Q&A with HR Tech Influencer Brian Sommer


Brian Sommer
Founder and President
TechVentive Inc.


How is HR technology changing the way people work?

“HR groups have traditionally embraced technology that makes HR more productive and efficient. However, newer HR technologies (e.g., chatbots) may improve service levels and create a better employer/candidate experience.  While those are great outcomes, there is a risk that new HR technology will make the person-to-person contact between HR and alumni, employees, jobseekers, etc. more and more scarce or impersonal.  HR can’t be in-tune with the workforce if AI-tools are making a number of hiring, promotion and other decisions. HR can’t know what the culture looks like if new-tech shelters HR from people. Work and HR are changing, but will HR have the perspective to add value to the organization?

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

HR teams rush to acquire new technology before fully assessing all of the new innovations out there. Until you do this, you cannot understand what is the art of the possible let alone ideate/develop what a truly reimagined HR process should look like. That lack of discovery almost always means a selection team will pick something that is only incrementally better than what they have today. Incremental solutions are NOT transformational.

The other pitfall occurs when selection teams go back to their old HR/ERP vendor (or implementer) expecting great things will come from them again. Sadly, old vendors often lack in innovation efforts and their ‘new’ solutions are often a freshened-up version of the old stuff. Seek true love elsewhere, folks!

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

Believe it or not, the most impacted area will be HR itself. While it seems all HR pros have cursory knowledge about algorithms, machine learning, bots and more, I find it extremely rare to see HR departments actually contain people with deep skills in these. I’m not seeing HR people getting trained in these technologies nor are they hiring new HR people with these skills in any appreciable numbers. If HR departments don’t understand new tech, then they can’t implement it or use it well. And, if a company, for example, should ever get sued for the actions of its algorithms, who in HR can defend the company?

HR has to change/evolve if it is to even have a chance of successfully deploying these innovative technologies.