10 important ways data and technology are transforming HR

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Lizzie Buxton

6th March 2019

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Right now, a whole raft of technologies are converging to elevate HR from back-office cost centre to its rightful place, leading the charge for business performance. Here are the ten biggest opportunities.

In any sane world, Human Resources would be central to business strategy. For most organisations, people are both the biggest cost, and the biggest influence on performance. Getting more from your people is a direct route to success.

But in practice, even forward-thinking HR leaders can find themselves held back from this strategic role, by three main factors:

  1. HR colleagues are frequently dragged away from strategic activities into day-to-day transactional and ER work.
  2. People data is too vast, or not granular enough, to gain meaningful insights; it’s useful only for benchmarking.
  3. It’s difficult for HR to prove that it helps the business to achieve its strategic objectives, beyond basic cost-cutting.

These challenges are interconnected. If HR leaders can’t prove their strategic impact, it’s difficult to make the case for investment in new processes and systems that can give the insights to spot improvements, and the tools and bandwidth to deliver them. It’s Catch-22.

Well, here’s some good news. Advancing technology and data science are making it easier than ever to break that cycle – and implement the changes that will begin to elevate HR.

Here are ten important ways that we see technology and data changing HR, right now.

Four innovations giving HR the bandwidth to work strategically…

We often hear how HR is coming under pressure to improve efficiency, and cut costs. But rather than reducing headcount and budgets, resources freed up by technology are more usually redeployed higher up the value chain, doing strategic work that only humans can do. (Indeed, our research shows 55% of HR leaders believe AI poses no threat to traditional HR job roles.)

1. AI can screen, rank and match CVs to a role, cutting cost per hire by 71%

Close up of businessman HR technology and dataEven at director level, HR leaders spend more than 10% of their time on recruitment. Simply allowing AI to perform the first sweep through applicants can triple efficiency – saving time and money; more than £4,000 on the average managerial role.

2. Chatbots can ease the pressure of repetitive HR enquiries – saving hours per day

It’s estimated that HR teams spend an astonishing 40% of their time answering the same enquiries, over and over again. That’s not just inefficient, it’s terrible for morale. Using a chatbot to field the most basic enquiries is relatively simple to do, keeps your team focused on more rewarding work, and also lets people get an answer more quickly for complex or sensitive issues.

3. VR can cut travel time to interviews, meetings and reviews

If you’re working across several sites, Virtual Reality can make a centralised HR team much more efficient. Businesses are using it to participate remotely in interviews, meetings and performance reviews – while using VR for training and inductions also means these activities are quicker and easier to arrange.

4. Automation is helping to strip out duplicated and repetitive work

It’s clear that automated systems can save you time on transactional HR jobs, like processing and logging recruitment requests or changes of personal details. But there’s a further, hidden benefit: the way defining these processes clarifies your workflow. This helps you to spot areas where people in different parts of your team are duplicating their efforts – and makes it easier to implement a process change.

…Three ways technology is making HR more effective…

Alongside improvements to efficiency and productivity within the HR team, several changes to technology are also making it easier to have an impact in the wider organisation.

5. Agile management systems could finally unlock the benefits of flexible work

Flex working clearly has great potential to improve workplace wellbeing and productivity – but difficulties in tracking and scheduling work mean few organisations are using it to the full. New, agile project management systems are designed to assign and organise a fast-moving workload across a disparate team, which could in turn lower some barriers to flex working, and the recruitment and morale benefits it provides.

6. Data science is enabling HR to get proactive on absenteeism

Our Absenteeism Report 2018 shows most HR teams are now using technology to monitor absence. The next step is to move from simply tracking this behaviour, to spotting opportunities to make an active, pre-emptive difference. As technology makes it ever easier to collect, process, visualise and interpret large quantities of data, so more HR teams are able to spot the opportunity, intervene, and measure the impact.

7. Mobile apps are closing time gaps in performance management Data and Technology helping HR people using tech

Quarterly performance reviews seem strangely out-of-kilter with modern, fast-moving enterprises and our always-connected culture. That’s why firms like Amazon have experimented with mobile apps, with a daily survey, enabling employees and managers to give feedback in close to real time. It’s proven popular, improving Glassdoor ratings, and helping managers to resolve small issues before they escalate.

…Two technological challenges forcing HR to raise its game…

For a part of the business that’s often wrestling with legacy systems and processes, the comfort zone can be a tempting place – and that’s an obstacle to HR transformation. But some technological changes are challenging that status quo, and prompting HR to rise to the occasion.

8. Employees’ experiences as tech consumers are increasing expectations at work

Workers won’t use technology provided by work if it’s markedly inferior to what they have at home – so HR teams are working alongside IT to manage the age of “Bring Your Own Device”, where employees use personal devices for work (with or without permission). But there’s a broader point, too: slick, painless experiences as a consumer all serve to raise employees’ expectations about processes at work – challenging HR to become far easier to deal with.

9. Data and technology skills are increasingly necessary in HR teams

It’s not just the processes that are changing. The need to seize the opportunities presented by new technologies and data means the core skillset for a modern HR team is starting to shift. As a minimum, you’ll need someone who’s well versed in manipulating, combining and interpreting data – enabling you to extract the valuable information you need to make informed decisions.

…And one fundamental data shift, with the potential to put HR at the heart of your business

Ultimately, HR’s problems hinge upon perception – and being able to prove the enormous value it delivers across the business. The trick lies in showing the work is effective – and expressing it in terms of the organisation’s largest strategic goals.

10. Overlaying people data with function data is the key to finding value (and proving it)

Extracting the value from people data is easier than it’s ever been. But one area with huge potential is when that data is overlaid with performance data from elsewhere in the organisation. Suddenly, you can join the dots to see how a change in absenteeism or employee engagement really affects productivity – and, inevitably, your bottom line. You can reveal the true impact of your work, uncover the hidden costs you’re reducing, and show that the commitment of your people really does drive the performance of your business.

It’s hard to remember a more exciting time to work in HR. If you’d like to know more, you might enjoy our ebook on HR and the Digital Revolution. Alternatively, if you have a challenge with people data, processes or technology, please get in touch.

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