by Sarah K. White

How HR can bridge the tech inequality gap

May 19, 2016
CareersIT JobsIT Leadership

Human resources technologies keep marching forward, offering a competitive edge to those willing to make the right investments. Is your organization keeping pace?

Implementing cutting-edge technology is a concept no longer relegated to IT departments. And HR is no exception. In fact, 92 percent of HR workers cited in a recent study are currently using some type of HR analytics system. However, there is still a growing gap between the early adopters, and the more traditional departments that are slower to change, according to Steffen Maier, co-founder of Impraise — a company that provides real-time employee feedback for HR — and Tom Haak, partner at Crunchr — a company that uses data analytics to create meaningful employee data.

“The HR Tech industry is growing rapidly, and many companies are trying to catch up with new solutions. In the last five years it has grown by 50 percent into a $10 billion industry. Attracting and retaining talent has become crucial for every company worldwide and therefore, having a great work culture should be a part of every company’s priority list. If companies want to remain competitive, motivate employees and grow their business they must adopt these innovative solutions,” says Maier.

For companies interested in remaining competitive and recruiting the best talent, you’ll need to develop a more flexible strategy to adopt new HR technology. And besides recruiting the best talent, you’ll want to consider the latest HR technology to help improve employee feedback, streamline onboarding processes and minimize the amount of day-to-day paperwork.

HR tech roadblocks

Overhauling business technology is never a simple fix and there are plenty of roadblocks preventing businesses from taking the HR tech leap. For one, there are often concerns from HR employees around the difficulty of the technology, says Maier. You’ll want to ensure that you focus on integrating user-friendly software or hardware that won’t intimidate your employees. And you also want to avoid simply adding more technology on top of what you already have, otherwise employees may look at it and say “Why do I need other tools in addition to my current HRIS system?” says Maier.

Another important consideration you’ll want to make when implementing new HR software is to look at the types of technology your employees are already accustomed to using — think user-friendly, well-designed smartphone and tablet apps. Chances are, your employees are already using apps like Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Drive in their own time, so find apps that function as seamlessly as those tools, says Haak, and it can allow for a more natural transition.

And this one may seem obvious, but you also need to set a realistic budget — implementing new technology doesn’t come cheap, and companies that don’t have the funding won’t be able to stay on the cutting edge. According to Maier, HR is a department that has remained technologically behind for a reason, and one of the biggest reasons has been a lack of appropriate funding. “As a consequence, a strong attitude of, ‘if it’s not broken don’t fix it’ often thwarts the adoption of new technology. This has contributed to an increasing gap between companies that have already adopted HR tools based on data science for their HR functions, such as performance management or hiring, compared to those that still rely on outdated methods, such as paper or Excel spreadsheets,” he says.

But, as Haak points out, there isn’t always an easy solution to gain more funding — no matter what department you’re in — but he notes that you also can’t expect to get the necessary funding through inaction. Rather, he says, business leaders need to look at educating the right people on the benefits of HR tools, and how they can make the entire company more efficient. It might even mean pushing HR out of its comfort zone, encouraging them to become a more flexible department that is open to the idea of experimentation. “If you experiment you can learn, and then implementation of new technology can go faster,” says Haak.

Traditional vs early adopters

If you want to move towards a more flexible HR approach, you might find it difficult if your department has a mix of traditional HR workers and early adopters. Alternatively, some businesses may find they have HR departments that are completely one or the other — either traditional or more progressive — every business is different. But what is clear, according to both Maier and Haak, is that early adopters are typically more open-minded to new technology, as well as more likely to adjust to the new tech quickly. Meanwhile, more traditional HR departments or workers are more hesitant to change the way HR operates.

“The ‘consumeration’ of HR is a clear trend. Implementation of new tools will not be a big issue, especially with new generations who are expecting this. Older generations and some senior management might be more of an obstacle, as they tend to be less tech savvy and more focused on control and standardization,” says Haak.

One way to get around the more traditional HR departments or employees is to focus on how these tools are created to make the lives those in HR, and other departments, easier. “It’s important to understand that adopting a new technology won’t disrupt the work of HR departments. In fact, these tools will boost their performance by allowing HR professionals to obtain better data that will enable them to identify talent gaps, adopt a real-time coaching culture and make employee succession planning easier,” says Maier.

Change can’t wait

While every HR department will acclimate to new technology differently and will need a personally tailored approach, there is one common theme; change can’t wait. HR departments that drag their feet when looking at adopting new HR technology will only set themselves back further, as the industry rapidly evolves. And it’s not just something that HR needs to worry about alone, it’s something the entire company needs to take seriously.

“HR department need to act now. Not on their own, but working with marketing, IT and the data analytics teams,” says Maier. What HR tech can bring to a company is more than just alleviating HR of paperwork, it can bring “increased impact, increased engagement of employees and management, decreased costs, more evidence and data driven actions, better ability to match talent and opportunities and faster learning curves,” he says.

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