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Using HR tech to its full potential

HR technology has become yet another buzzword on everyone’s lips and like many other such phrases, it often fails to convey the breadth and scope of what it describes. Once upon a time, HR tech represented substantial databases that held the information on all existing and former employees, providing HR professionals with an easier way to track and record information on the employees on the payroll.

But HR tech has recently been playing catch-up with advancements like those we’ve seen in marketing tech and CRM developments - where data-driven predictions and decisions are made near enough automatically from big data collections and interpretations. Historically, the lack of access to these tools meant that HR practitioners were being left behind, costing their companies valuable resources, particularly employee engagement. But fast forward to today, and the technology has evolved considerably, taking on far more complicated tasks and freeing up HR departments to demonstrate their inner creativity – constructing relevant and engaging development plans for employees.

Big data

The biggest development in HR technology solutions so far has to be the introduction of big data analysis capabilities into the automated processing stream. Being able to store extensive records was only useful in so far as it facilitated the task of retrieving records for analysis. With the ability to analyse the data using advanced tools, HR professionals have instantly gained an invaluable asset, saving them time and even enhancing their capability in identifying complex patterns which could ultimately provide the best candidates to lead the company into the future.

Automation driving HR

Automation is cited as the most important function of modern HR technology. Instant feedback mechanisms powered by advanced predictive analytics help alleviate the need for manual computation and allow HR to do what it does best; manage employee relations, implement engagement initiatives and raise and maintain the productivity of the organisation.

Is education needed to make the most of this tech?

However, despite the many benefits to these solutions, a large proportion of today’s HR professionals appear not to fully realise the advanced capabilities of the tech solutions available to them. In Towards Maturity’s most recent study, the data revealed that businesses are adopting technology solutions to specifically improve the performance of HR functions as well as the wider organisation. Of the participants, 86 per cent indicated that they were using online learning and 79 per cent said their organisations employed an LMS solution.

This is very positive, as many organisations across the UK are experiencing a widening skills gap, particularly regarding digital competencies and online learning provides learners with engaging, flexible programmes to bring them up to speed with the latest skills, often inside the platform they are training to use more efficiently. Even more encouragingly, the results indicated that two-thirds of participants have implemented mobile learning platforms and just under a third have experimented with game mechanics and simulations.

This is an important step for professional L&D platforms, as creativity, interaction, perceived reward, and even fun user mechanics all add to the engagement factor of the overall platform. As engagement continues to be a top issue for HR departments across the globe it is more important than ever that the delivery of learned content is stimulating and attractive to the learner, increasing retention of knowledge and applicability to the workflow.

Making the most of your resources

What is still frustrating however, is that despite the nine out of 10 learning professionals that are interested in improving output and efficiency across multiple aspects of the business, fewer than three on average feel that they are achieving their goals. This suggests that the real issue for modern day HR professionals is how to best utilise the available technologies and tools to increase their capabilities, meet objectives, and deliver tangible results across the company. It’s widely known that computers are fantastic calculators, far better than most, if not all humans.

This is, of course, due to their ability to store large quantities of data and then perform multiple operations simultaneously to provide the requested solution or analysis in only a matter of seconds. What this means in a HR capacity, is an ability to immediately determine a person’s suitability for a role, against their peers and even competitive external candidates, with a clear recommendation established from statistical evaluations of their experience and performance. It also means that for those employees who have been identified as high potentials - those who demonstrate promise for future leadership - that their development pathway can be planned ahead of time.

With today’s HR solutions, in addition to mapping the necessary skills and knowledge against existing experience, it is even possible to account for the preferences and ambitions of the employee, providing them with some control over their own professional development. Whilst this is impressive, it is effectively no more than HR professionals have been doing manually for decades.

The real prize offered by HR technology is enabling automated career development analysis and succession planning and the restructuring of roles within the department itself. Where HR was previously forced to perform its own analyses and computations, it now has the ultimate tool to fully automate these lengthy and ultimately costly procedures. This in turn, enables HR professionals to work towards advising the c-suite, based upon the provided data and developing more creative programmes which increase learner engagement and as a result, productivity - a task beyond the capabilities of mere software.

Liam Butler, VP Sales, EMEA, SumTotal, a Skillsoft Company