2020 Will Be HR’s Year to Flip the Script

We sure have flipped the script on HR, haven’t we? Suddenly, the whole world is going digital, everything is mobile, and the people you’re hiring and managing have better tech on their wrists than you used to find and onboard them. The entire HR-technology industry is talking about the future of work, the role of HR and next-generation technologies, AI (artificial intelligence) and IA (intelligent automation), and digital transformation. The day someone forwarded you an article on the impact of blockchain on the employment relationship, you probably wondered what could possibly be coming next.

HR, you feel no different than the workforce you support. You are part of the workforce, and the strain you feel when your skill set, resources and capabilities are stretched beyond current state is the same strain the rest of the workforce feels. We are all experiencing the digital age, the advent of new technology, the chasm between the way it feels outside of work and the way it feels inside of work. Do you order a new laptop or check your vacation balance
(inside of work) as easily as you order a Lyft or check your bank-account balance (outside of work)? That’s the strain we feel–the need to do more, better, faster work with the same tools and capabilities we had 20 years ago. We need to close the gap. And HR, you’re the ones to do it.

Flipping the Script

The irony in all of this is that you, HR, need to flip the script on yourselves. The future of work is here today–that’s the first and most important realization–but it’s just not evenly distributed. What’s most important about that statement is that HR leaders are going to have to make decisions about their roles: What do you want to be great at? And what is it OK to be just OK at?

The next important realization is around the role of next-generation technologies; they’re not to serve the HR function and make it easier to handle the workforce, but rather to serve the workforce. And if you’ve served the workforce and the workforce uses tools you provide, the organization adapts in a way that the workforce will trust HR to make their jobs better, versus HR doing things to track them.

To truly flip the script in HR technology, we need to back up the bus. In the 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, 74% of respondents cited HR technology as important or very important, and the same percentage will increase their level of investment in HR technology in the next three years. Yet, few believe they are getting the outcomes or value they expected from that spend. Why? Because all we’ve been doing for the past 40 years is transitioning from one technology to another. This will not make HR more strategic, and you will never realize the value of your spend if all you do is transition.

There’s a big difference between transition and transformation. We need to think about how to transform the way people work, the roles in the organization regarding data and what HR people are doing. If you’re actually transforming, technology will play a key role and it will make HR more strategic. If all you’re really doing is transitioning with technology, that won’t happen.

Putting Things in Perspective

In fact, our entire view of HR technology needs to be flipped. Employee experience will change the agenda of HR over the next five years–guaranteed–but most organizations will fail, especially if they approach employee experience from a technology-only standpoint versus from a transformation perspective around how people work. 

It’s really the concept of deployment. There’s a big difference between implementation of technology and deployment of capability. So many organizations today implement technology hoping it’s a silver bullet versus truly deploying capability. When I deploy capability, it means I’m transforming the organization; true transformation means making changes to how people work. That’s not easy stuff, but it becomes easier when you think about technology in
terms of impact. 

The way organizations need to think about elevating employee experience is really made up of four key concepts. Mindset means having a shared vision as to what the employee experience is going to be, then designing an experience for people rather than for HR. Think about how you’re going to generate data and output from processes you design. If you’ve done all of that, you’re in a position to select or evaluate your technology.

When you flip the script in these ways, HR will transform from a function designed in the past to be a tactical, reactive function to one that’s a proactive, prescriptive and strategic function. I hope to see you at the next HR Technology Conference & Exposition, where my session will explore the difference between digital and technology and take a fresh look at the role HR needs to play to be successful today. It’s our time, HR!


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Jason Averbook
Jason Averbook is HRE’s People Side of Digital columnist. Averbook is a leading analyst, thought leader and consultant in the area of HR, the future of work and the impact technology has on that future. He is the co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, a global consultancy helping organizations shape their future workplace by broadening executive mindset to rethink how to better design and deliver employee services that meet the expectations of the workforce and the needs of the business. He can be emailed at [email protected]