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 underestimate.

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 external customers.

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 HR.

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 ways.

Perpetual reconfiguration

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 resources.

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