Technology and HR: friends or enemies?

Technology can be a great aid to any number of professions, but when it comes to HR – a field all about people – does technology sometimes get in the way of real human interaction?

HR man tied up with tech cables

Technology is great for automating tasks, allowing for instant and efficient communication, gathering data and, unfortunately, alienating people.

HR in particular has to be careful not to let widgets, gadgets and platforms take over from one-on-one reviews, personal performance monitoring and that old classic, simply talking to people.

Putting HR tech where it belongs

As with most roles, there are mundane and repetitive tasks that are essential to your role, but which don’t make the most valuable use of your time. This is where technology should be put to use. Software-as-a-service, spreadsheets and databases are all great for helping HR professionals do their job more efficiently.

There are programs, like Turbine, to help you keep track of time off and sickness, tracking systems that help you monitor progress and even feedback systems to support managers with their training and development responsibilities. These systems are a great help to HR, but can they be a hindrance too?

Does it integrate?

Can you export your data into spreadsheets? Does your applicant tracking system link up to your employees database to make the transition of new hire information that much easier? And what about the holiday request form and the manager approval form – are they even in the same system?

One of the ‘Awesome new technologies for HR’, selected to present at the most recent annual HR Tech conference, was Hunite. It’s described as ‘a mobile portal which overlays the disparate HR-related employee functions to present one view to the employee.’ One of the big predictions for HR tech in 2014 is all about ease of use.

As cloud technologies and commercial user interfaces become more advanced, it’s becoming more important than ever to remember that tech used in HR doesn’t just affect HR. It affects everyone in the company, since virtually everyone has to interact with it at some point, whether it’s booking holiday or changing address. User interface, self-service and integration are vital for everyone if tech is going to help rather than hinder HR.

HD doesn’t convey chemistry

One area where technology is creeping further in to HR is the recruitment process. While applicant tracking systems have been around for a while, video interviewing is now also on the rise. In fact, since 2011, the use of video interviewing has risen by 49 percent, with users citing that it saves them money, reduces hiring time and makes their job easier.

Of course, while 6 in 10 companies now use video interviewing, that doesn’t mean it has replaced face-to-face interviews. Body language and tone of voice might come across on a screen, but real chemistry won’t.

For small businesses in particular, making sure you suss out an applicant’s attitude and fit for the company is essential. One rotten apple can easily ruin a whole team and letting tech take over the recruitment process, rather than just support it, is a quick way to put the stability of your company culture on the line.

Tech doesn’t need to be tailored, but your choices do

Ultimately, the best way to ensure that tech helps rather than hinders your HR is to realise that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to systems and solutions. As Steve Boese argues, even very similar organisations will likely have differing needs due to a range of factors like office set up, culture, employee demands and development priorities to name a few.

He does offer a few rules of thumb, however, for assessing different HR tech vendors such as sourcing reliable reviews, understanding what good user interface actually means for the employees who are actually going to use it and the ecosystem around the product, such as API’s and third party integration.

HR tech doesn’t have to hinder anyone

Just remember, HR tech is there to help you and the people in your company. It is not there to replace human interaction, professional relationships or good old fashioned conversations. You also shouldn’t implement apps for the sake of it – make sure they streamline and improve a process rather than creating the need for a whole load of new ones.

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