Technology mastery; the next frontier for HR

nex-gen-tech

The last couple of years have seen a constant buzz in HR circles on the impact of technology. Discussions center around ‘will technology take jobs away’, are there ways to reduce unconscious bias’, Is there a better way to get real-time feedback from employees’, can talent analytics bring business value’ and so on. There is a lot of interest in what technology can offer in the near future, so let’s crystal gaze and look at new technology innovations that are going to change the face of HR.

Talent Analytics: It has become a business imperative for C-Suite executives to make continuous efforts to understand the workforce in greater depth. It helps them to recruit, develop and retain the best talent more and more efficiently.

Leveraging talent analytics technologies will help Organizations do much more than tracking fundamental performance indicators. Talent analytics can be leveraged to identify high potential employees, predict employee turnover, support the succession planning, and eliminate unconscious bias while selecting talent.

Artificial Intelligence: A significant number of jobs will be replaced by AI technology.  Studies show that almost every other thing professionals do on an average workday can already be automated by AI. BBC has predicted that nearly half of the most commonly held careers are above a 50 percent risk of automation before 2035! Examples include helpdesks, Personal assistants (schedule appointments, reminders), Resume shortlisting and many more.

Blockchain: Many of you would have heard/read about Bitcoin, the digital currency developed in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. It’s a complex design built on Blockchain. Essentially, Blockchain is a distributed database which facilities the creation and transfer of digital records without third party intervention.

A typical use case in HR is that of a comprehensive ‘employment transcript’. In a world where the average tenure of employees continues to shrink, there is no single source that consolidates information about an employee. Information of an employee’s work history, roles handled, performance, compensation and trajectory, etc. that can be accessed by multiple stakeholders in the employment chain can be very valuable in employee verification, role fitment and succession planning.

Chatbots: Chatbots can perform specific tasks for you based on voice or text-based interaction. The concept is not new, they’ve been around for many years, however, improvements in machine learning and natural language capability have transformed these tools, making interaction with a Chabot seem decisively human-like and capable of performing complex tasks on your behalf.

Chatbots in the HR space have already emerged in the market and some of the current ones perform simple tasks such as helping employees get their leave balance or payslip enquiries via an e-mail request. Employee feedback is another area where Chatbots are being deployed. Imagine a system that can randomly gather feedback from employees on a daily basis without affecting their work schedule and provide you with real-time analytics and insights!

Augmented Reality: The increased use of devices/ wearable will help provide information tailored to the context and space in which an employee works. The information can appear as visual or audio supplements that help an individual more efficiently undertake a task. PCs, mobile phones, and tablets all are active platforms for AR, but smartglasses, and their hands-free use, will drive the next wave for AR.

Examples include mobile phone apps that will track an employee’s training and direct him/her to materials tailored to their style of learning. Imagine a scenario where an employee points his/her phone at a poster (say a new employee policy) and it takes them to a video, an online training course, or a book that could offer more in-depth information on the topic.

Virtual reality: Virtual Reality in HR holds the potential to transform the future of work. Virtual reality is the computer-generated simulation of three-dimensional images, giving users a immersive and realistic experience that connects at a deep sensory and cognitive level.

VR can be a great tool for screening candidates on skills needed for a position because recruiters can use VR to remotely assess a candidate’s set of skills using work simulation tests. It can also be used in Onboarding of employees where candidates can understand the environment, and the types of people they’d be working with. They can see what a typical day would be like and virtually meet potential colleagues.

Why these developments are significant: Preliminary findings from a state-of-the-art study by Patrick Wright and Lee Dyer of Cornell University suggest that the effect of technology on human resources will, like so many other professions, be profound.  The key words to keep in mind are “faster, better, smarter.”  Tomorrow’s technology will require HR professionals to stop thinking in terms of months and years and start thinking in terms of weeks and days.  This will require a change in mindset from being a strategic partner within an organization to being a change agent.

“We can’t do HR the traditional way.  We have to blow it up and entirely reinvent the way we do HR” Scott Pitasky, director of strategic growth for Amazon.com

 

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Technology mastery; the next frontier for HR

From lack of data to the problem of plenty – the new talent management challenge

From lack of data to the problem of plenty – the new talent management challenge

Taking decisions based on data has always been a best practice, but the problem till recently has been ‘lack of data’ or ‘not enough data’ to enable good decisions. With quantification of talent management practices taking centre stage, the need for the right data has become paramount. With every HR professional gearing up for a data-driven HR practice and with the explosion of data analytics processes, there is a need to pause and consider the need to manage data properly and be mindful of problems due to data overload.

A small example (unrelated to HR but still relevant) is with reference to career planning. A middle school student till about 10-15 years back only knew about a few career options (even though there were plenty of options available) and suffered from a ‘lack of information’ syndrome. Today with Google and other search engines, the amount of information available on career options is mind boggling. When you talk to parents, teachers and students, they see a huge problem here; with so much data, the confusion gets compounded. The effort needed to sift through oceans of data and identify what is relevant to one’s particular need/context is becoming a key challenge today.

Back to the problem of data management and HR. It is a fact that even leading organizations feel overwhelmed and have difficulty making decisions with the mass of information available. One of the biggest challenges is drill down the data to gain meaningful insights, but if there is no clarity, it can become a big challenge too.

So what are the key issues one can think of with reference to management of talent data? I am outlining a few below and encourage readers to share their perspectives and experiences as well.

  • Human error: Human error is natural, and there is a tendency for people to go searching for data that supports their beliefs and biases and not the other way around.
  • Confusion over data ownership: Lack of clarity on ownership of talent data is a huge problem that affects HR Practioners. With some much data being collected real-time, if there is no clarity on who owns talent data, it can lead to a huge ‘opportunity loss’.
  • Lack of right talent and processes: If you have a lot of data but don’t have the right people and tools to make sense of the data, then you can be sure that the data will not get transformed into meaningful insights.
  • Over reliance on data: A lot of managers and decision makers feel the urge to try everything possible with data. But with so much data and limited time and resources available, it takes away the focus from critical issues if not properly prioritised.
  • The infrastructure conundrum: If an organization’s technical infrastructure is not up to speed to accept and interpret multiple sources of data, then there is little hope in managing or analysing the data for actionable insights.
  • Analysis Paralysis: The biggest problem of all is doing nothing with the data organizations have spent time, money and resources collecting.

With talent data becoming the hub for much of enterprise reporting, the talent analytics function has to be geared to support requests from all areas of the company: legal, finance, planning, payroll as well as HR. As demand for reports and analytics is growing, there is a definite need to focus on the right talent, processes and technology that would augment the HR team in managing talent data well to provide strategic inputs linked directly to the business priorities.

From lack of data to the problem of plenty – the new talent management challenge

HR’s Data Conundrum

data conundrum

Organisations and processes within organizations are evolving faster than the speed of thought. Progressive organizations are very clearly establishing robust mechanisms to look ahead and not get bogged down in just managing current business-as-usual issues. With technological advancements driving the change agenda in organizations, it has become imperative to check if people who work with/manage the technology are evolving and adapting themselves at the same speed.

The most important driver of this change is data. How the use of data is transforming business and people management practices in organisations requires to be studied with utmost attention. Although one may argue that data has always been the core decision making tool in good organisations, there was always a limit to what could be done with data. Specifically from a talent management perspective, the scope for data analytics today is tremendous. The HR leader of today is moving from reactive, need-based data analytics to pre-emptive, predictive analytics that is going to change the way talent is managed.

To give you an example, from need-based, planned, employee engagement surveys, companies are moving into continuous, on-the-fly feedback mechanisms to be in touch with employees and their changing needs. Rather than take action after an event has happened, the future will see prediction and pre-emptive action.

One of the important aspects in this evolution is the need for specialists. There is a consensus within the HR community on the need for specialists. Recruitment which was once a part of HR is today an independent function handled by specialists with experience in sourcing, attracting and selecting the right talent. Talent analytics, in my view is certain to be an independent function in the near future and hence needs to be managed by specialists with a dotted line relationship with HR.

It would be fair to say that HR function has come a long way in the last two decades but is currently at a cross-road. Those in the profession who will embrace this data explosion and prepare themselves to ride it will clearly be the future leaders of the talent management world.

The goal of the talent analytics function of the future will be to turn data into information, information into insight and insight into pre-emptive action.

HR’s Data Conundrum