4 keys for HR to do more with less through technology

The pace of change has quickened for most businesses and is beginning to have a hugely disruptive effect on business

Technology will play an increasingly important role in helping HR professionals facilitate business outcomes through providing them with insights into the expertise of individuals, enabling them to recognise unusual career paths and assemble teams to solve specific problems, according to a recent research report.

However, the problem with many organisations is that they don’t have the HR and finance structures to set targets and measure the performance of people who come from other departments or outside the business.

The research report, conducted by Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Microsoft, found that most HR professionals seem to be aware of this shortcoming and have forecast greater need for coordination between more stakeholders.

It found that the pace of change has quickened for most businesses and is beginning to have a hugely disruptive effect on business – and the upheaval is only expected to intensify over the next few years.

Organisations are using technology to create new business models, move closer to customers, and improve productivity and innovation, but at the same time, the report found they are suffering from more complexity, difficulty keeping skills up to date and increased interdependence.

Work in the future
Technology is already disrupting the workplace, and the report said forward-looking organisations are deploying big data, analytics software and cloud-enabled collaborative applications to improve efficiency, introduce new business models and deliver more customer-centric products and services.

“They are moving towards team-working and hiring experts for specific requirements. Even domestic players are taking a global view,” said the report, which found that about half of the 608 global business executives surveyed for the report say that technology is letting them do more in less time and work more flexibly.

Interestingly, those who see themselves as most successful are already making the widest use of technology at work and expect to use it more in future.

“This is likely to help them achieve their personal aspirations – finance executives to improve their relationships, IT professionals to gain time with their families, and HR and marketing people to free up more time for leisure,” the report said.

However, there are worrying signs that realising the benefits of technology is getting harder, and the report said there is the risk that some individuals and businesses may be overwhelmed by the data deluge and inadequate software tools.

This can cause poor decision-making and tactical responses that undermine long-term strategy,” the report said.

“The need to collaborate in more disparate teams across departments, functions and even between rival organisations is also proving painful for some.”

4 key technology trends
Overall, the report found that technology can be a huge source of strength and competitive advantage in the workplace.

But it may also increase pressure on people and reduce their professional satisfaction, harming staff wellbeing and business performance, and as such, organisations need to understand both challenges and opportunities if employees are to realise their aspirations.

The report, Changing roles: How technology is transforming business functions, found there were four key trends impacting the ability of organisations to make the most of technology:

1. Work will become more complex. Individual workloads will increase, driven partly by the need to respond to rapidly swelling quantities of real-time data from automation of all kinds and from greater demands for collaboration.

The research report found that 36 per cent of executives expect work to become more complex while a further 26 per cent across all functions believe it will involve much greater amounts of data.

Globalisation and the growing interconnectedness of companies and sectors will also multiply the number of variables companies must take into account.

2. Lack of time is the biggest challenge. The ability of technology to help people do more with less does not always help executives save time.

Some 45 per cent of executives cite time constraints as their prime problem, with people who feel they are successful in their current role most affected – 46 per cent compared with 39 per cent of those who believe they are not successful.

3. Collaboration is crucial. Team-working is the new normal both locally and globally, with 35 per cent of executives predicting that work will require coordination between more people across multiple functions.

Collaboration is the best way to make the most of individual expertise, respond swiftly to business problems and boost competitiveness, according to the report, which said HR must optimise use of specialists and freelancers, and employees across functions must work with these temporary colleagues.

4. Gaining new technology skills is the best way to advance professional goals. In the face of increased automation and technological advances, all organisational functions recognise the need to keep learning.

Nearly a quarter of executives include mastering new technology in their top-three ways to achieve career aspirations, and almost one-third cite acquiring new skills through education and training as the opportunity most likely to help them achieve their professional goals.

This is becoming more important with the rise of millennials who are much more knowledgeable about technology than most of their seniors.

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