July 28, 2023
The last 5 years have seen the working world turned on its head.
First, the pandemic gave rise to hybrid and remote working, spurred on by digital advancements that turned homes into fully-functioning offices.
Next, the battle for talent led to the increased popularity of recruitment platforms and filtering software.
Finally, a wave of technological innovations across blockchain, AI, and big tech triggered shockwaves through the professional world, solidifying one thing: the modern working world, is a digital one.
For HR professionals that earned their stripes prior to this wave of digitisation, a bewildering and complex challenge awaits. How can you succeed, and even thrive, as an HR professional in the digital age?
In this article, we tackle the opportunity at hand, outline the steps towards thriving with tech, and illustrate key challenges you should be aware of as an HR expert facing the tech wave.
In the wake of the pandemic, adaptability to new digital processes has led to increased profitability, efficiency, and effectiveness across organisations. And, with these documented “wins”, pressure has mounted for teams to fully embrace the technological wave. In fact, investments in HR-specific technologies are on the rapid incline, with 97% of teams increasing investments in recruiting technology, 60% in predictive analysis, 53% in process automation, and 47% in AI.
From an HR perspective, there’s an ever-increasing expectation to understand and implement technologies with the potential to accelerate business processes. Examples include new-fangled robotic processes, rapid document automation, intelligent chatbots, computer vision technology and other forms of artificial intelligence. This also includes blockchain and emerging technologies which are quickly moving from the fringe, into the mainstream.
These technologies, and their creators, have worked hard to demonstrate their value to businesses, expanding their audience beyond the IT department to encompass any and every business decision-maker with a responsibility to make an impact. As a result, HR professionals, marketing managers and pretty much every single employee of every firm are being called to action with a responsibility to drive company profit and productivity with tech.
… and, well, it’s a lot, isn’t it?
However, it doesn’t have to feel like a losing battle. To become “tech savvy” you don’t need to learn how to code, and to embrace tech, you don’t need to surrender your time to it. Let’s break apart the process and speak plainly: how can you use technology to help your workforce, help your business, and ultimately, help your career?
You’re busy. Really busy. As a result, you don’t have the time to trawl through research papers, tech reports, and company press releases. You need something quick that gives you the lay of the land, while clearly defining what will impact your business most.
As a result, we’ve collated a couple of resources that give you a bird’s eye view of technological shifts, without drowning you in information. To really maximise your ability to skim key information, tailor your content preferences to industry and practice.
Newsletters can be a particularly useful way of skim-reading the market. Below we’ve collated a few HR-specific newsletters to get you started.
More of a podcast person? We’ve got you covered. Below you’ll find a blend of HR and technology-focused podcasts.
Finally, filling your feed with thought leaders in this space can be particularly advantageous. Below we’ve collated a couple of thinkers worth following.
With one eye on the discourse, you can start tackling your priorities. To save you a little time, we’ve collated some of the most common tech solutions HR teams face - and the challenges that come with them.
Whether it's to protect employees and their health and safety at work, or to check performance, monitoring technology can be a controversial subject. Post-pandemic, we’re seeing the positive side, as this software can reduce barriers to collaborating with remote workers. Equally, this presents challenges to consider, as you should be mindful that what’s acceptable in one setting might not be in another.
Research conducted by the CIPD showed that factors including management level, percentage of hybrid workers, and whether similar monitoring practices already exist in the organisation, influenced opinions of what “acceptable practices” were.
This means that, when you’re thinking about introducing new tech, such as an updated monitoring measure, you should check with your managers, and potentially, workers first, to ensure it is relevant and necessary for the intended purposes. Crucially, this goes for all types of software you might be looking to implement.
As the topic of the times, AI is enjoying its spot in the limelight, with countless claims that it will reshape the working world as we know it. In response, the EU is introducing new laws to regulate this emerging tech, while the UK is publishing whitepapers in efforts to become a global tech hub that supports the use of AI. As a result, it’s hardly any wonder that companies globe-wide are wondering how to implement this rapidly evolving tech within their working practices.
There are many positives to using AI in managing staff and increasing efficiency. You might have even tried document review systems or put AI to the test to analyse customer satisfaction, optimise your supply chain operations or even identify fraud. However, unfortunately, as we’re still in the early iterations of this particular type of tech, there are also some downsides, and the fear factor associated with the tech is fairly high.
One example is the negative impact underdeveloped tech can have on the recruitment process. There have been cases where bias hasn’t been ironed out in AI. Issues like this can increase the risk to the organisation’s overall reputation. Discussions are taking place on workarounds for this, such as using intermediaries to provide demographic data that AI can use as a more reliable source of input that generates more appropriate output. Managers are still, rightly, uncomfortable with letting AI complete tasks unaccompanied by any human intervention whatsoever. We certainly think exercising caution, at this stage, is best practice.
If you want to read more about this topic, check out our article on AI within the workplace.
Intelligent automation sounds complicated, but really it’s just a phrase that means combining the forces of AI and other emerging technologies with automation to improve lots of different types of systems and processes. There are plenty of opportunities for HR to be involved in this, for example, in linking automation plans that the business may have in its strategy, with workforce planning and reviews of the organisation’s overall structure and culture. In a Deloitte report on automation’s entry into the business world, intelligent automation is praised for its positive impacts on businesses:
“Intelligent automation systems detect and produce vast amounts of information and can automate entire processes or workflows, learning and adapting as they go. Applications range from the routine to the revolutionary: from collecting, analysing and making decisions about textual information to guiding autonomous vehicles and advanced robots. It is already helping companies transcend conventional performance trade-offs to achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and quality.”
What’s key here is that progress is fast in this area – from applying robotics in warehouses and resolving menial and manual labour tasks, to machine learning discovering patterns in data, for example in sales forecasting. And, this is happening industry-wide, from financial services to healthcare and life science.
Most organisations employing 50 or more people worldwide use an HR information system (HRIS) and payroll software. To get the best out of HR software (or any software for that matter), it’s important to consider who will be using the software and for what purpose (and consequently, what benefit it will have). Ultimately, you want any investment in technology to lead to a great digital experience for the employees interacting with the software (and to prove to the board that it was worth it in the first place!)
This means that the tech needs to be, at the very least, reliable, intuitive and user-friendly for people who aren’t necessarily tech-savvy, or who won’t use the self-service features regularly. This may mean sacrificing some opportunities to make back-end activities easier, but will also require budget and resources for training to ensure onboarding happens smoothly and efficiently.
You’ve got yourself up to speed with the latest in tech news, tested and trialled different solutions, and now you’re ready to actually use the technology in ways that improve people’s working lives. What does this look like in practice?
The more employees your organisation has, the more likely you’ll have a bigger budget for HR software and a wider network of technology experts and resources to lean on. Even if this isn’t your reality, you can still explore free tools to help you work more effectively and speak to people in your network for top tips and advice. For example, ChatGPT has gained huge popularity and attention and helped push generative AI into the mainstream. Whilst it has its flaws, it can produce a starting point for lots of template documents, create content and copy for social media posts or short blogs, and specifically within HR, people have used it to draft interview questions, create job description templates, develop company policies, and more.
Understanding technology and people will become more and more important for HR professionals and the wider business world. Don’t get left behind – the sooner you jump on this train, the quicker you’ll reach your destination of maximum efficiency – and enjoy the ride along the way!
While we can’t equip you with an AI that will automate HR tasks, we do support HR teams to impactfully reclaim lost time and resources. With FlamingoHR, an annual subscription bespoke to HR and employment law issues, we ensure you only focus on the most valuable work. Whether you’re in need of employment contracts, or complex support through Tribunals, we’ve got you covered.Discover how we support HR teams with flexible, reliable, cost-effective support.