5 tips for making smart, ethical HR tech decisions

Health, safety and ethics are the new trifecta of HR’s mandate, says HR thought leader John Sumser. But, unlike many other aspects of the HR role–in which leaders are encouraged to take quick and decisive action–these are issues that can’t be rushed.

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John Sumser

That’s a tall order, especially given the still-unfolding pandemic. Sumser points to recent research that COVID-19 can set off conditions like diabetes in formerly healthy patients.

“We are going to be sifting through a whole generation of disability types and ideas in the wake of the pandemic,” he says. “We really don’t understand the consequences just yet.”

Hear John Sumser’s take on HR and technology decision-making amid uncertainty at the free, virtual HR Tech Conference, set for Oct. 27-30.

As the pandemic’s impact on the workplace continues to evolve, technology will undoubtedly play a role. New technology to address the health and safety impacts of COVID-19 is already exploding, and Sumser predicts it will come in waves: physical health monitoring and screening, office traffic and control mechanisms, safety forecasting and, finally, workforce health assessment and monitoring.

“ERP systems, which are mostly a shell for an organization’s data, will falter as point solutions prevail,” he adds.

To make ethical and forward-thinking decisions about the tools in that increasingly crowded marketplace, Sumser advises HR leaders to follow five principles:

    • Take your time. “Do not hurry,” he says. “Do not be bullied into hurrying.” Have an ethics review for reopening plans, and don’t demand employees take unnecessary risk–otherwise, you risk class-action litigation.
    • Understand the bare-minimum requirement. Know what is expected at the moment and use that as your guide.
    • Take a systems view. Never buy HR tech unless you understand the specific problem it solves–and what it doesn’t.
    • Have perspective. Always ask yourself, Sumser says, if your technology decision-making is recreating the past or advancing the organization into the future.
    • Know your back-up plan. Have a clear picture of what it will take to discontinue usage if you’ve made a mistake.
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And, he adds, “when you take a risk, make sure that the risk falls on you before it falls on others.”


For more information and to register for the free, virtual HR Tech Conference, click HERE.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].