Six tech-tonic shifts that are rewriting the DNA of HR

In today's world, employees have similar expectations from their employers as they have from any brand they engage with—in a sense, they have become the organisation's customers as part of the experience economy. Primitive HR applications won't cut it anymore. Here's what HR leads need to know

Updated: Aug 30, 2019 10:25:50 AM UTC

Shaakun Khanna is the Head of HCM Applications, Asia Pacific at Oracle.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Traditionally, and in some pockets even today, HR looks at technology as a tool to solve problems post-facto. From ‘registering of attendance’ to learning and development, HR technology has typically been triggered by challenges that need resolution.

However, in the past few years, the marriage of emerging technology and the experience economy has created enterprise applications that are changing the workplace. HR tech has also shifted its course to become a potent tool of mitigating business disruptions. HR leaders who fail to understand and embrace these shifts in HR applications, will lose strategic talent advantage that their businesses desperately need.

So, what are these shifts and what should the HR lead know?

Shift 1: Enablement to experience
The experience economy encourages people to engage with brands that give them memorable moments; in the same way, they expect good experiences from their employers too. Like any mainstream app, modern HR applications must also be able to provide:

  1. Seamless mobility – across devices and operating systems
  2. Full functionality – across devices and locations
  3. Hyper-personalisation – right up to organisation, department and the individual level

It takes years of research and huge investments to be able to deliver such an experience. Redundant technologies such as ‘native apps’, batch processing of data, specific point solutions, etc., kill the experience and result in a disengaged workforce. Ironically, a majority of HR tech buyers don’t understand the deep nuances of these developments, and that needs to change. CHROs need not become CIOs, but they need to know which technology will help them to deliver the best experience to their workforce.

Shift 2: Analytics to insights
Most HR teams face challenges with data and analytics. Many HR leaders have lost their credibility because of these anomalies. Modern businesses don’t expect HR to provide data or its analyses; they seek actionable insights that can help them solve emerging business problems.

In order to provide such insights, HR leaders need to lean on intelligent applications on the cloud. Such applications proactively search for data for emerging trends and patterns, assess their implications and use the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring actionable insights. This is the real strategic talent advantage that the businesses need.

Shift 3: On demand to proactive
As I mentioned earlier, employees have similar expectations from their employers as they have from any brand they engage with. Employees as customers live in a notification-driven life. An employee today expects HR to provide answers to their queries instantaneously. Moving from on-demand service delivery to proactive employee delight will need to artfully create consumer-grade HR applications that will work on the principles of digital marketing.

Shift 4: Integrated to embedded
Gone are the days when HR would patch up multiple systems and term them as integrated. Modern-day employee experience and organisational enablement is possible by using a strong foundation that has the best of technologies ‘embedded’ and not integrated—chatbots, business intelligence, performance management, employee surveys etc.

Shift 5: Artificial intelligence to adaptive intelligence
Artificial Intelligence does not possess the nuances of human nature. It cannot differentiate between cultures, backgrounds and sensitivities. Each organisation is unique from cultural perspective. Carpet bombing an organisation with artificial intelligence cannot deliver the unique cultural flavour to employees. The right HR technology must use adaptive intelligence to ensure that the systems, processes, languages and experiences are all tailored for the organisation, proactively. Adaptive intelligence applications are a new category of continuously adapting, self-learning applications powered by enterprise data from transactional business apps, such as customer experience, enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, and human resources.

Shift 6: Friendly UI to no UI
User interface has been used as a synonym for employee experience. Most digital HR initiatives have become glorified UI upgrades. Today, smart living revolves around devices and applications that run on natural language processing, be it Siri, Google or Alexa. Why should my HR system not be able to apply for leave when I simply ask it to? Any HR application which is not augmented with natural language processing will be rendered redundant from Day 1.

What happened in banking, retail or even transportation a few years ago is now invading HR as a function. The DNA of HR is being re-written with technology. While many organisations are embarking on an HR digital transformation journey, a majority (74 percent per Gartner) of them are likely to fail. They will fail because of lack of appreciation and adaptation to the above mentioned ‘Tech-tonic’ shifts. Primitive HR will cease to exist in this decade.

The author is Head of HCM Applications, Asia Pacific at Oracle.

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