Is tech the future of high-performance HR?


Talent acquisition leaders gathered in London to discuss the future of this crucial business function…

 

In some firms, HR is taking a more central role in business strategy and success. This is because more businesses understand their people and their teams as the key to success. In fact, recent Gallup stats show that engaged teams are 21% more likely to be profitable whilst companies in the top 20% of worker engagement realise a 41% reduction in absenteeism and 59% less turnover. As it is HR that has most influence over these crucial aspects of business practise it could lead to HR getting spread too thin – so what can be done to help?

Automate to free up time

The answer, according to Zoe Walters, People Director at Conde Nast, is the proliferation of technology in HR practise. “Tech, innovation, automation and AI can have a positive impact on HR which can make room for core business partnerships to flourish. I have noticed the HR Business Partner role is shifting in terms of the activities and tasks that are commercially expected from HR Business Partners. No longer is it transactional but core consultancy and adding value through advisory. Automation itself helps flexibility which helps the business and lessens burdens of transactional tasks, giving more time to strategic priorities,” she tells HR Grapevine.

I think that being aware of the latest tech, and what competitors are using, enables us to further accelerate and automate our own tech

With these technological aides able to reliably take over the more bureaucratic or data-driven tasks such as payroll, holiday allowance, HR practitioners’ time is freed up to truly interact with staff and be present within the company. Positively, HR is seemingly aware of these benefits. According to Gore-Motley research, around 70% of all HR practitioners are already either currently investing in some form of automation and AI, or are looking to do so within the next 12 months.

 
 

90% of HR professionals say integrating their HR technology is a top priority in 2019

Research, which polled 500 HR workers across the UK, found that the top HR priority for 2019 was increasing workplace productivity

3 in 5 UK businesses are using over five workplace systems and apps every day

 

Data driven

It’s not just for repetitive tasks that automation and AI can help; advanced analytics systems are capable of interacting with staff to deliver data on performance and present these in a usable format. Yet as Kate James, Head of People Operations at UK-based fintech Curve states, it’s what HR chooses to do with this data that makes the difference. “As a company we work with objectives and key results (OKRs) which have to be communicated, tracked, measured, reviewed and sometimes realigned. This feeds into understanding not just the achievement of business goals but identifying learning and development opportunities and assisting with performance management and career development,” she explains.

“Our AI digital learning strategy focuses on enabling our employees to become masters of their own learning and development by giving them multiple content sources and the capability to create their own learning pathways. It also allows us to interface between different areas of the business such as between finance and HR and marketing and HR.”

To grab the very real opportunity that tech presents, HR must overcome a traditional reticence and become intimate with technology

‘Don’t be scared’

However, despite benefits to both more cerebral tasks, and menial too, Jason Fowler, HR Director at Fujitsu, tells us that whilst innovative solutions exist, HR is hesitant to embrace its potential. “To grab the very real opportunity that tech presents, HR must overcome a traditional reticence and become intimate with technology: explore it, understand it and find ways to use it to create better outcomes. HR also needs to make the case for tech being a means of creating value, not just creating efficiency (i.e. cutting headcount cost),” he explains.

 

Fewer than 20% of companies give employees access to mobile HR apps

75% of hiring and talent managers use either applicant tracking or recruiting software to improve their hiring process

47% of companies have HR software that is over seven years old

 
 

Quick recruitment wins

One quick win for HR – even if it is, as Fowler describes, reticent about implementing tech – could be to apply technology to hiring. Despite 41% of HR practitioners stating that they’re ‘too busy’ to reform their hiring practices, a growing market has evolved to counteract the detrimental effects of the traditionally-human-centric resourcing bias with easy-to-use and highly effective software.

Automation itself helps flexibility which helps the business and lessens burdens of transactional tasks, giving more time to strategic priorities

With such software, HR is able to almost completely remove any unconscious biases or preferences from the process and therefore create a more diverse and inclusive workforce, which ClearCompany research states can improve performance by 35%. In fact, data from Allegis states than when blind recruitment technology is used, such as those able to utilise AI to remove key bias-fuelling information from CVs, companies are likely to increase their female representation by a magnitude of five.

 
 

Will HR improve?

Following on from Fowler’s understanding, it appears that technology will only improve HR if HR chooses to use it. Without widespread adoption, the likelihood is that HR will fall behind the ever-evolving professional sector – waving goodbye to benefits such as data-driven practise, a reduction in menial tasks and the eradication of bias in crucial processes. Yet, Fowler is optimistic this needn’t be the case. “HR can be the voice that turns fears of tech decimating jobs into real plans that put people and tech together to stimulate new ideas, new frontiers and an improved version of the employment model,” he concludes.

 
 

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