Technology and HR:Obserations from HR Tech 2014

HRTechToday, technology shapes every aspect of how we live and work. It affects how we communicate, manage travel, obtain information, interact socially, and coordinate our activities. The digital revolution has reached a point of not only influencing us, but also assisting in defining who we are. The Daily Mail recently reported that the average person looks at their smart phone 110 times a day and up to every six seconds in the evening. Clearly, technology is transforming from being a tool to assist us with life to taking on a more preeminent role in our lives.

Last week, I attended the 2014 HR Tech Conference and had a chance to look and try out a fair number of new tools for automating human resources. Like most big shows in Las Vegas, it contained a full serving of glitz, glamor, and gadgets. You know HR technology has “come into its own” when some of the vendor booths are bigger than my first house and the whole event almost sold out three strip hotels.

As I interacted with various HR professionals, several key observations kept coming up:

HR still covets a “seat at the table”

More than a few presenters mentioned that even with all of the effort and success at adding value in their organizations, HR continues to struggle with “re-branding” or redefining itself as more than a record-keeping and compliance component of the organization. During one session, a presenter asked how many feel that they are a strategic partner in their organization and about 25 percent raised their hand. After more than a decade and a dramatic professionalization of the field, the “people business” still lacks the prestige of other areas in most organizations, namely finance. Among those suffering less from the stigma of the past, a common theme across those successful few related to providing actionable data on a regular basis that decreased costs and improved financial performance. Put simply, organizations that valued HR more received contributions beyond the “typical” HR offerings that affected the financial success of the organization. In other words, it was not enough to provide something new beyond past HR offerings, but the something new had to contribute a clearly quantifiable gain.

Predictive analytics remains more concept than reality for most

Analytics and big data hold a position of preeminence in our field, but most organizations still lack the resources and capability to realize all of the value of this paradigm shift. Most of us have been tracking and analyzing HR metrics for years and have realized efficiency and effectiveness gains in a variety of process areas. However, few have transitioned to identifying more causal relationships or actionable and predictive outcomes. Although monitoring provides a strong basis for developing a plan for action, causality illustrates the most optimal methods of change. With the cost and user complexity of new tools decreasing, more organizations will be able to incorporate higher-level analytics into their business strategy in the near future.

Modeling of human behavior continues to advance

Modeling human behavior and linking the core elements to the associated outcomes stands out as one of the next frontiers of the dig data revolution. While tools for predicting an applicant’s potential success through their skill and personality alignment was innovative a few years ago, new tools allow HR professionals to assess and act on numerous indicators of alignment, performance, and interaction. Furthermore, greater availability of data, increasingly sophisticated algorithms, and affordable analysis tools will only enhance our ability to predict future behavior and outcomes. An interesting example from a presenter pertained to new models that can predict with incredible accuracy how learners will score on a test, thus negating the need for testing when assessing competence. We are only at the beginning of not only better understanding how we work, but also how to maximize who we can be.

I think we can all agree: it is a very exciting time to be in the “people business.”

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