Technology is disrupting human resources (HR), and, in most cases, for the better. In a recent report on HR technology, Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, predicts the HR technology industry "is on the precipice of a total reinvention." The pace of change has been accelerating since 2010, when the market began "steadily racing to the cloud."
Advances in HR technology are keeping pace with--and in some cases driving changes in the strategic concerns of growing businesses. Emphasis has shifted from talent management through integrated processes and systems, to people management that focuses on culture, engagement, environment, leadership, empowerment, and fit.
"I've seen a lot of companies emerge in the employee engagement and feedback space," says Joe Carella, assistant dean for executive education at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management. Such solutions can be valuable for growth-oriented companies, especially if they have time-critical projects, Carella suggests. But he cautions that there are limits to what they can do and stresses that "tech is never a good replacement for sound leadership."
Paul J. Sarvadi, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Insperity, says the lens through which any technology solution should be viewed is always the same: How will it help your business achieve its goals? "The primary HR objective is to achieve alignment across the business between its employees and the strategies and goals that are most important to it. Those are the things that really change as a company grows."
Communicating those goals and strategies to the workforce is generally a straightforward matter for business leaders when a company is small, but as companies grow and workforces become dispersed, it gets more challenging.
The three most important HR pillars for achieving alignment have always been communication, employee feedback mechanisms, and compensation and rewards systems, Sarvadi says, and technology can help in all those areas. At a more granular level, HR tech is vastly expanding opportunities in performance management, real-time engagement evaluation, people analytics, talent acquisition, training, and other processes that support the three pillars.
However, Sarvadi echoes Carella when he emphasizes that technology can never totally displace the human element from a successful HR strategy. "HCM (human capital management) technology has made tremendous strides, and there's been significant adoption," he says. "But for companies to realize the full value of their investment, they have to go beyond software as a service to what I call software with a service. That is going to take help from advisors with real HR expertise. We're not just providing the tools and saying, 'Here's how you use them.' We help our clients identify behaviors they want to drive and performance-improvement objectives they want to achieve; then we show them how to use the right tools to do that."