#WorkTrends: The Future of HR Tech

Technology is disrupting everything, and HR is no exception. The tools and platforms available for today’s HR teams are light-years ahead of what we worked with 10 years ago. What does this new tech mean for recruitment, talent management and other HR functions? I talked to one of the smartest people in the HR tech world to get her take.

This week on #WorkTrends, we’re talking to Anna Ott about what’s next in HR tech. Anna is head of HR tech startups for UNLEASH. Last week at UNLEASH America in Las Vegas, I joined hundreds of other HR tech analysts, practitioners and vendors to think about how work and HR are changing.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

HR Problems Technology Can Solve

Anna has spent the past 18 years working at digital companies — especially startups — and has held various HR-related roles. “I believe we are in a renaissance of HR as it has regained its strategic value of shaping organizations in the Fourth Revolution,” she says. “I am driven by enabling HR practitioners to be a stronger partner, feel more tech-savvy and enabled to shape the future of work.”

No one goes into HR because they love the repetition of filling out forms and going through the same processes over and over again. Most people sign up to work in HR because they want to work with people. “I think anything that automates processes and reduces the administrative work of HR is definitely something that we all appreciate,” she says.

Anna also acknowledges that, as humans, we struggle with unconscious bias during the recruitment process, and she believes that technology can remove human factors that tend toward partiality — and even create new ways to approach problems.

In March of this year at UNLEASH London, she met the team at Vault Platform that is working on a project that never would have been on the radar even a year ago. “They are trying to face the #MeToo debate by building a counter-harassment platform on blockchain,“ Anna says.

HR Issues Technology May Create

While she’s passionate about the possibilities that new technology brings, Anna is keenly aware of the risks and uncertainties involved.

Some solutions are helpful, but she says they could also be hurtful at a certain point. “It’s always two-sided. For example, when you look at security detection and skill-matching, at which point do we become too transparent?”

There’s a chance that people will reveal too much of themselves for the sake of developing in their careers and learning new things and trying to be a match to great jobs, she cautions. At the same time, she says, “At what point does it feel scary if a company monitors everything I do and everything I write, or the chats that I do within my company, or all the documents I create on Google?”

Another issue is just trying to manage all of the point solutions in the HR tech market. “HR people and practitioners can’t orchestrate a solution landscape of 100 different small things,” she says. There needs to be a more holistic approach.

Taking the HR Technology Plunge

For HR people who want to understand what HR tech can do for them and their organization, Anna recommends starting with one particular problem in need of a solution. “Try to find people who either have tackled this before,” she says. “Find peers, or look at those people who actually observe the market as I do, or analysts or thought leaders.”

She also recommends going to HR tech startups, talking to them, looking at their solutions, watching demos and meeting with them at conferences or HR tech competitions.

“When I was in my corporate payroll employment job, previous to UNLEASH, I wanted to eliminate the CV in the hiring process, but I didn’t know where to start,” she says. She spoke with a lot of startups that she thought might have a solution, and found one company that used video interviews instead of CVs.

“We actually sat down, created a new candidate experience and process, and then we eliminated the CV in my hiring process with their tool.” But she says it was a trial-and-error process — an experiment.

A year later, she switched from video interviews to chatbots, so she needed to speak with a chatbot startup about recruitment. Again, she labelled it as an experiment so it would be OK to fail, learn from that mistake, then pivot.

Anna is now a big advocate of chatbots. “Most of people looking actively for jobs want instant information,” she says. They want to have an instant response on the salary, location and other core details of a job. “In fact, in our chatbot at my previous company, people wouldn’t even write whole sentences,” she says. They would write “dog to work” to find out if they could bring their dog to work. She says candidates were comfortable doing that because they knew they were talking to a machine. Another benefit of that automation? “Chatbots also help us to get back to candidates and re-engage with those people that probably haven’t applied yet, allowing us to tap into a new pool of potential candidates.”

Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.