As technology becomes more deep-seated and ingrained in our businesses, so it follows that it should also aid us in leveraging data about our staff and help employers to manage and work with their people more efficiently. Global Lingo spoke with HR experts to see how mobile apps, cloud computing and clever software is transforming the way HR operates.

Freeing HR from admin

It’s no secret that HR used to be the stuff of paperwork and administration but with the advent of technology there is no reason for the function to be as transactional. Simon Macdonald is Head of HR Operations & Digital Transformation for MotorK, an Italian company offering digital products to the automotive industry. The business, which is expanding across Europe requires Macdonald and his team to support its staff across the globe. “We use HR technology to support our people wherever they are and to ensure we comply with local laws.”

The basic form-filling, administrative type of work that used to take up so much of HR’s time, from managing payroll, to establishing and terminating contracts is now being dealt with by software and digital packages. Technology is empowering employees to perform certain task themselves too, from changing their bank details to requesting time off and finding personal information more easily including vacation balances and performance goals and objectives. This is allowing HR to turn to more pressing matters and partner with the business to deliver its goals.

Sourcing the right candidates

Macdonald says, “People now interact differently – candidates are on LinkedIn, searching and finding each other. I used to work in recruitment and in the past, it was ok to advertise through job boards and wait for applications but now you have to be much more pro-active.”

Recruiters now need go where the candidates are and this often means tapping into professional networking sites. “Stack Overflow for example is an online community for developers, they go there to share their programming knowledge and build their careers so now if you are looking for a developer you need to go where they are and interact with them. It’s a question of being one step ahead,” comments Macdonald.

He adds that you need to be in it for the long-term too, “If you want a candidate who is a strong Java Developer for example you need to start talking to them six months in advance, this way you keep them ‘warm’ when you need to have that conversation with them.” Platforms and online community boards are breeding grounds for talent and Macdonald refers to it as creating a ‘pipeline’. Technology has also enabled candidates to view their prospective employers in a ‘try before you buy’ style with websites and case studies, and some bigger brands sharing their stories of what it is like to work there. The digital world has made it more open and transparent for skilled workers to really get a feel for what companies have to offer.

Evaluating performance

Clear Review is an HR software service founded by Stuart Hearn, a former HR Director at Sony and performance management consultant. Having experienced what worked and what didn’t work for performance management in numerous companies, Hearn envisioned a new kind of software.

Daniel Anticich, Director of Sales & Marketing for the business says that technology has fundamentally changed the way staff are appraised. “It used to happen once a year, you would sit with your manager, fill out a form and it would be filed away not to be seen until the next appraisal.” Clear Review set out to build something through which performance improvement is clearly achieved by combining regular, focused performance and development conversations, continuous feedback, and near-term goals.

Like a nagging mother, the software is also designed to see how the personnel involved is working towards the goals with a simple coloured, traffic light system. Anticich says in this way, “HR clarity is achieved.”

These regular performance check-ins that providers like ClearReview have enabled with their HR software is having real bottom-line benefits. Corporate giant Adobe reduced its voluntary turnover by 30% after introducing regular monitoring and feedback conversations, that are recorded and tracked.

Manipulating data to give clarity

Macdonald explains that being able to extract and analyse data from such platforms helps build a broader picture: “We can track performance with HR software, but we can also assess whether a quarterly bonus for example, has reflected that performance over the same period.”

At MotorK, the use of technology has enabled HR to be seen far more strategically, “We can now provide data to explain things and give reasons why we are moving ahead with decisions. For example, we can use facts to argue why we need to hire Person X. In this way technology has gone a long way to change mindsets.”

Anticich says that he is now witnessing clients demanding that the technology helps them to achieve higher performance, “We’ve seen what we can do if we can track and analyse data and now clients want to go to the next step. Our clients want the technology to help them do their job better.”

Technology has spun things around. Traditionally HR would ‘dream up’ things it felt it should ask its staff but now, Anticich says that the data is illustrating a story of what is going on: “It provides a heat map that gives clarity on the real reasons people leave organisations, what they really lack in terms of skills, why they aren’t performing etc.” It’s a data analyst’s dream, with patterns emerging and giving valuable information for businesses to work with.


Earlier this year, MIT Technology Review in partnership with Oracle and KPMG conducted a survey and found that despite more than 60 per cent of HR-based respondents reporting that their company’s cloud efforts were either “fully deployed” or in the “late stages” of deployment, 30% said their employees needed better IT literacy skills to cope with it.

Employees also need encouragement to take up the benefits. As the survey found, if your company uses an automated chatbot to answer its most commonly-asked questions that’s great, but you do need your people to actually use it to benefit from time and administration savings.

It’s a point that Anticich agrees with, “Sadly the technology can be poorly adopted, and this is especially so when it is highly contrived and over-engineered.” Macdonald adds that there is a time and a place for ‘self-service HR’: “Of course technology is useful if you want to find out how much annual leave you have taken or apply for it but you can’t talk to AI if you want to have a deeper conversation. HR must be cautious of that because you still need to interact with people on a human level.”

The future

In the future Anticich predicts that technology will retreat from, ‘one-size fits all solutions’ and clients will demand it is broken down into more carefully selected ‘point solutions’ to solve specific problems. “I can see it moving towards ‘pick n’ mix’ technology. Similar to the way consumers pick apps for their phones to achieve specific outcomes. The data coherence problem will increasingly be solved by ‘middle-ware’ solutions which take the data from the various solutions and feed into a centralised reporting system.” HR technology is only as good as the people that use it and for it to be fully realised adoption rates must pick up. In turn this will only happen when the technology becomes more user-friendly and truly becomes HR’s friend and not its foe.

Author: Annie Hayes

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