THE BOMB SHELTER THAT IS HR TECHNOLOGY

  The cover of the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review (July/August 2015) shows an image of a bomb, with the title – “It’s Time to Blow Up HR and Build Something New”. It is getting lots of notice – especially to us in the field – in one way or another. The article reminds me of the very famous “Why we hate HR” article in Fast Company magazine, August 2005. Both articles have attention getting titles, both addressing the similar issues of the viability of the HR function and presenting, at least in the Fast Company article a rather sarcastic (yet true) depiction of the people who have chosen HR as a career – back 10 years ago. Both articles providing guidance and commentary on the things HR must do to be considered a valuable function within any organization. The HBR article has prompted Pamela Harding – who serves as the CHRO of “the worlds largest independent operator of Linkedin Groups – OnLine Media – to pose the question to the largest HR membership group on Linkedin – Linked:HR. She states that the core of these articles is that HR must be “data driven” and proceed with “datafication”. Many member responses (as of now, nearly 100) are interesting and enlightening as to what people perceive of HR and what is needing to be done to it, or with it. The majority agree that something needs to be done. HR needs to be reconfigured, re-focuses and. well, re – everything. As you can see from my post’s title – HR has the tools to do any and ALL of the many suggestions and dictates provided by the authors in HBR and the Linked;HR members. Our key tool, and the one that most protects and preserves the viability of HR’s vast functional responsibilities – is here and now, that of effective and proven HR Technology. Today’s comprehensive HRMS, HRIS, HCMS – by any acronym – as delivered – gives inspired managers and leadership all that they can ask for. HR technology truly serves as our “BOMB SHELTER”, preventing us from being considered a bombing target (so to speak). Let me make my case by summarizing the first of the 3 articles that comprise the cover story of the Harvard Business Review issue. It is entitled “Why We Love to Hate HR… and What HR Can Do About It” by Peter Cappelli (Professor of Management at the Wharton School, Author). I found this article to be the most specific about the role HR used to play (historically) and now should play in the day to day operations within any effective organization. Capelli states that complaints against HR, are not new and have a cyclical quality. (yes, we have seen that – 10 years ago with the Hate HR article in FastCompany). He goes on to state that “complaints are driven largely by the business context”. According to the author (and much related research) when companies are struggling with labor issues, HR is seen as a valued leadership partner. When things are smoother all around, managers wonder what the function is doing for them. Capelli states that now is “a moment of enormous opportunity for HR leaders to separate the valuable from the worthless and secure huge payoffs for their organizations”. The author outlines some basic but powerful steps they can take: Set the agenda. CEOs are rarely experts on workplace issues, so the HR team can show them what they should care about—such as layoffs, recruiting, flexible work arrangements, and performance management—and why. Most of this data is maintained in an HRMS, historically, current and able to be projected into the future. Focus on the here and now. This means continually identifying new challenges and designing tools to meet them. Acquire business knowledge. HR needs first-rate analytic minds to help companies make sense of all their employee data. Workforce Analytics are a strong component of today’s top tier HRMS applications. HR has to gain this knowledge. Highlight financial benefits. HR departments don’t usually calculate ROI for their programs, but quantifying costs and benefits turns talent decisions into business decisions. Metrics related to costs of programs and other variables are often included in delivered templates of dashboards – for graphical display and “drill down” analysis. Walk away from time wasters. Often programs lack impact unless top executives lead them, transforming the culture. Otherwise HR is just a booster for initiatives it can neither enforce nor measure. As an independent HR Technology consultant, helping my clients evaluate and select HRMS software applications from among many great vendor providers, I strongly believe that HR remains critical and vital...