If you’ve been an HR professional or a recruiter in the last 10 years or so, you’ve seen some changes in the way that you do your job because new software (some desktop-based and some is web-based,) has come to the workplace.
The question is, has today’s innovations in HR technology actually made some real contributions with real value to the way that business is done in the social professional space.
Take payroll for example: ADP’s payroll and time management software makes recording employee’s time worked much easier to account for than the old card-punching mechanism in place as late as the early 90s. Accountants and payroll employees don’t have to sit there for hours and days, verifying and recording employees work hours by hand, which saves companies untold time and resources, and ensures employees always receive their paychecks on time. And, when it comes time for issuing tax documents the whole process takes less than a few minutes to complete.
On the recruiting side, applicant tracking systems such as Taleo, Brassring Kenexa, iCims, and other platforms, make the management of the hiring process much easier. This includes relevant documentation for relevant federal and state regulations related to diversity and equality. There is even plenty of value-add to different phases of the recruitment process like sourcing, screening, and even interviewing with mobile and video technology.
When it comes to the job search itself, there is now a myriad of tools to assist both job seekers and employers in sifting through volumes of jobs and job candidates in order to create the right match. Old ideas with new spins like Indeed and Simplyhired’s search engines, and the many subspace technology solutions that redefine skill matches based on some criteria, like skill bidding and personality matches (like eharmony’s Elevated Careers) have been cropping up at an incredible pace.
Of course, you cannot ignore the potential that traditional social media platforms represent. One can make the argument that LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have had tremendous influence on the way that the entire social and human resource service delivery supply chain works and changes over time.
All of these social technologies have spawned entire categories and entire families of adjacent products and services to make use of and support their own growth, ranging from statistical tools that help analyze information, to ANSI standard metrics, to API-based apps, to new programming languages, to information sharing protocols (like HRXML), to Boolean simplifiers, to module integrators, and the list goes on and on.
All of these tools, services, and solutions provide clear value.
Though, at least for me, it is fair to conclude that they all provide incremental value over the old HR and social-based processes of the 80s and early 90s—not disruptive value—at least not yet.
Incremental Innovation VS Disruptive Innovation
HR and social processes today continue to be essentially the same as they were 20 years ago. Payroll is done in the same way, though now it’s mostly automated, hiring is done the same way (perhaps with the exception of sourcing), though it’s mostly automated, the resume has still not really been re-invented (though efforts like the Visual CV and LinkedIn profiles have tried to make a dent in that paradigm), HR professionals working in the health and wellness-benefits sub-category have to deal with a few more laws like the ACA, but not much has really changed there either, 401ks have been pretty much the same since their inception and passage into law in 1986 by the U.S Congress, and the list goes on.
As far as I can see, these are all incremental because they don’t fundamentally change the way that business is done.
There is one group of technologies that, in my eyes, does provide drastic and disruptive change to the way that business is done for the social professions, which include HR, Recruiting, Marketing and other disciplines—Advanced Predictive Analytics, which can also be known by other names, such as Business Intelligence.
Predictive analytics is a collection of metrics, methods of measurements, technologies, visualization techniques, and statistical analysis that takes information from your existing systems, like payroll, and applicant tracking systems, and does some analysis in order to predict some future state. Most of the time, you’ll find vendors taking basic regression analysis, building it into their products and they’ll call it predictive analytics, which in some ways is true (because some prediction does take place), but in any real terms, not enough to be considered truly predictive. Not to mention that basic linear regression can be done by MS Excel probably better, cheaper, and faster than hard coding it into some platform and charging thousands for it.
I beg to differ with those claims a little. True PA solutions should take instantaneous data from across the organization and give a number of important and relevant outcomes for the user that yield better decision making. For example, being able to predict the delta on a given workday for staggering meeting times, or system sign-ins and using that delta to predict, say, engagement, on any given day, then building a weekly initiative to increase engagement low points for that workday on a regular basis is clearly predictive.
Now I would consider this process (which I just described) to still be incremental and not disruptive. For it to reach a disruptive state, an HR professional might have a number of tools ready to react to daily lower engagement predictions through some fast micro-scale intervention.
“We’re predicting that tomorrow engagement levels will dip below the lowest state for the year,” a VP of HR might say. “Do we have a statistically significant cause-effect analysis, yet?” her Director of Micro Interventions might say.
“We think it’s a cyclical trend coming from the aftermath of Super bowl night fatigue.”
“Hmm, how about a micro intervention in the form of an email going out first thing in the morning, offering everyone early leave for the day? Based on past data, we should be able to increase engagement by 10% and avoiding a new low in engagement levels,” says the Director.
“Do it,” responds the VP.
That to me is true disruption of the way HR does business. It even sounds a little like science fiction to me, which I find to be very inspiring.
I think you see my point: Yes, many of the current social and HR technologies do provide value to the social functions in organizations, but in order to leverage truly powerful tools that transform, we have to integrate truly predictive analysis with actions based on that analysis—and it has to be done on the operational level, not just mile high strategic planning efforts.
When that’s done all these HR and social technology solutions will suddenly have the capacity to be disruptive, and many of them will be redesigned by their vendors to take advantage of more powerful ideas that will make something as mundane as payroll management disruptive in its own right.