Last week on May 25th and 26th, Las Vegas hosted the 2011 HR Demo Show in conjunction with the HRO Today Forum, including the RPO Summit. The point of the demo show was to showcase the best and latest HR and talent management technologies. Organizations that presented were Kenexa, Guidant Group, Epicor, CareerBuilder, Taleo, iCIMS, RECSOLU, JSTN, OneWire and many more. Throughout the two days, I closely followed the main hashtags for the event, which were #HRDemo and #HRTech. I also paid close attention to the Blog Squad, particularly the ones I personally knew—Geoff Webb, Meghan M. Biro and Jessica Merrill.

During the event, the weekly #TChat that I am religiously a part of focused on “Innovation Gap Realities Workforce Technology.” From my perspective it was probably one of the most active #TChat’s that I have ever participated in because the focus was on innovation, or lack of innovation when it comes to HR technology. Here is the high level “Jeff Waldman Brain-Dump Summary” of what I discovered during this chat, which is also inspired by the #TChat Recap: “HR tech innovation should keep us all in business.”

  1. Most HR technology is focused on recruitment and talent management.
  2. People think that innovation must be something new or a re-imagining of how technology can drive efficiencies in HR, and contribute to the business.
  3. HR practitioners need to better educate themselves on the use of technology in the workplace.
  4. Technology “users” think that existing HR technology is NOT innovative but “providers” think otherwise.  As Meghan M. Biro of TalentCulture stated, “HR and recruiters just are not perceiving what’s out there as innovative, perhaps because most of what we’re seeing isn’t screaming cloud, mobile application.”
  5. There is huge disconnect between technology providers and technology users regarding their perception of how valuable technology is in completing work.
  6. Technology cannot replace the human element.

What’s the main point in all of this?
The one thing that I heard consistently was that a huge gap exists between HR technology providers and HR technology users (a.k.a. HR practitioners). I could not agree more with this. But… yes, there’s always a “but!”  But, I strongly believe that the reasons that were discussed for this disconnect missed the boat.

The Technology IS There!
There are so many phenomenal platforms that HR practitioners can strategically leverage to help them add more value to their clients. Off the top of my head, awesome platforms that come to mind that I have used include Rypple, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, ZuzuHire, SurgeHire, StickyHQ, Yammer, ClearFit, FreshTransition and BranchOut.

Now, I want to note that I bring a unique perspective to TalentCulture because I work in Canada, and the majority of my professional experience is with Canadian organizations. Here is the problem… the HR community in Canada does NOT possess the knowledge and understanding of HR technology, the necessary technological skills or the ability to evaluate the strategic impact of HR technologies. They inadvertently avoid the conversation about HR technology because they have not a clue where to begin.

So, it does not matter how good the technology is, the Canadian HR community as it currently exists will never get to the point where they will be on the same page with technology providers.

Change is Change… “We” Don’t Like Change!
Technology is a tool. It is not meant to replace the human element or the responsibility of performing the activities that impact “brand building”—e.g. talent attraction, employer branding, employee engagement and the overall employee experience. Integrating new technology into the workplace represents a change.  It could be a huge change, or it could be a small one. It doesn’t matter; people naturally are not very good at coping with change.  So let me ask you this question. If the majority of HR practitioners are unable to even begin the technology conversation, do you think HR technology providers are able to lead and manage change?  Hmmmm…. I don’t think so.

Case in Point…

A couple of years ago I was brought into a very entrepreneurial, yet small organization that possessed an extremely strong corporate brand. They sold really cool things, and employed some really neat product marketing and promotional tactics. This company was really just starting to build its HR infrastructure, and they were in the process of implementing a technology to help them with the full recruitment cycle, all the way to on-boarding.

They retained a PMP (Project Management Specialist) to lead and manage this project. He did an absolutely stellar job of identifying business needs, potential technology platforms, engaging most of the right internal players to select the platform, all the way to “flipping the go-live switch” on the new platform. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well… the execution failed miserably for one simple reason. He completely ignored the end-user. To add fuel to the fire, the technology providers were completely hands-off with the people change management components of the execution; they just focused on the technical aspect (of course, this is where their expertise lies). The failure basically boiled down to a couple of things:

  1. The end-users (HR practitioners) were technologically illiterate.
  2. The end-user was never engaged during the technology selection and implementing process.
  3. The end-user was never trained on the new technology.
  4. No platform testing was performed with the end-user group during the project phase.
  5. The end-user was simply directed to “just do it”.


Conclusion…
Technological innovation is NOT the problem right now. The problem is a severe lack of technological competence within the HR practitioner community and a complete disregard for change management being fully embedded in the technology integration process. If you can resolve these two fundamental problems, the perceptions of providers and users regarding technology innovation and work-related value will be pretty close, and the result will be favorable.

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