HR employing technology to create ‘people companies’

Paul Burrin of Sage weighs in on high-tech tools
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 05/27/2019
hr tech
The increasing use of high-tech tools is facilitating HR’s transformation into a people function, especially with recruitment, according to Paul Burrin, vice-president of Sage people at Sage software in San Francisco.

The increasing use of high-tech tools is facilitating HR’s transformation into a people function, especially with recruitment, according to Paul Burrin, vice-president of Sage people at Sage software in San Francisco.

“Let’s be honest, gone are the days when companies could simply post a vacancy on a job board and wait for the applicants to come rolling in. The modern workforce is increasingly tech-savvy, mobile enabled and more dispersed,” said Burrin, who will be a speaker at the upcoming HR Tech Summit in Toronto.

“Employees expect the same level of immediacy in the workplace as they do in their daily lives when they order dinner or book a car on mobile. This demand does influence the employee experience and is often a deciding factor in where they choose to work.”

Forward-thinking companies are increasingly employing technology and automation to “to free up their teams to focus on people,” he said, which are their most valuable assets.

“They let their employees know how valued and important they are to success, in actions as well as in words. This is reflected in how their employees feel about the company, and the output of their work.”

But this promise does not always reflect what happens in the real world, he said.

“In reality, however, it can often be more complicated than this to recognize a people company. Ask most leaders ‘Are you a people company?’ and they would likely say yes. Yet, our research surveying over 500 HR leaders found that 55 per cent of senior executives think their company is people-orientated — with only 29 per cent of employees agreeing.”

Technology plays a crucial role in allowing companies to pivot the focus to people, according to Burrin, by “creating meaningful, positive experiences, using the power of your brand, making decisions based on analytics and people science, swapping annual appraisals for continuous conversations, embracing flexible and remote working.”

One of the best new technologies that companies are employing is automation tools, which provide many benefits to assist the transformation — especially in HR, said Burrin.

“Automating transactional processes in HR allows instant, consistent feedback to take responsive action quickly. This allows for a quicker impact on engagement and productivity,” he said.

“Automated HR processes also free up time for employees. People companies give their employees autonomy to do things themselves, such as managing their teams, setting objectives or booking vacations.”

By using automation and other technologies, the positive business case becomes clear, said Burrin.

“Our research has shown that 80 per cent of fast-growth companies have embraced HR automation, versus 53 per cent in lower-growth businesses. Using scalable, responsive, flexible people systems allows companies to provide tailored and effective employee experiences.”

Being a people company is no longer a nice-to-have, but is vital to the success of a company, he said.

“People companies can use technology to gather insights on what drives their workforce, using these insights to make more informed, evidence-based people decisions. The data can also be used for predictive purposes, so managers can understand and make decisions based on people’s behaviour and motivations.”

In addition to technology, new roles are being created in HR departments that foster and develop the change, said Burrin.

“In a people company, the HR function is evolving quickly to embrace new skills and roles, such as people scientists, business psychologists, designers, and marketing and communications specialists, and are led by a chief people officer. This role is typically found in forward-thinking, fast-growth companies such as the likes of Skyscanner, Huddle and Just Eat.”

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