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HR Tech in 2019: the Human Element

HRO Today

To review the original article click here 14th Feb 2019

Technology not only has huge potential to completely revolutionize the HR function as we know it—it already is. The continued developments in this space have included rapid changes to total talent strategies, streamlining candidate and employee engagement, increasing the speed of hiring processes and improving the reach of employer branding messages. And, by the looks of things in Q4, this pace of change will only increase in the coming months.

The gig-impact

Much of the demand for greater automation and digitalization of HR has been driven by the rise of the gig-worker. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that nearly 40 percent of Americans are ‘giggers’ (freelance, contract, contingent or part-time workers), a figure that I for one expect to continue to increase. As the workforce engagement model evolves in line with this change, what ‘HR’ and ‘Talent Acquisition’ represent will also continue to evolve.

In fact, I’d argue that we’re already moving away from the use of traditional talent channels as the gig economy moves forward. ‘Talent’ is now much more fluid and, as such, attracting and engaging potential workers is becoming increasingly complex. Combine this talent market dynamic with the rapid shift to digital and automated procedures, and we will begin to see the evolution of the ‘talent cloud’—a liquid yet focused curated platform of potential workers that businesses can engage with as and when needed.

In such an environment, it’s no surprise that the general consensus across US firms is that the legacy staffing model as it stands is ‘broken’—highlighted by the fact this model continues to struggle with and fall further behind the increasing speed of innovative change. The age-old MSP model that has served us so well is slowly making way for direct sourcing models. And as employers seek out new solutions in response to this shifting landscape, technology providers are scrambling to find their place in this shifting landscape as well. However, as history has shown us, especially in the Talent Acquisition space, digital platforms and technologies are only part of the solution.

Ready Player One: the need for the human element

What tech can deliver to the HR function continues to be, quite frankly, astounding. Ten years ago, few if any employers would be directing candidate questions to a chatbot. Today we see such the impact of such technologies has been greatly beneficial. As people gravitate towards a more “consumer-ized” work engagement experience, employer brands using effective automation and artificial intelligence that support this more personal relationship interaction are seeing better talent acquisition outcomes. 

However, we cannot allow ourselves to set unrealistic expectations in the power of tech that we forget the role people play in what is, without a doubt, a very intimate process. Talent engagement does require heavy involvement from a human player—and it always will. Yes, technology will continue to play a more agile role, but we need to leverage its capabilities without compromising the relationships and interactions that are so important between people.

This is particularly the case when it comes to technology and the freelance market. I don’t believe any algorithm has yet to crack the code for engagement. Yes, it’s possible to automate certain processes, capture and analyze data with machine learning and, for example, guide our decisions around aspects of workforce planning. But it can’t deliver the personal conversation and the benefit of the human relationship needed to truly connect people. And this, to me, is the key point: we need to improve the dialogue between humans with the help of technology.

The future of HR tech: achieving the balance

There’s no doubt that the value of HR tech is on the rise and it will further cement its place as a pivotal component of the talent function. In fact, as Josh Bersin outlined in the report HR Technology 2019: Disruption Ahead, the HR technology market grew by 10% last year and the market for core HR platforms (including cloud based HRMS, payroll and employee management systems) is now worth well-over $8 billion. In the coming year, these numbers are primed to increase, and rapidly.

As with most people processes, a technology balance needs to be achieved. Anything that can be properly automated to drive value, should be. But we cannot fall into the trap of over-reliance on technology or allow ourselves to be dazzled by digital platforms alone. Remember, robots don’t have personalities. They can be programmed to ‘think’ like us, but not as us. We are human, so we have the upper-hand, right?

People seeking work want personalization, and that requires people. So, as we all contemplate the role of technology and automation in the coming months, I urge us to see tech for what it is: the enabler of people, not our replacement. Use it to free up resources and give our people more time to do what they do best: build personal, long-lasting relationships.

This is an excerpt from the ‘Human Resources New Technology Quarterly Summary: Q4 2018.’ Click to read the full report.

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