Influencers discuss how the biggest HR problems lie in understanding our workforce.

Jonathan Sears
Principal, People Advisory Services
Ernst & Young LLP


What area of the HR function will be most impacted by emerging technologies, and why?

New technologies that leverage different flavors of artificial intelligence will continue to impact HR Operations and Shared Services teams—both in how those teams interact with and support your workforce, as well as how they process large volumes of data and information. Natural Language Processing to passively collect and process workforce information, and conversational AI tools (e.g. chatbots) to replace legacy HR Portals, are two examples of this impact occurring today. Longer-term, look for blockchain technology to disrupt the broader HCM market in a significant way—as individual employees take on the ownership and responsibility for their own data.

In acquiring and implementing new technologies, what’s the one or two most common mistakes HR organizations make?

A common mistake is to believe that buying new HR technology will magically solve whatever operational challenges you’re experiencing. In many instances, it’s the poor design, implementation and configuration of your existing technology, or the complexity of your business processes, that is truly the root cause of your issues. It’s easy to blame the technology—but when you don’t address the root cause, you end up over-spending on technology without achieving your desired outcomes.

Are there certain strategies that are more effective than others when it comes to getting your workforce to use new HR technologies being put in place?

The traditional, often tactical change management activities are all important: change networks, communication plans, stakeholder interviews and other prevalent methods are used for good reasons. But to truly create sustained adoption it takes: (1) a unified and effective leadership team, (2) an inherent readiness for change from the organization, and (3) an intentionally managed change experience for the employees/users of the technology. That managed experience must be centered on the ‘heart’ and the ‘mind’, and be powered not only by intuition but data and insight. Once all three of these factors are in place, employees will see that there is something in the change for them, connected with a larger purpose, making them much more likely to lean-forward and adopt the new technology.

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