The HR field is being driven by the proliferation of automation and mobile and cloud-based technologies.
HR used to be easy. Hand out cut-and-dry information, and make sure said employees consumed said information. But today, technology innovations impacting HR business processes have professionals simultaneously looking for ways to uplevel the function, and fearing that machines will take their jobs. Specifically, HR pros have had to contend with the following transformations, as the field moves from:
Almost 20 years ago, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen first coined the term disruptive technology, referring to technology that displaces an established technology and shakes up an industry or a groundbreaking product that creates a completely new industry.
Christensen separated new technology into two categories: disruptive and sustaining.
Sustaining technologies rely on incremental improvements to an already established technology, and large companies are designed to work with these types. They excel at knowing their market, staying close to their customers, and having a mechanism in place to develop existing technology. They also have trouble capitalizing on the potential efficiencies, cost-savings, or new marketing opportunities created by disruptive technologies.
Even in 1997, Christensen nailed the issue facing many HR organizations today: it’s easy to dismiss the value of a disruptive technology because it does not reinforce current company goals, only to be blindsided as the technology matures, gains a larger audience, and threatens the status quo.
Although disruption is everywhere, there are four specific technologies in which the modern HR pro must become proficient: cloud computing (HR as a service), mobile, predictive analysis, and virtual reality.
Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted online to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local company server or individual device. The cloud is already the dominant delivery model for new human capital management systems, and software residing in the cloud is more flexible and customizable. HR managers can get real-time updates without relying on IT personnel, and can allocate resources depending on demand. In turn, employees can access cloud-based information and services when and where they need them.
The cloud also facilitates virtual work via a decreased need for office space and onsite hardware, which has implications for HR. Finally, HR staffers involved with industry compliance are better able to implement new regulations via automatic updates that take place via the cloud.
Most employees now use mobile devices to access HR-related information including benefits, time tracking, performance data, training programs, and company news. Instead of insisting employees come to you, you must go to them – offering 100 percent of your content on all types of mobile devices and a variety of HR services via custom company apps. Recruiting websites and your application submission process should be mobile-optimized, offering all necessary functionality and support.
Predictive analytics is the practice of extracting information from existing data sets in order to determine patterns and predict future outcomes and trends, and as of 2016, Deloitte claimed that just 14 percent of HR departments were using it.
This will change rapidly, however, as HR professionals realize that predictive analytics and other uses of Big Data are the keys to moving from a transactional role to a strategic role in the organization. When HR can synthesize and derive insights from its massive data stores, the results will be powerful. You will be able to tell where your best recruits are coming from, the skills and traits needed to be successful in a job, the training method that receives the greatest adoption, and who is leaving your company and why. The benefits are obvious, but the path is complex, and that’s why the hottest job in HR come 2020 will be data analyst (i.e. the person who integrates data from disparate systems and tells a cohesive story from it).
Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment. As this technology continues to improve and become more mainstream, HR professionals will leverage it to increase employee engagement among virtual teams and provide immersive training experiences.
Using virtual reality, HR staff and managers will be able to create simulations that mimic real-world scenarios – making individual skill acquisition in different functions and geographies easier than ever. For instance, if you need to onboard a group of employees who must be proficient doing business in Japan, you might “send” them to a virtual Japanese office to interact with and learn from Japanese colleagues.
One thing’s for sure: HR professionals must look at each of these disruptions, but especially HR as a service, as an opportunity. Instead of feeling threatened that you will be displaced, use the manual process time you will save to focus on adding greater value to your organization.
Besides these four, what disruptions are impacting your role as an HR professional?