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HR Tech Influencers Look to the Future of Work

Accenture's Ellyn Shook and others reflect on how HR technology is changing the way people work.
By: | May 7, 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.

Holger Mueller
Vice President and Principal Analyst
Constellation Research Inc.

 


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

Hands down AI. For the first time enterprises can collect and analyze all electronic information, including the digital ‘exhaust’ of their people and combine it with deep learning powered neural networks. This means that for the first time best practices, know how and just signals can be used to automate, suggest and make (hopefully) better decisions. This is ‘real’ digital transformation, or Digital Transformation 2.0.

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

HR organizations tend to think in the status quo and not the status to be of their enterprise. Making sure that it is not yester year’s best practices that interested, but forward looking, future proved and game changing best practices are introduced and implemented is the key to make HR the trusted partner enterprises need in the era of business best practice uncertainty.

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

Enterprises are under pressure to become more agile and move faster. The demand for enterprises acceleration is what board rooms are confronted this. HR leaders need to find ways how to empower and make the people leaders in their enterprise more efficient and better. When HR leaders can show how technology can help their enterprises accelerate, funding from the board is not only likely, but almost default.

Don Weinstein
Corporate Vice President, Global Product and Technology
ADP

 

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

We believe that every domain within the HR function is undergoing major changes based on the application of new digital and cognitive technologies such as machine learning, edge computing, biometrics and blockchain, among others. In more transactional domains, like benefits and workforce management, the greatest impact will come in the form of massively automating tasks that today require human intervention such as answering queries or updating schedules. Other areas, like pay and performance, will be transformed from static processes into much more dynamic functions including the ability for workers to get paid in real-time or on more personalized schedules.

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

The explosive growth of people data and analytics is transforming HR from a “black box” into a more scientific, data-driven function.  This shift is similar to one that has been taking place in Marketing, which has been transformed by digital marketing platforms to the point where they can now predict the impact of a change in ad spending to the fraction of a penny. The same change is starting to take place in HCM, where we spend a tremendous amount of time and money on people programs, and are now asking tough questions about what actually works and can we prove that with data?

How is HR technology changing the way people work?

The biggest change taking place in the world of work today is the changing nature of the workforce itself.  In particular, we are experiencing rapid growth of agile organizations with dynamic and flexible talent pools comprised of traditional employees, gig workers, contractors, alumni, even robots and more.  And exciting new HR technologies are enabling organizations to tap into these varying pools of talent, bring them in from the shadows, and develop much more effective strategic workforce plans for directing work to the most productive sources in a concept we call “Total Talent Management.”

David Ludlow
Group Vice President, Product Management
SAP SuccessFactors

 


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

The emergence of advanced technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, digital assistants, and continuous feedback loops offer the opportunity to drastically change the way HR services are delivered to employees.  By leveraging these technologies, we can completely reimagine employee self-service and manager self-service by injecting consumer-like experiences into HR technology that can nudge, recommend, suggest and personalize the employee experience—just like s/he experiences with any consumer website. Embedding feedback capabilities to close out the process will enable HR to continually monitor and improve the process.

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

Too often, the focus of deploying HR technology is to take an existing process, map it to the technology, and deliver it to managers and employees without asking some very basic questions: What is the value the manager and/or employee receives from that process? Is it clear? Is it simple? Is there a value-add? Were the processes and related workflows designed with the end user in mind or was it more a response to getting the process out of the HR department? HR technology alone cannot make a process usable. It plays a role but so does the complexity of the process itself.

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

Traditional HR business cases for technology investment have been based on efficiency and cost:  how much cost can we reduce in HR and in HR systems? While still important, we also need to ask new questions. What is the cost of a bad user experience in terms of frustration, morale, and engagement? How do employees feel about their companies when the HR systems they use are based on technologies and processes designed 20 years ago? How much time is lost searching for data and information and how often is it wrong or outdated? Admittedly, these questions are hard to quantify but increasingly important when considering HR technology investments.

Stacey Harris
Vice President of Research and Analytics
Sierra-Cedar Inc.

 


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

The two biggest mistakes organizations make, based on our research data—is a lack of resourcing and treating change management as a project. Thirty-four percent of organizations said they under resourced their implementation projects, especially when it came to their own internal team members. Business acumen is a critical skill set in all modern implementation efforts, and organizations tend to invest more resources in project management or technical requirements when allocating time. Those organizations that invest in continuous change management, versus project-based, changed management—on average see 19% higher business outcomes. Three years in a row we’ve seen ongoing change management efforts align with higher adoption levels and better business outcomes.

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?

Simply measuring HR Technology use improves adoption metrics, only 10% of organizations measure the use of their HR Technology environments. Few organizations have goals for what percentage of their workforce should be accessing the application, and even less are paying attention to the percentage of employees that go around the system and get their HR processes done elsewhere. If an application is not being utilized, organizations need to figure out why and address the underlying issues. If managers and employees are only using the system when they absolutely have to use it, then the promised value of a data-driven organization is unlikely to be achieved.

How is HR technology changing the way people work?

When used effectively HR Technology applications provide both managers and employees with data and insights to help make more informed decisions about the work itself or an employee’s individual career. Organizations that have embraced HR applications as a part of their strategic management tools, versus a compliance monitoring system—are finding that much of the minutia and frustration of work can be alleviated through direct access between the data and decision makers; for example a shift management tool that allows works to work out their own schedule with their colleagues, reduces manager stress, employee frustrations, and low engagement. Organizations that provide weekly wages, benefit contact information, remaining PTO, and coverage calendars all in an easy-to-access mobile environment for employees reduce stress but also allow the employee the autonomy to make informed career decisions.

Ellyn Shook
Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer
Accenture

 


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

Businesses are waking up to a new source of growth—vast amounts of data on work and their workforce, enabled by technology, that has the power to unlock the potential of their people. The responsible use of this data can drive stronger business performance—including greater agility, innovation and productivity—and can improve the lives of employees. Yet, it’s not without risk, as we know from the consumer space.  Accenture’s recent research found that 62% of organizations are using workforce data today, but alarmingly, only 30% of leaders are highly confident they are using that data responsibly. HR has a real opportunity to engage the entire C-suite to unlock the value of this data and doing so in a responsible way, with transparency that builds trust.  Because trust is the ultimate currency in the digital age.

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

It’s common to over-rotate on the technology itself, however, the most important source of competitive advantage for an organization is its people.  Striking the right balance is key—to use the best of technology and the insights it offers to elevate people.  To do that well, organizations need to involve their people in the design, co-creating solutions with them that help them reach their full potential.  It’s at the intersection of intelligent technology and human ingenuity where the magic happens.

How is HR technology changing the way people work?

HR technology and the rise of intelligent technology in general is not only changing how we work, but the work itself. Machines now handle the low-touch repetitive work, enabling us to move people into roles that are higher touch, higher value, more fulfilling and require insight and compassion—things that humans do best. For example, instead of processing candidate applications, individuals are connecting with candidates, developing relationships with new talent sources and gleaning insights from sourcing data. We’re starting to see new roles not only HR but across our organization, so we’ve stopped doing workforce planning and instead do what we call work planning—determining what human capabilities are needed to complete the work with the help of technology, and investing in those skills.

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