Influencers Discuss HR Tech’s Dramatic Shifts

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.

Erica Volini
U.S. Human Capital Leader
Deloitte Consulting LLP


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

There will not be an HR function that is not impacted in a significant way. Over the past few years, the areas that have seen the biggest transformation have been learning, talent acquisition and performance management. Over the next few years, I believe there is a huge opportunity in compensation–in particular as it relates to the shifts in work, in jobs and in skills. We should also expect to see a significant uptick in the use of AI across all functional areas.

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

The emergence of platforms that enable you to automate the flow of work throughout the end-to-end process. While we’ve automated the transactions through the current HR systems, the idea of being able to automate the entire end-to-end process to create a truly integrated, personalized and contextualized experience is a game-changer for the HR technology space. It not only will enable a better experience today, but will also allow for the continued absorption of new and emerging technologies over time.

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 thinking about how and when the workforce will leverage the new technology and center the roll-out strategy in that context. Individuals learn best when they are learning in the context of the work that they are doing–that is the premise for “learning in the flow of work” and should be applied to the adoption of new technology as well. In addition, define the personas within the workforce that will be leveraging the technology beyond the typical “HR-Manager-Employee” roles. In today’s world, the workforce is way more nuanced than that, and to get true adoption, change-management strategies have to reflect a higher level of differentiation in terms of the types of workers and types of work they perform.

Cecile Alper-Leroux
Vice President of Human Capital Management Innovation
Ultimate Software


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

Other than the obvious compliance-tracking functions that will be replaced by robotic process automation, performance management will be most dramatically impacted–and it needs to be. How we assess people’s contributions to the organization, and their impact on other people, their teams, and the work community will be enabled by perceptive technologies and cognitive computing, all part of the umbrella of artificial-intelligence technologies. With the ability to deduce meaning and motive from people’s actions and words through interactive or passive distributed technology, leaders will be able to deeply understand people and what makes them most productive, fulfilled, and driven–at an individual and team level. Combine that with augmented self-direction and machine assistance to amplify what individuals and teams can accomplish. The new, blended human and machine workforce will not be able to be assessed through traditional evaluation of past performance and goal attainment–it simply won’t make sense, nor will such evaluations make sense. In fact, continuous performance and crowd-sourced performance will not be enough. We will need to broadly assess and measure people’s and teams’ impacts and contributions.

What is the single most dramatic shift in the HR tech space today?

The most dramatic shift is the need to get our workplaces back in sync with people, and HR tech has a significant role to play in this realignment. HR leaders need to address the dissonance that manifests in organizations as flat engagement and workforce instability, and create resonant workplaces where people can thrive, bring themselves fully to work, and be their best. This means moving beyond the limitations we currently place on people with archaic command-and-control structures, outdated definitions of leadership, and extraneous transactional processes (such as position-based compensation, evaluating performance annually and annual engagement surveys). This will require HR technology to become person-centered and experiential, as well as automation-enabled and intelligent, so it can facilitate more meaningful humanized interactions and focused work for people. This is in contrast to the traditional, transactional, HR-centric solutions most organizations use today.

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

The two most common mistakes I’ve seen organizations make when acquiring and implementing new HR technologies, respectively, are: narrowly evaluating technology features and functionality, without considering service and ongoing maintenance requirements; and overlooking the people context of change management.

Many tech evaluations focus exclusively on comparing the features and functional capabilities of the technology without fully understanding the ongoing service, support, customer-vendor relationship, as well as the maintenance, costs, resource requirements and implications of each technology. A recent Kelton study found that 76% of HR tech buyers regretted their HR-tech selection decision because of poor customer service. Deeply understanding your people–who will be impacted and how–is a requirement of any successful technology implementation. Unfortunately, change management is often an afterthought, something that is hastily introduced when the product design is complete, and rollout is impending. It is important to take the time to understand the people impacts by first seeking to understand what your people truly need, how they will benefit explicitly, and when they will be able to realize those benefits.

Rajiv Kumar
Chief Medical Officer and President
Virgin Pulse


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

There’s been so much innovation over the last five years. That innovation, however, has led to a labyrinth of poorly integrated point solutions that are hard to access, get low engagement and therefore are largely ineffective. Today, employers are looking for consolidation–broad platforms that can serve as a central organizing force and engagement engine for their entire HR ecosystem.

Employers also are striving to improve security and data analytics; consolidation helps with that, too. It’s difficult to perform security vetting on numerous vendors, but much easier to vet just one. Taking all the data from multiple vendors and translating it into something meaningful can be an impossible task. Consolidated platforms provide aggregated and integrated data that’s more insightful and actionable.

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

The biggest mistake we at Virgin Pulse see is the failure to follow known best practices. Every vendor that’s been around for a decade or more has voluminous data to show what works–and what doesn’t. We’re surprised how often a company hires a vendor but then isn’t open to adopting data-driven best practices recommended by that vendor. For example, we’ve seen clients who follow our best practices achieve up to 90% employee engagement in wellbeing. But when companies launch technology-driven solutions without adhering to evidence-based recommendations for implementation and program design they end up with average results, or worse.

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?

When implementing new technology, every company can learn a great deal from organizational change management practices. One of OCM’s tenets is to take a grassroots approach. In other words, don’t send a mandate from management that requires employees to adopt new technology. After all, no one likes to be told what to do. Instead, ensure that your employees understand why the new technology is relevant and how it can improve their lives. Leverage peer-to-peer influence, form teams, recruit champions across departments and throughout the organization, and create friendly competition among coworkers.

Laura Hamill
Chief People Officer and Chief Science Officer of the Limeade Institute


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

The emerging technologies in HR are moving in a really interesting direction–away from individual point solutions and into an integrated platform approach. What’s fascinating is how that corresponds to the breaking down of HR silos. No longer does each HR function have its own individual technology solution. Instead, there are integrated platforms that bring together multiple solutions. And I believe the CHRO will be impacted the most. These emerging technologies will force them to create more integrated people strategies. They will have to stop solving for specific HR functional needs but instead solve for the employee experience. This requires CHROs to be much more strategic and collaborative than perhaps they needed to be in the past.

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?

There is a well-researched concept called Organizational Support Theory that I always draw on when I’m thinking about implementing anything new in an organization. It’s a simple idea–it’s about how the organization shows that it is supportive of employees–when organizations actively and authentically support their employees, they are more likely to demonstrate mutual commitment. So, before you launch a new HR technology, think about how you’ll support them and show that you authentically care about the topic in question. For example, if you are rolling out wellbeing software, it’s critical that managers, leaders and teams show that they care about the wellbeing of employees. The culture should support it–and you should communicate to employees that wellbeing is important to the success of the business. So really, no matter which direction employees turn, they feel their wellbeing is important. Doing the hard work and heavy lifting to make it real in your organization is the best strategy.

How is HR technology changing the way people work?

HR technology is changing the way people work because it’s helping to shape organizational culture. In the past, HR tech was only used for transactional purposes, like PTO requests or pay-stub reviews. But today HR technology is delving into topics like engagement, inclusion, wellbeing, learning and development, and strategy achievement, and it’s starting to have a real impact on shaping the culture of organizations. What’s more, with the influx of remote workers and the increased frequency and ways in which we use technology at work, we are connecting with our companies more and more through technology and less through actual physical interactions. Many of these technologies are also customizable and allow for greater focus on company specific topics and initiatives. For these reasons, HR technology has a much bigger opportunity to help shape organizational culture.

Katherine Jones
Independent Analyst


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

While AI and natural language applications (both oral and written) will create major new platform plays, the greatest change may come from use of blockchain in talent acquisition. Rather than leaving education and background experience up to chance or creative interpretation, candidates would have a verifiable trail of information, from grades to past jobs to arrest records. Hiring parties can determine what data makes sense–as they do today. Only in cases, for example, in which a candidate will have fiduciary responsibility might past bankruptcy data appear. Candidates can control irrelevant data (past medical records, for example), but data relevant to a position would be blockchained. The ramifications include no fudged college records or degrees, and perhaps the ability to ensure that child molesters are not driving school buses or DUI arrestees are not driving for Uber. Blockchained records for talent acquisition would disintermediate background checkers, as background information would be both current and trustworthy. AI functionality can decipher relevancy of past history to the job requisition, providing a filter up front that recruiters and hiring managers cannot see today.

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

Understanding the staffing impact of new cloud solutions is a major issue. The advent of cloud solutions put HCM software acquisition in the hands of HR leaders, in some cases for the first time. Analysts like us touted the value of the cloud in terms of support costs, access to innovation and amalgamating disparate HCM systems–but failed to help companies anticipate the “people power” they would have to dedicate to ensure the success they anticipated.

The pace of new releases, which often cover many different HR functions, require those with functional expertise to evaluate; HR policies must now cover what gets implemented with each release with an eye toward the greater corporate good,  not just what is easiest; and solid understanding of where and to what end underlying AI functionality is embedded. The failure to plan and budget for adequate post-go-live solution management impedes delivery of the value promised in these cloud solutions as “day jobs” get often attention over thoughtful new release management.

How is HR technology changing the way people work?

Primarily, HR technology improves and eases the way that HR works, through integrating of data across the many functions of HCM, providing actionable analytics and decreasing redundant activities. More to the point, however, is how HCM technology can positively impact the employee base other than HR, and indeed it can. An employee (outside of an HR professional) is hired to positively address the business into which he or she is hired. Anything HR–or HR technology–can do to foster that can change the way people work by removing impediments to their “day jobs.”

Just-in-time training in the flow of work–relating to the individual’s job–is just one example; facilitating easy access to benefits or corporate information needed by employees when they need it through intuitive mobile software is another. Easing access–whether by replacing building badges and a plethora of passwords with fingerprints or other biometric means–allows workers to get where they need to go physically and electronically faster. Software that addresses compliance adds value to both HR and workers, such as that which can help contractors navigate the rules under which they are hired and assist HR with the rules about their contracts.

Increasingly, technology that addresses the lack of transparency in areas such as pay and gender equity or the lack of diversity–once able to actually offer practical solutions for solving these issues–will positively impact the way employees feel about work and their place in it.  Working side by side with robots and drones will offer openings in coding, management and maintenance for skilled workers–and corporations will have to create new learning opportunities for their unskilled workers to attain appropriate skill levels. Done right, future technology will facilitate a seamless–and dare we think pleasant–work environment that is safe, fair and challenging for all workers.