hrtechoutlook

Horse and Wagon in the World of Electric Self Driving Vehicles

By Patrice Graves, Executive Vice President Human Resources, AECOM

Patrice Graves, Executive Vice President Human Resources, AECOM

What does new Human Resources technology offer? Workforce analytics, just-in-time answers to routine inquiries, improved efficiency and productivity, on-demand reports, real-time access to information and employee data, and streamlined approvals. I could go on and on touting the benefits of new and innovative HR systems.  These buzzwords and phrases entice and capture the imaginations of leaders who dream of having a strategic edge over their competitors. Progressive companies should want their HR teams to evolve into more strategic and forward-leaning business professionals versus those who simply ask employees to complete forms, process transactions and answer routine questions. We must leverage technology to evolve HR.  Why pay salary and fringe, etc when most of the work can all be done by an easy-to-access system at your fingertips- available on your phone, laptop or desktop? No longer will we rely on the errors and inconsistencies of spreadsheets, and the emailing of files for review and approval. Farewell HR departments of the past with abundant resources available to provide personalized service and immediate hands-on coaching to managers and employees.

In the days of competing limited resources, many companies have opted to invest in technology and offset (at least a portion) of the investment through a reduction in HR professionals while increasing self reliance (aka manager self service). 

What value is it to invest in technology when your organization isn’t prepared to use it?

Post implementation; reality hits hard:    Loud are the complaints from employees and leaders who are now being asked to do ”HR’s job”.  HR professionals are increasingly the target of frustration for not being able to provide the same level of support as they have in the past.  And what’s to be said of the HR professional who isn’t quite sure what ‘strategic HR’ means?

As companies consider the investment of the shiny new technology, they often fail to consider organization readiness, complexity of processes and structure, and change/communication to stakeholders which provides context for the change. Further, they fail to predict the resistance to change in the ranks of HR - those who have been handsomely rewarded for doing what they have been told to do with speed, efficiency and a warm and friendly smile.

"We absolutely must move, with haste, beyond the traditional HR and add value - lest we be seen as the horse and buggy in the world of self driving vehicles" 

This is no fault of the vendors or the HR teams. The technology is amazing and has the ability to deliver all it promises.  That said, most off-the-shelf systems aren’t designed for complex, matrixed structures that change frequently and immature processes.  In most companies, one size does not fit all, and if the organization leaders haven’t taken the time to understand, document and align on workflow, the outcome is frustration all around. 

So, what’s the answer? Tread carefully my friend. I submit to you that doing the hard work up-front will save time, resources, reputation, and ensure you achieve your return on investment. Things to consider:

• Is your leadership and organization ready for change?

• Are your processes mature?

• Are your leaders supportive and aligned on the rationale?

• Are they aligned on the implications and outcomes of the changes?

• Do employees and leaders understand the rationale and context for the change?

• Do you have change management expertise to help employees as the organization pivots to a new support model?

• Have you invested in resources who understand your business model and the implications of such changes?

• Are you prepared for the change adoption curve that can impact productivity, and the perceptions that the company no longer values its employees?

• Have you assessed the current HR team and decided if they can make the leap and be trained to more value-added responsibilities (or) if you need to invest in talent who has ‘been there and done that’?

Ah, so many important decisions to make. Time is wasting! Let’s think about it together:

Should the evolution of HR actually take place? Yes, it must! Does the value exist? Yes, we can absolutely prove the ROI. Is it worth the journey? Yes, with the right support structure! Hey there, hold on.  Don’t go running into the burning building just yet. 

Proceed with extreme caution and ensure you have the right team in place to lead the change.  All of the pitfalls can be overcome with the right leadership and strategic oversight. We must plan for contingencies and leverage change management and communication to bring all stakeholders along in the journey. That said, don’t be naive. Many CHROs have been displaced for failure to recognize the amount of hands-on work, sweat equity and personal sacrifice required to realize the future.

When all is said and done, we (HR) absolutely must change, evolve and improve. We must leverage the efficiencies of new technology and engage as proactive problem solvers to help our businesses grow and achieve the financial KPIs.  We absolutely must move, with haste, beyond the traditional HR and add value - lest we be seen as the horse and buggy in the world of self driving vehicles.

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