The Technology Explosion in HR

Posted in : HR Updates on 18 October 2016
Angela Schettino
Think People Consulting

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HR Tech – A radical shift – HR Process Automation to Self-Serve Apps

Even the least tech- savvy among us will be vaguely aware of the huge advances in technology across the piece and with that has come an absolute revolutionary shift in the function of HR technology.  

As recently as one decade ago ‘HR systems’ were designed to primarily assist in the job of ‘HR administration’.  Many organisations are still reliant on HRMS – HR Management Systems, LMSs – Learning Management Systems, and payroll and benefits applications that may have ‘bolt-ons’ to cope with changes in legislation and payroll methods. In NI specifically, HRM systems which have the facility to cope with our local Equal Opportunities monitoring have been widely adopted. Times are rapidly changing though and, as a profession, we must take stock of the potential for upgrade and/or modernisation of processes and systems to harness the extremely powerful advances that are impacting performance and engagement levels in particular.

Employee First

Employees have traditionally been considered the ‘end user’ of HR tech and at best, the ‘electronic forms’ which replaced paper forms was the extent of their access to traditionally HR owned information. The new wave of HR applications adopting intuitive and interactive (often mobile) technology is being designed for ‘employees first’. We are moving to an age of greater empowerment, allowing employees to self-manage, learn, develop and steer their own careers to a much greater extent.  The ‘psychology’ of employees has also shifted. The ability to use their fixed and mobile technology to communicate, share and access knowledge, better, faster and smarter than ever before is more natural than ever.  The next generation of workers will not know anything other than fully interactive and mobile technology. The ability to do this in the work context is going to be considered standard before we can all say ‘self-driven car’.

Fig 1. The Evolution of HR Systems 2000 – 2016 (Info from Bersin: Deloitte)

The technology explosion in HR

This shift in focus, particularly around cloud and mobile technology is in itself a huge change and is making the possibility to improve the end-to-end employee experience more real, make HR work more efficiently and the analysis of employee data more effective. 

What’s out there?

At the annual review of employment law, we will talk about some of the HR technology which is having the most impact and why. Here is a list of just a few;

Mobile - New Platform

The proliferated use of smartphones has meant that companies are adapting their HR systems in order to allow more accessibility and control to employees. Larger companies are having HR apps custom built, e.g. the Commonwealth Bank of Australia whose HR mobile app ‘Sidekick’ is downloaded onto 10,000 plus employee phones and allows employee to access and record data including holidays, timesheets, notifications, policy update…you name it. It has reduced HR admin significantly e.g. time-approval requests have reduced by 35% and pay slip requests by 46%.

New 'Real-Time' Feedback, Engagement and Culture Management

The direct link between levels of engagement and performance are now well documented and researched. It is no surprise to learn that Tech developers and vendors have looked at ways in which to enhance the ability for ‘real time’ intuitive feedback from employees to equip HR and Leadership with information which can influence engagement levels quicker and more accurately. Companies such as Culture Amp, Glint, OfficeVibe and BetterCompany are just a few of the many options.

Performance and Goal Management

Companies such as SuccessFactors were prominent in the early 2000’s at automating the traditional top down performance management process then adopted by many. Its function was to ensure goals were aligned and promulgated down through the organisation that annual reviews were completed and performance plans put in place based on performance rankings or ratings.  In 2016, we are coming to accept that this method is not effectively improving performance.  Intel pioneered a new goal management process (OKRs), 20 percent time and concepts such as servant leadership, forcing the business to rethink how they coach and measure employees. In modern, highly networked organisation with less traditional reporting structures, companies have started to move to more agile performance management.  Technology is now available to support this in the form of more regular ‘periodic check ins’, shared goals developed from bottom up, regular developmental conversations and employee to employee feedback. Employees are able to review how many reviews they had, record progress or challenges, amend goals and receive manager feedback, all via an app, all in real time.  Some of the prominent vendors include BetterWorks, Impraise and StandOut (Strengths Based Performance Management).

Key Learning

For those wishing to delve more deeply into the world of Disruptive HR technology, they need look no further than the Josh Bersin centre Deloitte for published research and update. Josh is the recognised thought leader in this area. In his recent report looking to 2017, he commented that he has never before seen so much activity and development in the HR Technology market.

We are in the ‘third wave’ of HR technology moving from software, to cloud based technology to mobile allowing engagement with employees to be simple yet powerful.

Our challenge in HR is to evaluate for ourselves in our own organisations:

  • The impact of current versus potential HR technology
  • Consideration of using technology consultants or in-house experts to assist in identifying fully integrated, user-friendly and intuitive systems which create opportunity for efficiency, empowerment and enhanced data analysis
  • The roadmap for technological change and behaviour change
  • The ability to identify risks and support with effective policy, such as privacy, protection of data and intellectual property
This article is correct at 18/10/2016

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Angela Schettino
Think People Consulting

The main content of this article was provided by Angela Schettino. Contact telephone number is 028 9031 0450 or email

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