TO HRMS VENDORS – TODAY’S GEOPOLITICAL ENVIRONMENT CALLS FOR A “PAUSE” ! Help reduce some of the extraordinary pressures on HRM.

Its time for a pause pic for blog

Thomas L Friedman in his new engaging and educational book “Thank You For Being Late writes that “we are living through one of the greatest inflection points in history”. His premise is that the “three largest forces on the planet – technology, globalization and climate change – are all accelerating at once. As a result, so many aspects of our societies, workplaces and geopolitics are being reshaped and need to be re-imagined. Friedman goes on to say “When there is change in the pace of change in so many realms at once as were now experiencing, it is easy to overwhelmed by it all.” He believes that in such times it is important to pause and reflect, rather than panic or withdraw. He states that pausing is “not a luxury or a distraction – it is a way to increase the odds that you’ll better understand and engage productively with the world around you.” Friedman suggests that we press the “pause button”.

As a great fan of Tom Friedman’s musings in his books and columns in the NY Times, I decided to apply this “pause” concept to the industry I work in, HR and its use of Technology. What pressures are we feeling? Are we feeling the same pressures that Friedman is focusing on? How can we lessen those pressures? What can the HRMS providers do to help the HR community and their clients? What if anything can be “paused”? Here’s my thinking.

Based on today’s environment especially with the uncertainties surrounding the new US administration (Executive Orders and such), a great many people feel fearful and (in Friedman’s words), “unmoored”.

Alongside of CEOs and all manner of business leaders, HR executives must feel the same way. In trying to comprehend the impact and thus pressures on HR that are resulting from this “inflection point in history”. Most will come from two of the three Friedman focuses on, technology and geopolitical impacts, less so than from climate change. In my world this translates to HR Technology, specifically HRMS providers and users of HR Tech working within the function of Human Resources.

So, recognizing the recent developments in America’s political landscape and geopolitical impacts, I am asking my fellow HR Technologists – those of influence and who interact with, or work for the many well positioned, highly reputable and highly thought of HRMS providers to take two very important actions:

The First: PAUSE IN YOUR ROLLOUTS OF NEW FUNCTIONALITY.

Stop thinking about new functionality for a while, unless there is a fix or an immediate capability that can help HR react to the pressures mentioned here or made necessary by new legislation or by government directive.

And the Second: ENHANCE YOUR DIALOGUE WITH YOUR CLIENTS.

Seriously think about reaching out to your existing clients to find out what they are doing with your product and your support. Simply put, find out how your clients’ are using the power of your products’ functionality/tools. Ask them if they believe they are getting the full value of the investment they have made and continue to make.

I suggest these 2 steps because (IMHO) I think that at this point HR executives and staff are OVERWHELMED and are under pressure to react to, or respond to the unusual circumstances brought about by the pace of change in technology and geopolitical events.

The pressures on HR – today – now, February 2017, come from many sources: some totally unexpected and on the surface seemly having nothing to do with HR – but they do.

Here are some of the pressures that are now adding to HR’s usual role and responsibilities, thus, adding significant stress on those in charge of day-to-day delivery of programs:

PRESSURE POINT 1: THE “EXECUTIVE ORDERS”

The executive orders which imposed a “travel ban” and then the rhetoric of “extreme vetting” can and have impacted HR and a company’s workforce. Clearly – as we all witnessed the worldwide demonstrations – this created real anxiety and emotional disruption of peoples worldwide. Within the business community many corporate executives are using Social Media to emphasize their carefully worded positions against these Trump Administration actions. In global business, any organization with staff employed anywhere in the world, and traveling to and from anywhere in the world can be affected. In academia, students from the 7 stipulated countries are seriously affected. The presidents of Google, Apple and hundreds of others have come out with statements of condemnation and in support of refugees and immigrants.

HR must take the lead along with Legal and Employee relations’ executives in crafting and issuing communications to help allay the obvious fears within their affected workforce. HR has to react with confidence and take reasonable measures to inform and communicate activities in support of their workforce. Policies and programs in support of remote teams and virtual teams (made necessary by a travel ban or by abnormal travel difficulties in general, is one way to lessen the impact. This takes time and mindfulness from HR executives but has to be addressed quickly, and immediately.

PRESSURE POINT 2: CYBER SECURITY INSIDER THREAT

This is another heretofore issue that was not considered a strong component of HR’s role but, of course, it should be. It is clear that employee behavior and lack of mindfulness about the awareness of cyber threats makes any company vulnerable to an insider attack. It is the reason I partnered with Bob Schiff in forming our extension of our individual consulting practices to focus on critical issue of workforce cyber awareness (www.millerschiff.com). HR must first educate themselves, then train and educate the workforce and put into place policies and penalties regarding the need to build mindfulness of action on the part of the entire workforce. The time, planning, policy development and rollout of such an initiative is yet another added and direct impact and pressure point.

PRESSURE POINT 3: ACA and its future

The pledge to “repeal and replace” the ACA may send everyone scurrying and figuring out what to do with all the current rules, processes, data input, reporting, plan design etc, already in place and supported as best possible by HRMS providers’ best practices and functional modules. The benefits specialist within any corporation will be completely immersed in understanding the new plans – whenever and whatever the provisions are. That alone is cause for sleepless nights and overwork. This Pressure Point alone is an overwhelming challenge to all the benefits executives working within the administrative side of HR.

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These are just 3 of many pressure points that impact HR and HR Technology. Trends – due to popularity and interest on social media (seemingly mostly on LinkedIn’s various discussion groups) become “pressure points” in a logical process. Here is what happens in our HR Tech world; HR executives at high or mid level, assuming they take the time to log into their contact feed on LinkedIn – will be bombarded by hundreds of articles, and shares by their “level one” contacts and others who “like” the level one inputs, creating an endless outpouring of commentary on any particular query or issue related to HR. Thus, appropriate group discussions, queries, sales and marketing outreach that push products and services, press releases (yes, I am guilty of that as well) etc. become too numerous to count. When a particular issue seems to dominate discussion threads it becomes a visible trend, maybe even a “hot button”. There have been many “hot button” issues and capabilities over the last year or two, evidenced by the sheer number of webinars, publications, articles and commentary about a particular hot topic. Hot issues translate into action by HRMS providers who also see the trend on social media, and then task their software developers to go to work – filling the perceived need in the marketplace.

In my mind, recent hot issues included: “Big Data”, Metrics, Predictive Analytics, Employee engagement, on-boarding, and employee wellness tracking – including new inputs of data for tracking the psychologies of the workforce. Many of course have proven valuable in making HR more strategic. Some have created the spark that led to the formation of new start up vendors offering effective new out of the box solutions as Josh Bersin points out in his latest article:

“HR is turning to software that’s focused on teamwork, goal management, feedback, productivity and self-improvement, with demand being met largely by startups, which in turn are being acquired, writes Josh Bersin. The utility of particular HR software is increasingly part of the purchasing decision.”

A New Wave of HR Technology Consolidation Begins – Published on January 30, 2017 – JoshBersin.com

So, it is entirely normal or expected that anyone reading and participating in such discussions on various “hot button” topics (or “flavors of the month”) to want that same capability in whatever software they have or are looking at. Thus, the vendors see the trend and move to develop new enriched capabilities – and offer it as either a new module or a major product release. Or, for that matter, entrepreneurs see that need as the making of a business model and pitch to Venture Capital folks. In both cases it is a matter of time until it is strongly marketed on social media as “adding value”.

It is today’s norm.

Today these pressures are simultaneously combining to create an untenable environment for corporate HR and HR technology executives. There is a lot to think about and even more to try to keep up with. It creates too much pressure on HR and how HR must use its current technology, or seek to acquire newer available “cool” technology.

I do understand however, that asking HRMS providers of any stripe for a pause in development and roll out of new functionality is unrealistic. After all, HRMS providers need sales revenue to support their marketing and R&D functions.

The well established vendors have a client base – and can up-sell existing customers. This clearly has proven to be a successful revenue stream. The drive to accumulate upsell revenue leads to the second part of my suggested “ask”. That of – on the part of the HRMS provider – initiating a deep discussion between their executives and the senior level HR and other executives of their recent “live” customers/clients.

A detailed survey or person-to-person fact finding discussion between a vendor and client leadership, (maybe those clients who went “live” within the last two years) can prove to be valuable and even a revenue generator in of itself. For the savvy HRMS vendor – getting input on how each client uses their products and tools and whether or not that client feels they are getting the value from their investment will generate important and actionable information.

Outcomes can include consulting and other educational delivery activities by the vendor in helping a client more effectively use their products, identification of needed fixes or enhancements, and can instill a general feeling of mutual business partnership beyond just a vendor- customer connection. A client that experiences a level of connection with understanding and empathy is a much more reference-able client. Strong client references are always a leading differentiator against other HRMS providers.

HRMS vendors must listen to the challenges facing their clients – and voice their appreciation of the pressures and uncertainties mentioned above.

In some ways HR technology can impact and help lesson particular pressures. For example – in dealing with the threat of an insider cyber attack, it is feasible that any HRMS vendor might deliver a needed tool to block or lessen an insider hacking threat at the point of login. Maybe it means that they seek to join with a third party who has the technology of biometrics or some other way of generating 2 factor authentications.

A slow down in releases, a pause in new functionality might result in a lessening of pressures on corporate HR and HR Technology executives, giving them some space to focus on todays world-changing issues. The time might allow HR to prioritize their goals and programs, make adjustments and proceed at a measured pace.

Overall, the time spent doing this will end up benefiting vendors, their clients and the HR Technology community as a whole.

So, HRMS executives, consider a pause for a while in building new code (maybe for one year?). Use that time and manpower to instead help your client base work with what you have already delivered. Yes, position them for more. Yes, provide them with needed and immediately important fixes – give them more “value” to rave about. Reach out to them, be proactive, don’t wait for a problem or point of pain to arise. They will rave about your support even more.

Surely mutual learning will prove mutually beneficial. And a reasonable “pause” in the push and rollout of new functionality and apps will lessen the pressure on HR and give them to time to figure out the best way to deal with what is occurring in at least two of Tom Friedman’s change makers; geopolitics and technology.

The end.

February 9, 2017