simply a set of instructions. Algorithms are based on logic and design decisions about what is supposed to happen, in what order, and under what circumstances. They will work the same way every time, or at least that’s usually the idea.
Software generally works best with repeatable processes — things you want to work the same way every time. The farther an issue is from a repeatable process, the more customization and work will be required from you. Often this is worth it. But it’s essential to understand where your particular problem falls on the spectrum from The-same-way-every-time to Many-exceptions-and-options-needed.
Any digital program will record and generate data. Data are simply bits of information. The value of any bit of data depends on its age, what it’s a record of, and the context it’s in. The more context, the more meaning you can ascribe. For example, I just typed the word “bubble wrap.” There is now a record of that fact and probably lots of other information about when I logged in, when I typed it, the IP address I logged in with, and maybe how I typed “bananas” first, then changed my mind. Some of this data may be useful. Other data won’t be useful at all. Now I’ve typed bananas twice. You don’t care. It’s not even that funny.
So, understanding what information it’s possible to have, what information you need to have, and why you may want it, will make all the difference in understanding what products or solutions will work best for your company.
People are not repeatable processes. Humans are rather messy, unpredictable, fickle, funny, and often, illogical. Each person has a unique take on the world and work. We each have different backgrounds, learning styles, design preferences, and comfort levels working with new programs and tools.
There could be the greatest program ever, that solves all your real and imagined problems perfectly, elegantly, and quickly. But if you can’t get people to open the program and use it, it doesn’t matter.
So as you explore all the wondrous possibilities, also assess how much time the people at your company will realistically spend learning a new program and using the ones you are considering.
Heather Bussing has been practicing business and employment law almost 30 years. Don’t mention the 30 years though, because it makes her feel very tired. These days, she mostly writes blog posts and legal briefs in her pajamas. Okay, she wears pajamas while writing briefs because having briefs in one’s pajamas is extremely uncomfortable. Don’t ask. Heather also teaches Advanced Legal Writing and Social Media & Internet Law. And she writes and edits for an online human resources magazine, The HR Examiner. In between, she takes photographs and reads ferociously, but not at the same time. You can see her work at www.hrexaminer.com and www.humansofwork.com.