The Convergence of HR and Technology

By-

Lucky Kulkarni, Group Head HR, Jeena & Company

Over the years, particularly in recent times, I’ve witnessed Human Resource planning and management undergoing dynamic shifts – from a department within the realms of a conference hall to holding the chief position in leadership circles driving strategic growth. Being an all-pervasive function, it trickles down to each stratum and level of management, decision making, planning and implementation. Defining roles and responsibilities throughout the organisation, HR can no longer remain a traditional function, and must keep pace along with technology in shaping organisations. The convergence of tech with conventional HR practices is not only producing some overwhelming results, but also opening new grounds for HR to thrive. Many large organisations have relapsed to inefficient states, not being able to amalgamate the HR and leadership functions with the latest technology, therefore, making it a paramount criterion.

I see the need for digital transformation a top priority in the minds of many leaders throughout the world now. These technological changes directly impact multiple functions way beyond HR, communication channels, analytics and more. Tech has already changed the way HR hires, trains, remunerates, collects information and stores it. Now, it’s shaping itself to do much more and organizations will need to be ready for it.

According to a report by KPMG, from a total of 1200 HR executives from 64 countries surveyed, only a low 39% of HR executives are confident enough to adopt the change to harness resources and insights to redefine obsolete models. While some HR leaders remain perplexed by so many new additions, they also struggle to adapt to these digital times where work cubicles are essentially just laptops, and decisions are taken on the move via smartphones. Such tech blasphemy could be fatal to the health of an organization.

How has technology affected HR functions and roles?

The leading trends impacting HR practices today include big data, social media, mobile apps, cloud technology and the SaaS business model. Automation leads to efficiency and streamlining. Let me take you through a chronological history (and prediction) of this marriage between HR and tech:

Before internet was used to connect with job seekers, a letter or face to face conversation in case of walk-ins was the dominant method. With business models now operating online as well as offline, an online applicant tracking system is how most businesses go about their operations now. Online job portals are now involved, and recruiters have access to the best talent at their doorstep with minimum efforts. Technological tools, presentations and demos, assimilated with regular sessions, curtail the managerial labour put into orientation, training and placement within the organisation. The jobs can easily be matched with the candidates.

When it comes to mapping the progress and performance of the employees, tech again comes to the rescue. Data is far easily gathered and collected in a synchronised way today, using dedicated software often customized to the organisation’s needs. Data analysis of employee performance is essential for HRs to better communicate with the employees. Automated HR solutions ease bundling of information, assisting HR in taking a more strategic role in the organisation. From the basic tasks of recruiting and personnel administration, tech has certainly helped HR grow as a strategic partner in the success of the firm.

As work cultures evolve, employees are increasingly treated as customers in today’s organisations, with their needs viewed significantly and valuably. For example, it’s now possible to roll out (and measure) various employee wellness programs for the workforce that are personalized to their needs, thanks to our access to data and information, and tools that can let us customize employee experiences. The result? A more engaged, more satisfied workforce that ultimately delivers superior productivity and efficiency, thanks to effectiveness of these programs.

Smartphones are sure to dominate the HR arena for the sheer simplicity and multiplicity of use they provide in executing day to day professional activities.  A team full of zeal requires direction, and I see face-to-face interactions remaining the best bet available in the foreseeable future. Apps offer the benefit of erasing distance and time hindrance, and their importance is foremost.

The open channel of communication – Social Media – plays an active role as well. Linkedin and Facebook are increasingly used to recruit quality personnel, with my own organisation havings seen a steady uptick in the proportion of candidate we screen from these platforms. Of course, these platforms also enhance employee engagement and interactions (while also delivering a more curated impression of the workplace to potential hires). Every decently sized company today has a social media presence to reach out to its desired audience and take feedback too. Organisations also rely on social media to update customers on their products, share success stories via blogs, or attract customers through deals and discounts. An HR professional can keep up with the industry trends, news, technology and competition through social media.

Cloud applications like SaaS apps play a prominent role for storing and collecting data on employees, stats, documents and other information that can be accessed online anytime or archived to maintain security. But organisations may want to look at whether cloud services add to the current value of the business; otherwise, they might prove to be just an additional burden –  they’re not meant for everyone.

Centralisation is another advantage. With offices interconnected, information flow is unhindered today. Cloud solutions deliver advantages to product development workforce management and business integration, a fairly simple example of this is Google Docs. Payroll management has also been automated and centralised to yield uniformity of job specifications, roles and remuneration to the employees.

Technology is charting new routes for HR via advancements in IT, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The ease of operations ups the comfort level while simultaneously saving valuable time. What organisations should focus on though – is ensuring the presence of qualified talent to handle these technologies, and executives who are ready to take the push and plunge to drive their organisations towards success. This will involve quick adaptability, and a harmonious integration of digital and traditional labour. The right technological innovations, when converged with optimal human performance, can lead to a unique standing of an organisation in the business spheres.

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