Q&A With HR Tech Influencer Cecile Alper-Leroux


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 (RPA), 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 (AI) 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 This means moving beyond the limitations we currently place on people with archaic command-and-control structures, outdated definitions of leadership, and extraneous transactional processes (such as position-based compensation, evaluating performance annually, and annual engagement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 first: narrowly evaluating technology features and functionality, without considering service and ongoing maintenance requirements; and second: 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.