Bringing HR into the 21st century

The TripAdvisor app is great: it’s quick, easy to use, fun, intuitive and does what I need it to do. While consumer technology is designed to engage and delight users, the same can rarely be said for business software, particularly in the HR space. 

The problem is that process-driven tools are being used to control and manage people. Yet people are more complex, they can’t be managed in the same way as systems. It’s not uncommon to see a system that manages people with no personalisation, and platforms limited to desktop in a time when mobile and flexible work is commonplace. We know the technology to personalise and mobilise exists as we see it every day as part of consumer apps, but B2B isn’t there yet.

This has been the case for so long that it’s often accepted that B2B software is never going to be comparable to what we’re using outside of the office. But we should be expecting nothing less than a great user experience.

Read more: Should we be more worried about the technology of the future?

Time for a change

47 per cent of companies have HR software that is over seven years old (Bersin by Deloitte). Imagine using the same phone that you were using seven years ago – it would be slow, you wouldn’t be able to access the latest apps, and it’s likely that it would be crashing constantly and have bugs the manufacturer gave up fixing long ago.

Over the last 10 years technology has completely transformed marketing. Budgets in their millions have shifted to platforms that didn’t exist just a couple of years ago. Recent innovations and monitoring tools have been accepted as the new normal. Why? They work, they have measureable, accurate ROI and they’re easy to use. Reporting is easy, you don’t have to wait hours to download a report and you no longer need an Excel wizard to spot trends or anomalies across your user base.

Marketing was one of the first business functions to move to digital, but a new HR technology stack isn’t far behind. Frustrated business owners and employees who’ve gone through the pain of HR admin problems are entering the HR technology space with an outsider’s view and a solution to the problem. 

What’s the new solution?

Founders of new HR companies are developing HR tech in the same way as consumer technology. The process is agile and iterative, new products are developed quickly, tested and updated. Much like consumer apps, they start by focusing on the needs of the employees rather than central HR. Customer feedback is important in the process and is used to make ongoing improvements, so it becomes almost impossible to be stuck with systems that are seven years old.

So what’s new about the stack? First, the problems we are trying to solve have changed. Rather than automation and integration of tools and processes, companies are worried about employee engagement, teamwork, innovation, and collaboration. They want HR tech solutions that are engaging, useful, and productivity-oriented.

Like in marketing, analytics also has a huge role to play in HR. Between 2015 and 2016 there was a 38 per cent increase in people analytics being used in the workplace. If we can easily access, and act on, the huge amount of data we have on employees, training and attrition, we can make accurate predictions. This has the potential to save huge amounts of time and money – in fact, companies with newly upgraded HR systems see costs savings of 22 per cent per employee.

Here we’ll see a ripple effect of increasing engagement and performance. HR will be free of admin and have the ability to focus on people, and the rest of the workforce will feel the support of a company that’s focused on their development as well as business outcomes.

New HR technology that we’re likely to see emerge as soon as later this year will likely feature an integrated stack of easy to use, intuitive, flexible HR platforms that solve HR requirements from applicant tracking to learning and development. Plus they’ll be mobile, always available and designed with a people-first rather than process-first mindset. 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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