Attending business conferences and events of the like can be a blessing or a curse. The thing is, you can never really tell how these things will turn out until you physically attend them. Having been in the business for a while, you will undoubtedly have been invited to at least a handful of these functions, not all of which will catch your eye.
Last month, I attended the HR Tech Summit hosted by Human Resources Director magazine in Singapore. I was honoured to be given the opportunity to fly over to Singapore for this event, but if I’m honest I didn’t really expect much. Or, more precisely speaking, I didn’t really know what to expect, except maybe some tech geeks going off on the latest algorithm that was supposedly able to help solve the problem of human resources. But what was the problem with human resources?
Before I go on to answer this question, let me start by introducing my key takeaway from the HR Tech Summit, that HR tech is not about tech.
Not a Rant
To say the HR Tech Summit isn’t about tech is not a dig at the rate of change in HR tech, which, let’s face it, could use more momentum when compared to that of other faculties.
But let’s backtrack to our initial question. What is the problem with human resources? The biggest challenge HR faces today is not the disruption of technology, nor the battle to create innovation. The biggest challenge HR faces today is with people like me. People who’ve lost sight of what human resources is truly about and have forgotten that people should be the focus of HR.
I think by far the greatest takeaway for me at the HR Tech Summit was this concept of “people first”. More than being about this new technology that allows HR leaders to elevate their game and HR function in the company, HR tech is about serving the people. To put the focus back on the human element of HR and using technology as a solution to better achieve this goal.
Tech in the HR space
The truth is, tech is moving fast. While the technology in the HR space is not moving at quite the speed of, say, the finance sector, it is nonetheless moving at a speed that warrants some major attention.
By now we’re all pretty familiar with the consumerisation of technology, as well as the rise of AI capabilities in the HR scene. At Links, we’ve even hosted HR Leaders events on the very topic of AI, so, in reality, HR professionals are not blind to the advances that are happening in the HR space.
Then why is tech still seen as such a big deal in HR and the world at large, and why are we seeing things like “Are you ready?” and “AI Disruptions” when referring to technology?
Nutan Singapuri, a speaker at the HR Tech Summit and Senior Director Human Resources for LinkedIn Asia Pacific, described it best when talking about the 4th Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0:
“It’s not about the existence of change,
but the pace of which change is happening.”
With the pace of change that is taking place in today’s technology, leaders and especially HR leaders are having a hard time keeping up and finding the proper strategy to integrate technology into their HR functions.
Thanks to the heat that is placed on their backs to adopt these new measures in order to stay competitive, it has given rise to the unhealthy practice of forced integration. With many suffering from a blind attitude towards HR tech adoption, where users are almost thrown into the deep end and expected to learn and make the new technology work for their process.
The problem with this is that it’s a vicious cycle. A cycle of new technology being forced onto HR teams without the proper means to utilise it, a slow drop off in adoption with teams using the technology as a half measure until a “better” piece of HR technology is once again thrown at them.
It’s really not a new problem, and definitely not a problem specific to HR professionals. With shiny new tech, there is always the challenge of adoption and integration. This was why it was very interesting listening to the different speakers and advocates of technology at the HR tech summit. Having sat through the entire day of speeches, the one thing that they all had in common was this idea of thinking about the why, before worrying about the how and the what, the proper attitude towards tech adoption in HR.
3 Key takeaways on HR tech adoption
1. Simplify before you digitise
Instead of plugging in a new technology and hoping it will clean up the whole operation, HR leaders should first examine their process. By first examining and simplifying the process, HR leaders get a chance to get a better understanding of what is redundant and which areas need more support. This way, when the new technology is actually integrated into the HR function, it can do a better job of assisting the HR team and elevating their role, instead of adding to the line of tasks and responsibilities.
2. Define your destination
An area where many fail is in seeing that HR tech (as useful as it may be) is only the vehicle. To effectively implement or put any tool to use it is crucial that a goal or destination is defined. While it can be tempting to adjust our own behaviour or process to the new technology as it requires less work in the short run, this approach is actually unhelpful and can have a detrimental effect over time.
To draw an example with HR portals, from the perspective of the HR professional, it may be a small inconvenience for them to adjust themselves to a new technology instead of customising the solution to fit their processes. The problem with this attitude, however, is that it fails to account for all the other people in the company. By adjusting the destination (the people) to the vehicle (HR tools & technology), HR leaders are limiting what HR can do and forgoing the bigger picture.
3. HR is first & foremost about the people
With so much riding on the backs of HR leaders, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and feel a need to impress. It is not wrong for HR to think of new ways to elevate their function, nor is it bad to have creative people working in HR. However, the challenge is with setting the right priorities, and HR is first and foremost about the people. At the end of the day, it is not the HR’s job to innovate, but to look after the human resources of the company and to serve and optimise their functions.