The Future of HR Tech: People, Relationships, and Experiences

Delisa Alexander, EVP & CPO, Red Hat [NYSE:RHT]

Delisa Alexander, EVP & CPO, Red Hat [NYSE:RHT]

There’s a fundamental disconnect between the way today’s HR systems are designed and the way that innovative companies operate.

Many vendors offer highly specialized tools that are focused on one sub-part of the talent lifecycle. One vendor offers a performance management solution, another offers a learning management solution, and yet another offers an applicant tracking system. The list goes on and on.

Yet at its core, HR is not about systems or processes. It’s about people.

"Imagine a world where we had truly objective measures and tools for assessing skills and knowledge"

What I would love is software that does more than support systems and processes. I’d love help creating tighter relationships and giving people a delightful, intuitive experience.

In my dream IT world, tools would be integrated and seamlessly support the full lifecycle of the relationship, offering each of us what we need, when we need it.

We have this Experience in many Areas of our Lives

Whether I log into Amazon or Facebook or do a search with Mozilla Firefox, what I see will fit my interests and the stage of life I’m in. My experience is different from yours, because it is based on my history and activity on those sites.

These companies have figured out how to offer a personalized experience at scale, using predictive analytics to unlock the value of their data. Not only have they figured it out; they do it in a way that many of us enjoy.

Our associates have come to expect no less from the systems they interact with at work. Unfortunately, HR software has been slow to deliver on these emerging consumer expectations.

Think about it. When you log into your company’s intranet, do you see information that’s personalized to fit your location, team, and role? Are you shown that job opening on another team that perfectly fits your experience and skills—and the one that you know five great candidates for?

Are you prompted to take key talent actions that you need to complete this month or quarter? And do those prompts disappear when you’ve completed those tasks?

If you’re a manager, do you see leading and lagging indicators on your team’s performance and engagement? Do you get suggestions for actions you can take to make a difference at the right time, with the right people?

My answer is no. If yours is yes, my hat’s off to you.

To put it Bluntly, most HR Systems are Clunky and Hard to use

They don’t support the experiences we all want and need to have at work. At their worst, they undermine our engagement.

Consider performance management systems.

Progressive companies are moving away from overall ratings and forced rankings, because those don’t inspire improvements in performance.

What inspires and motivates people are high quality conversations with their managers and peers, with a focus on development and building on strengths. People need feedback in the moment, and a way to capture it for long-term planning and growth.

What we get from most HR systems vendors, though, are inelegant systems that people avoid using if possible. Some systems require lots of transferring documents back and forth, waiting on other people to take action, and rely on workflows that aren’t user-friendly. Sometimes there are consequences built into the system that managers discover the hard way, so they opt to enter inaccurate information rather than trigger those events.

What HR teams find is that while associates and managers may have those valuable and important conversations, they limit their use of the tool as much as possible. That’s unfortunate, because tools could support the experience and make it easier to have those conversations. We need flexible, user-friendly interfaces that reflect how people actually use tools and help them get the most out of HR processes.

I’m Challenging HR Vendors Here

There’s so much opportunity for established vendors to step up and be thought leaders, because we’re seeing plenty of startups coming out with truly innovative solutions. The reality for most companies, though, is that we need the support, experience, and partnership that larger vendors can offer.

It’s true; there are complex, effective, legacy solutions out there for things like workforce planning. But for a company our size (<10,000 people), those behemoth solutions aren’t feasible. We’d need much more staff with deep systems knowledge. And most of them don’t go far enough into these areas I’m describing.

There’s a lack of lightweight, easy-to-use solutions that offer leading and lagging indicators, predictive modeling, and a personalized experience at scale.

We need integrated HR systems that help us manage our relationships with prospective candidates, current associates, and former associates. What’s more, we need those systems to help us deliver a fantastic experience to each person we touch.

We Have an Abundance of Data

What we lack are systems that put data to good use.

I can envision a world where, when we’re recruiting, we have tools that help us better match prospective candidates to job requisitions. Whether, you’re a job seeker or an employer, that’s good for you, because it saves your time and energy.

Many of us love the idea of meritocracy; but delivering on that ideal is challenging, because as humans, we’re subject to unconscious biases that create errors in our decision making. Imagine a world where we had truly objective measures and tools for assessing skills and knowledge. Not just in hiring, but also in promotions and compensation decisions. There are some promising technologies and vendors already popping up in this space, and I’d love to see more investment and energy there.

Imagine, too, how we could use data to enhance the experience our people have in learning and development environments. What if you could get real-time, accurate feedback on your leadership strengths and weaknesses? Not only that, what if we had simulations that would help you builds those skills?

You can see a future state where you have a conversation with one of your associates about their performance or development, and the system uses that information to suggest development experiences that fit what that associate needs and wants. Maybe it even makes recommendations to you, as a manager, for how to support that associate’s development and engagement.

The World has Changed

So, too, have people’s relationships with employers. It used to be that people stayed with their employer for life. But these days, people come for a tour of duty. They stay for a while, based on the knowledge and experience they want to get. When they leave, it’s because they want to get a different kind of knowledge or experience somewhere else. We need systems that support that new reality.

We need ways to manage those alumni relationships as part of the lifecycle, much like universities have. We want to stay in touch and inform our proud alumni of what’s happening with our company. We want to keep those folks as part of our network, as ambassadors for our company. That helps us continue to grow our talent pool and it keeps our employer brand strong.

When I Look at the Future of HR Technology

I see so many opportunities for systems that support our relationships at every stage of the lifecycle. I’m excited by the thought of seeing vendors develop solutions that help us deliver an engaging, inspiring experience to every person we encounter.

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