In the shadow of the HR status quo has been lurking a brand new
type of human resources. Lean management and flat hierarchies have
driven HR experts to exert their expertise in new ways, and waves
of digitalisation have combined with this to create a new age of HR
technology. Because the HR function is placed within a company in
such a way that it affects all business lines, meaning that its
end-users include pretty much every employee in the firm, this
brand new world of human resources is not something to
No more paperclips
There is new vocabulary in the mouths of HR professionals:
cloud-based solutions, social media outreach, and mobile
applications, to name a few. These technologies and others have
changed the way that employees and candidates interact with HR
departments, which is quite exciting, but which also begs other
questions like: how can you bridge the gap between day-to-day HR
tasks and taking time to implement snazzy cloud-based tools?
No matter how the split is managed, new HR technology is in no
danger of being ignored: according to KPMG's 2016 Global
HR Transformation survey, 80% percent of HR managers will
either maintain or increase how much they spend on HR systems in
2017, and 42% will replace their existing, on-premise HR system
with a SaaS (software as a service) solution.
The co-worker is always right
Different HR departments naturally have different interests when
it comes HR tech, but we would observe that client experience
remains, for more or less all of them, an important sphere where
value can be added. (Note that for HR departments, clients
means internal colleagues). Tools in this area would include new
platforms allowing co-workers to connect with each other, schedule
time off, and manage other administrative tasks in a simple and
easy way. There may be a shift in the way HR departments view
themselves, away from a mere service-enabler and towards a bringer
of value: HR professionals want their clients to feel a similar
type of brand loyalty to that which is felt by the company's
Indeed, in a paper
published by Cornell University, the authors point out that
branding can add value to HR activities by encouraging employee and
candidate loyalty, in the same way that it can help magnetise
customers to the firm's products or services. In other words,
it's as important to stay popular with your employees as it is
with your clients.
Non-HR employees increasingly demand more from their HR
department and want the same thing that any client wants:
customisable, personalised, and convenient service at minimal
disruption to daily life. We're seeing HR departments work to
develop a culture of service in order to respond to these demands,
and central to this is the rapidly-expanding toolbox of digital
New solutions to old problems
But customer experience is not the only application of HR tech:
increasing efficiency, improving service delivery, and cutting
costs are all made possible by this latest wave of digitalisation.
These items are obliging HR departments to rethink and rewrite
their business models with increased agility in mind.
As with any field in motion, there are opportunities to be had
and ground to be won or lost. HR agility is one level on which
firms are competing, whether it's to help with retaining top
talent or to slim down central service costs in any number of
Like tectonic plates, the HR role is in a constantly shifting
state. But unlike tectonic plates, HR professionals and company
management can move fast. In other words, HR's expanded
technological reach has enabled a much closer and more customised
relationship with business strategy: functions can be centralised
or outsourced according to the firm's vision.
As the pace of change quickens, and as HR departments are
expected to carry and enforce the business strategy on an evolving
basis, we're seeing that adaptability is more and more of a
virtue. How comfortable are you or your HR people with dropping the
current way of doing things in favour of something completely new?
This is the sort of agility that is increasingly expected in human
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