HR Technology Can't Replace Everything

October 21, 2016 Zuman

Of all the many structural changes to happen to the HR industry over the last 10-plus years, few have had the profound impact of certain technological innovations. These devices and platforms, especially cloud-based architecture and similar services, are having a profound effect on how HR is organized in the here and now.

For instance, certain software platforms emphasize the importance of user-based experience and gives supervisors more direct control over employees. As a result, technology has helped streamline HR processes everywhere, including improving levels of company wide engagement and enabling better talent management.

Yet for all of technology's benefits, there is a flipside; technology has its limitations, and it can't replace everything that HR handles. Recognizing this is important to understand technology's true impact and how the human element will always remain essential.

A Hiring Lull
There is plenty of evidence of the downside of technology when it comes to the efforts of HR departments. Perhaps the most telling of these is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic's latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from September 2016. In said report, the BLS revealed that while 5.9 million new jobs were created in July 2016, only 5.2 million were filled. As the Wall Street Journal explained, this seemingly good news - an excess of jobs - actually indicates that companies simply aren't hiring enough people.

While there are several possible reasons for this reduction - employer's high standards or a lack of skilled workers - professional recruiter Nick Corcodilos believes the real problem is LinkedIn and HR technology. In his column "Ask The Headhunter," Corcodilos believes that the infrastructure of employment is the issue ignored by most analysts.

"LinkedIn and HR technology stand between virtually every open job and all those job seekers," he wrote. "Yet we've seen no analysis about whether or not these are the roadblocks. It's too easy for economists to blame 'the workforce,' because who dares question HR technology."

Tech-Centric Issues 
Corcodilos made several arguments about what he believes are fundamental problems with HR technology. One of Corcodilos' issues with HR tech is those specific platforms used to spy directly on employees or track their every movement. This technique is generally bad for employers because it demonstrates a lack of trust on the management's behalf, and few people want to work for companies with just such a reputation.

But there are other, more subtle examples as well. One of those is Corcodilos' ongoing distrust of HR's interest in services like LinkedIn. These sites, he argues, make HR leaders lazy and far too reliant on technology to do their job for them. To meet people in organic ways that can lead to important business relationships. Corcodilos believes that these sites create needlessly large pools of candidates, many of whom may not be suited for the job and were only suggested due to arbitrary connections and a linear algorithm. Rather than letting HR leaders promote effectively, it makes them focused more on what he says is "diddling keyboards."

It's not just that the wrong candidates are given a chance; that makes less room for better, more qualified prospects. In some cases, this LinkedIn dynamic can also dissuade these good candidates from taking part in a system that's not always efficient.

Finding the Human Touch 
What can HR leaders do with this knowledge regarding technology's greater impact on the workplace? What sort of lessons can be learned about the proper implementation of technology to recruit or advance employees and other vital HR tasks? Another issue Corcodilos has with tech is it makes people assume that, because they're using state-of-the-art technology, the issues are with the available pool of candidates. And that's not always the case, which just reveals a need for change among HR leaders. 

These executives need new perspective. One that will recognize that having the right employee base always comes down to decisions made by humans. It's also about recognizing that technology has its very specific place within a company. Specifically, tech can help when it comes to tasks like running and organizing hiring management systems, offering employees self-service options, software for e-recruitment and managing vendor systems. Where technology can't help, though, is in areas like creating a company culture and talent analytics; both of these will require a human touch, the careful planning and thoughtful nuance of people to be implemented correctly.

Ultimately, technology is a tool to be used by people. If used properly, it can continue to improve the scope and function of HR and workplaces in general.


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Zuman is the premium solution for HR, payroll, benefits administration delivering superior control, lower risk, and enhanced employee engagement for growing companies.

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