Technology is playing an increasingly important role in how organisations and employees manage performance, and this has significant implications for the HR function of the future, according to an expert in the area.

Systems no longer support the HR function itself in years to come, but instead provide tools to enable managers and team members to enhance their own capabilities across the employee lifecycle, said David Guazzarotto, CEO of Future Knowledge.

“Within the next 5-10 years employees will bring their own master file and talent profile to be plugged into an organisation’s HRIS system of record during their tenure,” he said.

“The current debate on the worth of performance appraisals has been fuelled by the availability of better ways to engage leaders and team members [and] provide more frequent and less formal feedback that is more highly valued to the participants than the traditional formal performance review.

“We will see a shift in focus from performance-led to engagement-led – in other words whether an employee or contractor is achieving high performance, will not be as critical as whether or not they are fully engaged and aligned with the core purpose and strategy of the organisation,” said Guazzarotto.

The growing appetite for new ways to access learning and development has also seen systems go from supporting the administration and tracking of training, to allowing employees to self-serve a broad range of learning materials and curate their own content from a range of sources, he observed.

SaaS talent management benefits
Research shows that the leading companies in most markets and industry sectors share one thing in common: a superior talent strategy to their competitors, according to Guazzarotto.

“At no time in history has the importance of people management in organisations been more apparent,” he said.

“Those organisations that understand the key attributes that drive success in a world where differentiation is increasingly the product of human factors – being purpose-driven, performance-oriented and principles-led – are organisations that will not just survive, but thrive in today’s business environment.”

Accordingly, he said the function of HR in organisations has evolved to accommodate an increasingly strategic focus.

Technology has helped drive this transformation by facilitating the transfer of transactional administrative functions from HR to self-service models.

This evolution has seen HR play a more collaborative role with the business to enhance talent management through the integration of talent management programs into the roles of leaders and managers.

“Those businesses that are succeeding in the transition to SaaS solutions have moved away from a ‘project’ mindset to a ‘program’ mindset”

“Progressive organisations will continue to explore ways to enhance this partnership to drive competitive advantage through developing their people,” he said.

“Organisations are already evolving their performance approaches to encompass more informal and more frequent feedback opportunities between team leaders and team members. “This trend will continue to be at the heart of the evolution of performance management in the future.”

Guazzarotto also observed that increasing investment in talent management platforms is driving a more holistic approach to people management, with better tools to support the employee lifecycle resulting in a better dataset to aid team and individual development.

“The growing adoption of social collaboration technologies in the enterprise provides increased opportunity for more frequent contextual feedback, social learning and employee engagement,” he said.

The transition of a higher proportion of the workforce to contingent or freelancer models will also increase the redundancy of traditional employee-centric performance approaches, he added.

“If it hasn’t already, focusing on engagement will trump a focus on performance in getting the best out of this new generation of workers,” said Guazzarotto.

SaaS talent management challenges
In shifting to a SaaS talent management solution, one of the most common challenges for organisations is the perpetuation of the “on-premise” mindset typified by implementation approaches that focus on configuring the solution first and foremost, rather than readying the business to adopt the technology.

“SaaS solutions often require a radical rethink of business processes and organisations that are successfully adopting such technologies are seeing the transformational opportunity and embracing it,” said Guazzarotto.

“Those businesses that are succeeding in the transition to SaaS solutions have moved away from a ‘project’ mindset to a ‘program’ mindset – in effect they are prepared to set course on the path to continuous improvement supported by vendors who can now update the software frequently due to the benefits of having a single codeline to manage.

“Successful programs invariably invest a higher proportion of their budgets in stakeholder engagement and change management to embed the solutions into the business, inherently motivating all end users to connect with the solutions,” he said.

“The HR department of the future will be focused on identifying opportunities for leaders and manager to deliver improved business outcomes through their people”

Another challenge can be found in “analysis paralysis” of business case and vendor selection exercises which churn through budgets – that would often be better applied to the implementation and adoption of a solution.

“With information about vendors and solutions readily accessible, our advice is to leap straight in with vendors who fit your needs and start proving the use-case with pilots and proofs-of-concept that can then be used to evaluate the worth of a more extensive roll out of a solution,” said Guazzarotto.

The effort involved in deploying SaaS solutions should also not be underestimated, he added. While the effort to configure and technically deploy these solutions has been greatly reduced, he there is still a strong need to support changes to business processes and often manager and employee behaviours.

“Chronically under-resourced HR teams often fall foul of this and find their project deadlines missed,” he said.

4 key technology shifts for HR
Technology has shaped how people work in and out of the office and has changed the way jobs are performed, and these changes have had four major impacts on HR and talent management, according to Guazzarotto: consumerisation, a move to systems of engagement, increased business capacity for predictive analytics, and support for the learning ecosystem.

  1. The consumerisation of technology. Consumerisation can be defined as the reorientation of product and service design to focus on the end user, rather than the organisation, as the customer. It reflects how businesses will be affected by, and can take advantage of, new technologies that originate in the consumer space, rather than the enterprise IT sector.

“The consumerisation of technology creates an increasing appetite for workforce technology and greater demand for intuitive, easy to use systems. Increasingly the type of technology provided to employees will inform their decision to join an organisation,” said Guazzarotto:

  • Mobility: With the advent of mobile phones and tablets, employees expect to be able to be connected at their desk, at home and on the road. Mobile first development and BYOD should now be at the forefront of technology investment.
  • Social collaboration: Social is not a nice to have, it has become a pervasive technology that will increasingly become critical to effective collaboration, engagement and culture. There is no longer a choice of whether or not to provide social collaboration technologies.
  • Platform as a service: Platforms will increasingly become the norm enabling businesses to extend the functionality of vendor apps by acquiring add-ons and creating their own custom apps. This will enable a single-source-of-truth solution to be deployed without having to deal with multiple vendors, multiple user interfaces and the upgrade burden that this came with in the past.
  1. Systems of engagement, rather than systems of record. The advent of cloud-base technologies and software-as-a-service deployment models has been the catalyst for a seismic shift from systems-of-record to systems-of-engagement, according to Guazzarotto.

“This has precipitated a new way of thinking about how employees and managers interact with HR and talent management systems and enabled savvy organisations to embed a more holistic approach to managing and developing talent,” he said.

“Progressive organisations will continue to explore ways to enhance this partnership to drive competitive advantage through developing their people”

  1. Big data and predictive analytics. Big data is compelling organisations to think more holistically about people and use information to drive better decision-making.

“Embedded analytics will become standard functionality, enabling senior executives to view real-time data that can be used to make decisions to proactively improve the business sooner,” said Guazzarotto.

“Organisations are moving away from an era of business intelligence being used to assess past performance in order to continue to make subjective decisions, to one in which predictive insights will drive business decisions.”

  1. Supporting a learning ecosystem model. People-centric organisations benefit from a multifaceted approach to learning, and Guazzarotto said this puts learning at the heart of the organisation’s people management systems, and requires it to be an organisational initiative not just led out of the HR or L&D departments.

“Technology is driving greater innovation and improved support for the six components of a healthy learning ecosystem – structured learning, talent development, performance, knowledge management, access to experts and social learning,” he said.

SaaS talent management implications for HR
By taking away the burden of administration, Guazzarotto said HR’s role has evolved to become in part the expert coach driving a high performance mindset and in part the overseer of the health and wellbeing of individual team members and of the overall company culture.

“There is a parallel with a professional sports organisation that has a high performance department, a medical/wellbeing/welfare department, list/roster managers to hire and develop the squad and a match day team to ensure optimum performance to drive team goals,” he said.

“Technology is increasingly facilitating the connection between these specialisations with team leaders and team members, said Guazzarotto, who predicted that the HR department of the future will be focused on identifying opportunities for leaders and manager to deliver improved business outcomes through their people.

“They will do so not by simply managing compliance, but by providing insights derived from data analysis and coaching those leaders to create the interventions that drive enhanced employee engagement, better collaboration and increased retention through talent development,” he said.

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