What are the 3 key insights needed to make smart HR technology investments?

digital HR technology

In assessing investments in HR technology, HR should collect three types of insights, according to Bill Docherty, who says these insights need to be integrated, analysed, and interpreted to drive business decisions today and for the future

Agile, personal, collaborative, always-on – many of the words used to describe today’s workforce also sum up the new era of software, apps, and technologies. Long gone are the days of large, static enterprise software systems; in their place are universal, AI-enabled HR solutions that extend 24/7 on any device, making the workplace easier, more adaptable, and more effective.

Employee-focused HR technologies now span dozens of categories, from people management and organisational network analysis to wellness platforms and self-service apps. With developments disrupting the space at ever-increasing speed, it can be difficult to know which technologies will satisfy complex and dynamic human capital challenges.

Many organisations can’t make informed decisions about HR technology simply because too much information exists in isolation. External industry data, employee assessment surveys, operational data, and many other forms of information are siloed – and to make matters worse, nearly all of it is historical. As a result, major investments are all too often made on the basis of solving today’s problems, not looking ahead to future disruptions.

“It’s a fast-changing world out there – and HR can no longer navigate by looking in the rearview mirror”

Leaders need the ability to combine multiple categories of information to make informed decisions about technology deployment. HR should collect three types of insights: a sense of the external market; the pulse of how and what their workforce is feeling; and an understanding of what technologies employees are using, and how they’re using them. All these sources of data must be actionable – they need to be integrated, analysed, and interpreted to drive business decisions today and for the future.

1.Market trends. It’s not uncommon for organisations to know more about the external market perceptions that shape their products and services than what it thinks about their organisation. Externally-focused research can sense macro changes in workforce demographics, mine opinions on career sites and social media, identify emerging wellness trends, and other factors that not only influence worker behavior, but also define the organisation’s reputation as an excellent place to work.

2. Employee sentiment. Organisations also need to understand what employees are thinking and feeling. It’s important to measure and evaluate workforce views and opinions through techniques such as culture and engagement surveys, portal analytics, and trend sensing to be able to retain top talent in a world where competition for skilled workers is at an all time high.

3. Understanding HR tech. Rounding out workforce assessment requires data and analytics about how employees are actually using current technology. To accomplish this, HR must be able to gather information about the digital workplace, especially how employees are using tools such as self-service HR apps, dashboards, and learning/development platforms. It’s important to know what services and features are being used or not, as well as what content employees find most valuable, so new technology can address the changing needs.

“Organisations need to shift their approach from analysing what has already occurred, to seeking what is coming over the horizon”

Making sense of all this information is a formidable task – one that can be made easier with a unifying platform. Cloud-based services, backed by panels of industry experts, are available that track, combine, and analyse the myriad sources of internal and external information.

Given the power of analytics today, it’s easy to overlook the critical role that a team of professionals can play in translating data into practical HR strategy. Data science, especially AI-powered analytics, is adept at quickly identifying patterns in large amounts of seemingly disparate information, and even hypothesising outcomes based on that information. It takes skilled experts, however, to interpret, test, and validate the ideas and trends that HR should address in its technology planning.

Also important are individuals who can turn insight into practice. It’s one thing to identify future sources of disruption, and quite another to predict the specific workplace challenges that will result. HR is an increasingly complex and dynamic field; pinpointing solutions takes experience and a strong knowledge of the latest tools and techniques.

It’s a fast-changing world out there – and HR can no longer navigate by looking in the rearview mirror. Organisations need to shift their approach from analysing what has already occurred, to seeking what is coming over the horizon. By actively listening to, and interpreting, the external and internal forces shaping the world of work, HR leaders can accommodate change – and help their organisations more nimbly adapt to the road ahead.