If you’ve been watching the news this week, you’ll be in no doubt that the robots are coming. A new Oxford University study reports, ‘middle-class’ and middle-income jobs are at risk of being taken over by technology, with experts predicting 30% of jobs could be automated by as early as 2025.
You’ll be pleased to hear that HR isn’t on the list of the jobs at highest risk from robots (if you’re interested: insurance underwriters, nuclear power reactor operators and accountants/auditors are the top three). Even if there’s always (hopefully) room for a human element in HR, the profession does have much to gain from embracing the increasingly sophisticated technology as support.
With Valentine’s day near at hand, here are five reasons why HR folk should fall in love with HR technology now!
1. More time for strategy
I don’t know many HR people who would want to spend their days processing annual leave applications. Or, chasing up people who’ve been off sick and haven’t filled in the necessary forms. The latest HR systems take away much of the mind-numbing (albeit necessary) admin and allow HR people to concentrate on value-adding activities. Less time processing paperwork adds up to more time available to spend on the front-line, finding ways to support the business in achieving its goals and helping managers get the best out of their people.
2. Up-to-date metrics
The latest software systems are a mine of valuable information. A few clicks of the mouse and HR can provide the board with everything from the latest headcount and salary bill to the cost of sickness absence, and the budget needed over the next quarter for mandatory training.
Being able to provide accurate and up-to-the-minute data helps the business ensure it is complying with legislation (witness the forthcoming gender pay gap reporting requirement) and can provide the necessary information if it finds itself faced with an employment tribunal. In fast-moving business environments, it also means senior executives have the information they need to support business decisions immediately.
3. Better employee communication
Thanks to technology, many employees are no longer constrained to a 9-5, desk-based job. Increasing numbers are working flexibly or remotely and using their mobiles or tablets to access information and keep in touch.
The beauty of the latest HR technology is that it comes with mobile apps, which allow employees to update their personal details, check annual leave entitlement or access their benefits while on the move. Generation Y employees, in particular, expect this kind of functionality. They are frankly amazed if they join a business just to find they are expected to go through a long-winded manual process to book a holiday.
Software systems like Cezanne HR also come with integral social portals where employees can connect with each other, share information and find answers to questions quickly and easily.
4. The ability to spot trends
Automated systems can provide a helicopter view of what’s happening in the business and pick out potential hot-spots. Regular reports on absence levels, for example, can show if there is a particularly high level in one department. This signals to HR that they may need to look more closely at stress levels or management style in that area. Equally, increasing staff turnover stats may indicate that the business has an issue with employee engagement, or could be losing key people to a competitor. If HR is armed with information and an early warning, they can take action to ensure there is no long-term business damage.
5. A more agile workforce
In an increasingly competitive environment, business needs can change almost overnight. New technology disrupts the market and the organisation suddenly finds itself in need of people with new skills. Strong competition forces the business to find ways of differentiating itself. Goals and priorities shift dramatically.
Equipped with HR technology, the business has immediate access to the information needed to act fast. Managers can see, for example, what skills are available in the organisation and where the gaps lie. They can look at staff resources associated with a new project and make an informed decision about whether to redeploy internal talent or bring in external expertise. The ability to shift direction fast can be the difference between success and failure – and if HR is supporting that agility, it stands to gain enormous kudos in the business.
The ability to quickly shift direction can be the difference between success and failure – and if HR is the department supporting that agility, it stands to gain enormous kudos in the business.