Beyond Finance: Why Technology is The New “Must Have” Skill for HR Professionals

HR professionals have been hearing for years about the importance of gaining financial acumen to serve most effectively in a strategic role and, ultimately, rise to higher ranks within the organization. Finance remains an important skill, but there’s another skill that is rapidly becoming equally, if not more, important—technological savvy.

As cloud computing, “big data” and most recently artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are impacting organizations, HR professionals need to keep up with the technological trends and their potential for both positive and disruptive impact. It’s a topic that’s top of mind for many.

Just last November we hosted a podcast with Garry Mathaison, co-chair of the first-of-its-kind Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Automation Practice Group at Littler Mendelson in San Francisco, on how robotics is reshaping the workplace, and published a blog post on how robots and AI are both transforming the workplace.

From sourcing candidates, to actually “interviewing” candidates, to taking on a wide range of workplace tasks that no longer have to be performed by people, technology is impacting HR and the organizations they serve in ways that we likely couldn’t even imagine just a few short years ago.

So what is it that you need to know, and how can you gain the exposure and knowledge needed to understand the new and emerging ways technology is impacting the practice of HR?

A Wide Range of Emerging Technologies

Beyond the ways in which technology can impact how HR does its work and leverages data to make informed decisions, technology is also impacting HR indirectly by changing the skillsets that organizations need to compete, putting additional pressure on HR to attract and retain a highly competitive workforce, says Deb Card, partner of HR Technology and Delivery Strategies at Information Services Group.

Card suggests that HR professionals focus on building knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Successful deployment of Cloud HCM systems;
  • Leveraging social and mobile engagement tools;
  • The potential of artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies and the “art of the possible”;
  • Wearables and connected devices to monitor health and safety risks; and
  • Deploying analytics to help your organization make better people decisions.

“Savvy HR leaders should drive an HR tech strategy that will carry them into the future, understanding what financial and business benefits the new technology can deliver and how to ensure successful deployment and change management,” says Card.

The playing field is large and increasingly diverse. That’s why, Card adds, “HR is now moving forward with cognitive and artificial, intelligence—from chatbots that replace Tier 1 contact center staff to algorithms that can better identify qualified candidates or predict who is most likely to leave your employment.”

Gaining or honing technical competencies isn’t something that can, or should, be done alone. Fortunately, HR pros have a wide array of resources to draw upon.

Making Friends With IT Colleagues

Just as HR professionals were exhorted several years ago (and still are) to gain the financial skills that could help them build credibility and earn that coveted “seat at the table,” today’s HR professionals need to hone these same skills in technology. But technology is a broad topic and can encompass a wide range of applications and uses.

Technology seems to move at the speed of sound these days, and it can be tough to stay on top of things. As this interesting infographic from Talent Tech Labs illustrates, there are a wide range of technology applications that span the various activities of today’s HR professionals. Staying on top of, and understanding the ramifications of, the possibilities can be aided through building solid relationships with IT colleagues, just as similar relationships with finance colleagues have been nurtured over the years.

Steve Adams is CEO at EmployeeChannel, Inc., a mobile app provider for employee engagement. “As tech professionals, we believe that our HR colleagues should increase their technical acumen with a goal of being literate, not fluent, in the technologies that can address the twin tasks of talent acquisition and talent optimization,” says Adams. “We need a collaborative, peer relationship for technology investigation and acquisition,” he says. “They need to understand the potential application of a given technology in achieving their goals, and we need to understand their goals.”

Traditionally, says Adams, HR and IT have focused on technologies to automate internal, transactional processes like payroll, benefits and time tracking. Today, though, there are new opportunities. “With the unleashing of AI [artificial intelligence], NLP [neuro linguistic programming] and machine learning, HR and IT need to partner to understand how these technologies can be used in both systems of engagement and systems of intelligence,” he says.

Recommended Resources

“Renowned HR analysts, such as Josh Bersin at Deloitte, are focused on the intersection of HR and technology,” says Adams and are good resources to follow. He also points to HR industry influencers, Jason Lauritsen and Tim Sackett as good sources of information on the practical application of technology for HR business processes. And, he says: “There’s also a very active HR community on Twitter that can spark the imagination of how new technologies can empower the individual and the organization.”

But, adds Adams, HR practitioners have sources of information in their own backyards. “Invite your IT partner to lunch,” he suggests. “They’re IT. They like free lunches, and they love to talk about technology and the possibilities.”


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