It's about having connected employees, says Deloitte's Andre Vermeulen

Andre explains that there are different applications of HR tech depending on industry and employee profile.

“When it comes to applications of HR tech, it depends on the industry that one is referring to and the types of employees that they are dealing with. In sectors like manufacturing and mining, where there are large blue-collar workforces in the lower LSM, you can't assume that everyone has a smartphone so that has to be taken into account," says Andre Vermeulen, who leads the human capital HR transformation practice for Africa and is the technology services and digital learning leader. "This differs quite significantly from how one would approach HR digitisation in an organisation of predominantly highly-skilled white-collar employees.”

A technologist by training, Andre has extensive expertise in information and communications technology and cloud solutions, and is responsible for all human capital-related technologies that support HR Transformation efforts and enables HR to drive strategic business imperatives and business performance.

Up until four years ago, he didn't know anything about HR but was approached by Deloitte to head up their Human Capital Technology business. While it took some time adjusting to HR terminology and theories, he says it’s a role that came quite easily to him because he has always known what it means to be an employee and thus identified quite intuitively with the responsibility of trying to get the most out of people using technology as a tool. Now, his core focus has been to develop and mature the Digital Learning and SuccessFactor capabilities. In the period 2015-2016, Andre and his team deployed the first South African-based SuccessFactors project across four countries and the accomplishment of this initial rollout resulted in further developments.

The connected employee

“Irrespective of the industry, companies have to be mindful of how HR tech is applied to improve the user experience in order to create an organisation of connected employees. For me, that is an absolute must. Depending on the industry and the resources available to your organisation and your staff, there will be different kinds of solutions to keep employees engaged and connected. With any critical HR process, the ability to improve the ease of access and ability of the employee to engage with the organisation is what matters most.” 

This not because they don't like the human touch but rather because they like the predictiveness and the consistency of a digital process that takes care of backend stuff like salary payments, electronic payslips, automated inductions - all those things should not be done by humans because they take a lot of time, he says.

The people should be there to do things were employees don't want to feel like a number. If we are talking about someone's career progression, people don't want to feel like a number. In that case, you want to speak to a career counsellor or a training and development expert. But when it comes to receiving my salary on time, being a number is no problem. With things like employee engagement surveys, feedback processes, direct lines of communication to the CEO, chatbots for HR should free up time for them to do the things that only humans can do. 

Digitised recruitment

Andre says having a digital recruiting strategy is particularly attractive for job seekers because it makes them feel like its fair because there is no nepotism or perceived subjectiveness to the recruitment process. They will go to an online assessment do a video interview and setting selection criteria through a digital platform will give you a much better quality of applicants. It is something Andre would definitely recommend for any business regardless of the industry.

Companies can create a competitive process. One example was by Google, which placed a complex mathematical question on a billboard of Silicon Valley that commuters on Highway 101 would need Google to crack in order to be given a job at the company. Mastering that equation would lead someone to a page on Google Labs, the company's research and development department, which read: "One thing we learned while building Google is that it's easier to find what you're looking for if it comes looking for you. What we're looking for are the best engineers in the world. And here you are."

Deloitte’s future work sessions

At Deloitte, they have future work sessions where talent is invited to come to talk to the team about what their dream jobs would be based on their aptitude, explains Andre. Roles are then created for them where possible. This contrasts with the traditional way of doing things where people simply recruit in order to fill existing vacancies, he says.

"In addition to finding people who are very likely to excel in their roles, using that method will invariably create more loyalty from the employee thus making retention easier... And you can have a situation where you end up employing a person that you never knew you needed. "There are a lot of people thinking about the value that they could bring for companies, but those jobs don't exist yet.”