Why HR needs to harness the power of HR tech

With advanced technology making manual HR tasks obsolete, HR leaders now have the opportunity to permanently change how they approach their craft. HR’s new mandate is to enable employees, guide managers, and leverage AI and analytics to make the most of workforce talent, says Rebecca Wettemann, CEO and principal at Valoir, a technology industry analyst firm focused on the connection between people and workplace technology.

Rebecca Wettemann

“HR leaders must be data scientists, IT experts, facilities managers and business leaders,” Wettemann, one of HRE’2020 HR Tech Influencers, noted in a recent live Twitter chat. “On a personal level, they need a new level of negotiation, time management and prioritization skills.”

And with the coronavirus dramatically changing how work is done, HR leaders have had to scramble in an instant and spend the past seven months strategizing their organizations’ responses to the pandemic. But it’s not just gathering new data about these changes that’s so important, Wettemann noted.

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For example, as employers across the country consider reopening their workplaces, they have to be making decisions based on a constantly moving target, she noted.

“With limited resources, HR needs to leverage tech to manage employee health and safety tracking quickly at scale, while keeping mental wellbeing top of mind,” she said.

And, she noted, 40% of companies have budgeted nothing in these areas, meaning HR has to be creative in how they use existing technology to manage reopening. “This is not a time for multiple spreadsheets,” Wettemann wrote.

And what does Wettemann say HR leaders can expect looking ahead?

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“No surprises here: HR’s focus is shifting from recruiting and development to health, safety and labor relations,” she said. “With #WFH, HR needs new techniques to engage the whole employee,” she added.

She pointed to recent Valoir data collected in the spring that showed productivity didn’t take a big hit when workers went remote, but the fall could be a different story, she warned. Mental health will also continue to demand HR attention.

“Beyond the initial shift to #WFH, which focused on videoconferencing, HR has to look at long-term impacts:  ergonomic, emotional and otherwise,” Wettemann tweeted.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are both primed to open doors for talent sourcing, placement and coaching, as well as L&D–particularly as more employers look to reskill and upskill employees.

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“Managing talent–both internally and externally–is a huge opportunity,” she said. But, Wettemann advised, HR leaders, often so focused on their workforces, can’t forget to also care for themselves.

“Make appointments with yourself and your team for dopamine time. With #WFH, we have to recreate coffee breaks, not just conference room meetings.”

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Nick Otto
Nick Otto is HRE’s former senior digital editor. He is a professional communicator with more than a decade of demonstrated accomplishments in newspaper and trade publishing. He has spent the past five years covering the employee benefits space and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.