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Influencers Make the Business Case for HR Tech Investment

IBM CHRO Diane Gherson and others weigh in on what it takes to get C-suite approval.
By: | May 21, 2019 • 5 min read

Influence in HR technology comes from many places, takes many forms and continues to evolve over time. When the HRE/HR Tech Conference team met over the winter to work on this Influencers list, we knew it would be important to consider all aspects of influence. Some have more of a direct and immediate effect on products, while others have a more subtle yet longer-term impact. It’s safe to say all, however, are having an important and noticeable impact on where HR technology has been, where it is today and, perhaps most importantly, where it is heading. And that, above all else, informed the decision-making that went into compiling this list, which presents those being recognized in alphabetical order. Click here to see the Top 100 HR Tech Influencers.

Mark Stelzner
Founder/Managing Principal
Inflexion Advisors, LLC

 


What’s the single most dramatic shift you see happening in the HR tech space today?

The exciting (and relentless) pace of industry innovation is requiring unprecedented organizational agility. Whether due to legislative and regulatory changes, maintenance enhancements, or scheduled releases, employers must constantly triage and prioritize the absorption of net-new capabilities across their HR portfolio. Without thoughtful readiness, we are seeing organizations fall materially behind in the cloud.

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How can HR leaders best make the business case for HR technology investment?

Having secured approval for every business case we’ve ever authored, I can state with confidence that it always comes down to core alignment with the organization’s strategic objectives. A thorough and forensic discovery process provides the content, but the context is derived by exploring whether employee experience, cost reduction, cost avoidance, restructuring, de-risking, competitive pressures, and/or a foundation for growth are the drivers for enterprise transformation.

Are there certain strategies that are more effective than others when it comes to getting your workforce to use new HR technologies being put in place?

Although seemingly obvious, organizations should always put the employee at the center of every experience. Secure change advocates representing all population types, infuse their voices into your planning and test cycles, and continually audit the efficacy by confirming that device enablement, ease of access, speed of support, and multi-channel touches are foundational to any deployment.

Tim Sackett
President
HRU Technical Resources

 


What’s the single most dramatic shift you see happening in the HR tech space today?

Intelligent automation and artificial intelligence being built into technology that can take on so many of the tactical parts across every spectrum of what we do in HR, recruiting, payroll, benefits, LOD, compensation, etc. This type of technology is forcing organizations to rethink what it means to be in every single role under the HR umbrella.

In acquiring and implementing new technologies, what’s the one or two most common mistakes HR organizations make?

They don’t build in measurable performance indicators within the process and technology. I’ve never once had an adoption issue with my HR or TA tech implementations, because we make sure that using the technology will increase performance, and that performance is measured, so if you don’t use the technology you won’t be performing well. It pretty much ends all adoption issues, immediately.

How can HR leaders best make the business case for HR technology investment?

The exact same way that a finance leader, or operations leader, or a sales leader make that same case for the technology they need for their function to be successful. Build the business case around agreed upon business success measures for your organization and make your case. We are trying to build the space shuttle from scratch, we are trying to increase the talent of the organization, and I’ve yet to find an executive that doesn’t think that is the single most important part of their business.

Ravin Jesuthasan
Managing Director
Willis Towers Watson

 


What area of the HR function will be most impacted by emerging technologies, and why?

Virtually every aspect of HR is a candidate for some form of process or cognitive automation (i.e., AI). While we have seen much progress in recruiting given the data intensity and repetitive nature of the workflows, creating opportunities for advanced analytics and process automation, I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. As my co-author John Boudreau and I described in our recent book, Reinventing Jobs: A 4 Step Approach for Applying Automation to Work, leaders need to first deconstruct the job or workflow to categorize activities into 3 continuums in order to understand the optimal role and type of automation. The 3 continuums capture whether the work is repetitive vs. variable, independently performed vs. interactive and physical vs. mental.

What’s the single most dramatic shift you see happening in the HR tech space today?

It has been fascinating to see HR functions shift from their legacy focus on process-enablement technology to automation solutions that enable them to optimize the performance of their workforces through substitution of highly repetitive, independently performed rules-based activities; augmentation of more variable, often interactive work; and creation of new types of work that place greater emphasis on the more “human skills” like empathy, creativity, etc.

Are there certain strategies that are more effective than others when it comes to getting your workforce to use new HR technologies being put in place?

Start by defining the optimal talent experience (TX) to understand the specific outcome (behavior) you are looking for and deconstructing the underlying workflow to understand the role and type of automation to apply for various tasks. Understand that automation should either substitute, augment or create/transform human work and be clear about which of these outcomes you are trying to achieve.

Diane Gherson
Chief Human Resource Officer
IBM

 


How can HR leaders best make the business case for HR technology investment?

The most important place to start is the business pain point. In our case it was cost of replacing talent (this was self-funding and provided savings for other projects). Then it was investing in AI (skills inference, personalized learning platform, matching candidates to openings) to solve the skills gap (not self funding but strategically important). We funded that from using chat bots to take 40% of the volume from our HR service centers and by automating much of our operations, starting with payroll, travel reimbursement and HR controls.

In acquiring and implementing new technologies, what’s the one most common mistakes HR organizations can make?

We are now able to apply AI to employee data for social sentiment analysis, organization network analysis, skills inference, assessing flight risk, and so on. Just because we can look at our employees’ emails or social media activity or comments in Slack channels doesnt mean we should. Like all AI, we need to be transparent about where the data come from and what it is being used for. For example, our sentiment analysis can pick up tone, volume, and themes, but not what people are actually saying, or who is saying it. Email and social media activity are off-limits, for most of us that is an invasion of privacy.

Linda Brenner
Managing Director and Founder
Talent Growth Advisors

 


In acquiring and implementing new technologies, what’s the one or two most common mistakes HR organizations make?

  1.  Believing that technology is going to replace deep expertise. In Talent Acquisition, for example, no technology is going to replace an expert, knowledgeable, persuasive recruiter who can compel and convert a passive candidate with highly valued and scarce skills to become a new hire.
  2.  Buying a slick technology without objectively identifying what problem such a system needs to solve, how it will work, who will use it, and what measures will define whether it’s been successful. Without this rigor up front, technology is acquired but not properly implemented, configured, integrated or optimized. The time it then takes for the company to realize the value of their investment, if ever, can be longer than the technology is relevant.

Are there certain strategies that are more effective than others when it comes to getting your workforce to use new HR technologies being put in place?

Good, old-fashioned, boring change management. Technology is embraced and optimized when a thorough impact analysis has been completed, in advance, for every group that will be affected by it. Only then can a company effectively engage the organization in closing the gaps between the current state and the future state and preparing for a new way of working. Closing these gaps may require any or all of the following: org design changes, training, communication, performance management changes, systems access, etc. Bona fide change management is the key to rapid adoption and realizing the value of new technologies.

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How can HR leaders best make the business case for HR technology investment?

HR leaders can best make the case by expressing and quantifying the technology’s benefits in economic terms – the language of business.  Appropriate HR technology investments provide efficiency and effectiveness benefits, presently and in the future.  For example, investing in automation that interfaces multiple systems can greatly enhance efficiency now, while investing in technology that supports data integration and deep analysis can greatly impact the effectiveness of future decisions.

The greater the value of collective benefits, the more compelling the business case for technology.  It is usually easier to quantify efficiency benefits, but invariably effectiveness is more valuable; hence the need to sharpen skills to express effectiveness benefits in quantifiable (economic) terms.

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