Professor of Business Administration
Harvard Business School
What area of the HR function will be most impacted by emerging technologies, and why?
Thanks to emerging technologies, training opportunities will soon be available anytime and people will not have to wait months for the next training session. Furthermore, training opportunities will be highly customizable, allowing firms to align them closely with their strategies. They will also be more interactive, which should increase their effectiveness. In our HBS background note “Developing Leaders”, my colleagues and I write, “Lectures can be used to familiarize participants with conceptual ideas and material, but interactive techniques must be employed if the abstract knowledge is to translate into new skills.” Emerging technologies will play a pivotal role in increasing access to these kids on interactive opportunities.
What’s the single most dramatic shift you see happening in the HR tech space today?
There is a shift happening in technology today with the illumination of the pervasive gender gap in the field, thanks in part to the #metoo movement of recent years and some high-profile lawsuits against tech companies claiming discriminatory practices based on gender. Some tech firms still have biases in their hiring practices, pass over deserving women for promotions, compensate women less than their male counterparts, or foster a culture that looks the other way in cases of sexism of sexual harassment. As a result, firms today are expected to do more to attract and retain female talent. Data science and AI will provide some useful tools to help companies build more diverse and inclusive cultures.
In acquiring and implementing new technologies, what’s the one or two most common mistakes HR organizations make?
The first mistake is not considering how technology fits with the business strategy of the firm, instead investing in “the flavor of the month”. The second mistake is not generating buy-in nor effectively managing implementation. Firms do not manage the implementation of new technology as a real change management project and underestimate the time required to do it. Next, firms roll out a new technology in its entirety, instead of in small pieces, which would allow them to pivot as new information or data arrives. Lastly, firms neglect to train non-HR professionals on how to use and leverage the technology. Unfortunately, most firms struggle with implementing new technologies with only a small percentage realizing significant positive ROI.