HR technology - will you adapt or will you be left behind?

Oracle's Rob Bothma tells HR Indaba: Disruption is either going to happen to you or because of you.

“It’s an exciting time to be in HR,” said Rob Bothma, Oracle strategic business solutions engineer, speaking at the HR Indaba in Sandton. “No longer the administrators or policemen of the organisation, HR teams are becoming truly value-adding, strategic role-players within organisations.”

Disruptive technologies are forcing changes in industry models, business processes, and employee behaviour. Rob considered some of the technological and artificial intelligence (AI) elements already impacting the HR function. The automation of certain repetitive tasks will free up HR to do more important strategic work. In one study, Rob found that as much as  80 percent of queries coming into HR were basic questions about overtime and payday. “A chatbot can easily answer most of those questions,” he said.

Machine learning brings valuable insights out of the mass of data. “If you’re not using the data, it has no value,” Rob added. “You’ve got a problem with overtime? The system should be intelligent enough to look at data, and give you what you need to empower you to make decisions”.

Blockchain technology will dramatically reduce CV fraud by recording qualifications and experience. Employees will be able to build up a full picture of what they’ve done and achieved, where previously much of that information has been lost. 

Do it better
Transformation can lead to growth. Rob warns against simply replacing legacy systems with a new system “doing the same inefficient thing more efficiently”. Instead, look at the processes and say, why are we doing this? 

“If an employee submits the same expense claim every month, for example, the system should be able to auto-approve within certain parameters. Do you need paper based leave forms? Timesheets? These systems were designed for 20-year-old tech.” 

There’s a move from a “system of record” to a “system of engagement”, said Rob. “The point is not to store information. That doesn’t add value. Think about how the employees are going to interact with the system. Gen Y won’t go to some green screen menu-based system, they want something that looks like Facebook.

The workforce
The world of work is changing, not least the workforce. Thanks to technology, organisations are more networked and less hierarchical. Anyone can have access to knowledge or provide information or ask a question. It’s easier to innovate.

Workforces are multi-generational, and the younger employees have a totally different attitude to work. They behave differently and want different things. Rob elaborates: 

“People want and expect a seamless and intuitive experience before, during and after recruitment. From the time they are looking for a job, the application, through to the acceptance letter and onboarding, will all happen on the mobile phone. Even career-planning, wellness, health and safety.”

When it comes to skills training, says Rob, there’s a move from “Just in case” to “Just in time”. “It’s not about a two-week training programme – which we know has a low retention rate. It’s about what skills do I need now? And getting those skills and applying them. The employee can do training in VR or on their own mobile phone.”

The idea of an annual performance review is outdated – staff want meaningful feedback that is ongoing and immediate. 

Talent management
Disruption is a given, said Rob. You will either be disrupted or be a disrupter. Make sure disruption is something you do, not something that happens to you. 

“From a recruitment point of view, you want to attract the right people to drive disruption and innovation. Those are the kind of people organisations need. The kind of people who come in from 8 to 5 and do the same thing every day, are the ones who are going to find their jobs automated.”

Human-only traits that cannot be automated – creativity, emotion, ethics, and so on – are going to be very valuable in future. 

“People need to bring the innovation. Technology enables innovation. AI is not creative, doesn’t have imagination, intuition, emotion yet. Each one of us is different, and has a different combination of these traits. They cannot be digitised.”

There’s a new and transformative role for HR, says Rob. “Businesses change through their employees. When you transform your employees through skills, that’s how you transform your business.”