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January 13, 2014

HR Focus and Trends - Technology & Analytics

We are living in digital age and technology keeps evolving at supersonic speed. Everyone is talking about Cloud computing, Big data, Analytics and so on. Convergence of PCs, laptops, phones and entertainment is reality. Social Media has developed tremendous influence and importance in how people interact, market and communicate.
In these tough economic times, organizations are facing huge challenges to cut costs and be more efficient. HR function and Leadership is under pressure to drive cost effective and efficient delivery processes. Growing number of HR Leaders are talking about cloud computing and Big data (Analytics) as there next big focus. There are dedicated Social Media Managers in Talent Management teams.
All this sounds reasonable and logical. Stop for a minute and THINK!!! Is focus on technology or going for the latest buzzword? Technology as means or end in itself? If technology is enabler, then do we need to focus on the end? Some examples to explain the point:
In 2002, As HR manager for Software Solutions Business in India with GE, for us a big pain in on-boarding process was 4-5 hours required to fill the joining docket (consisting of 70-80 pages of various forms). We were globally using Oracle HR ERP and in every meeting Leadership will push for solution using Oracle HR. We (me along with couple of summer interns) got chatting in break room and decided to create a solution using ASP /SQL. We found a sponsor from our unit leadership team and started working on the project. Whilst IT Department, Shared service and Corporate kept asking why were we not waiting for a solution in Oracle HR. We were able to come up with simple software which reduced data capturing time to on average 20 minute and entire process could be completed in less than 45 minutes by simply printing out the forms and signing them.  Finally, entire BPO/KPO business in India implemented same solution.
In 2006, as Lead HR for global mobility group and people on international assignments, we realized that reimbursements available for communication costs were big pain area for  employees. When we looked at the process we realized that process and entitlements were laid down few years back at the time when telecom costs were significantly higher. Process had hidden costs and lot of hand offs, resulting in delays and misses. We came up with a much simpler process doing away with pretty much all paperwork at 1/3rd cost resulting in minimum annual savings of $60K.
In general sense information is "Knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance". Technology is an enabler. The Goal (Big Y in six sigma parlance) for HR Analytics has to be converting data into information, like any other application.Effectiveness of HR analytics and tools is dependent on how well Context, fact and circumstances are identified. As always true differentiator will remain quality of leadership (HR & business).
Why & How of -Technology as trend & focus:
  1. It’s not about latest gadget, big software or buzzword, it is about identifying right tool to deliver HR Business goal most effectively.
  2. Has anyone noticed that thanks to BBs, smartphones, tablets etc. people are preoccupied all the time, in hallways, walking through the corridors, in subways, tubes etc, having no time to acknowledge and interact with colleagues, people and surroundings. We are missing on face time, to quote Steve Jobs –“ here’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.” So HR needs to anticipating technology driven changes and facilitate interventions to minimize downside by these behavior changes .
  3. It is important not to try and boil the ocean. Incremental improvements using existing tools and solutions are as important. Once again to quote Steve Jobs - “But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light — that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”
  4. Focus on Rightsizing technology, tools and processes. Let's use our understanding of Rightsizing workforce and organisation. Avoid getting carried away with need to join the bandwagon and use buzz words/latest trends.
  5. Yes we are living in digital age but do we only have to keep track of technological advances in Digital space (IT). What about other areas, e.g., Solar energy, electric automobile, safety and security. Advancement in these areas provide for tremendous opportunities for innovative HR interventions. Say, using solar lanterns as gifts and rewards. This is great CSR initiative, both literally and figuratively lights up employee’s life. Are we paying enough attention to technology all around?
  6. We need to use tools to increase productivity and focus. Gentle reminder, an executive’s most precious resource is energy. Be more effective and use your energy effectively.

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Warm Regards,
Pankaj

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