5 questions about the evolution of HR tech

‘We have to recognize that managing people remotely is significantly different than managing people in offices’

5 questions about the evolution of HR tech

The way employers use technology is evolving rapidly, including the use of human resources management systems (HRMS) software to manage workforces. Canadian HR Reporter talked to Alain LePine, regional sales manager at ASL Consulting Canada in Toronto, about the evolving role of technology for the HR function.

Q: How important has technology become to an HR professional’s role?

A: “In the past 20 years, technology has really become invaluable to HR professionals. They have challenges with managing the business aspect of companies and responsibilities that get separated by geographical boundaries and payroll. There's also an increased competition for talent. Today, it is about retention and making sure that you have the best people within the organization, but you also have to compete to keep them.

“One of the important things today is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote work is becoming the norm and [the question is:] Will companies ever go back the amount of people that worked in an office or will they have a blend of office workers and remote workers? We have to recognize that managing people remotely is significantly different than managing people that are in their offices.

“We’ve also seen our customers and partners moving to cloud-based solutions. Back in the days of data centres, they would host information and have to back it up and make sure that it was secure. A truly functional HR platform now is a URL and security login. This is also a way to keep people engaged, which is a function of HR to support the culture and support the way things are done.”

Q: What’s a common mistake in bringing in new tech?

A: “A big example is when HR thinks that they know what they need and they really don't get into a deeper knowledge of what other stakeholders require. Sometimes, they'll use a boilerplate sample of an HRMS but they don’t have true leadership buy-in that is going to drive the timeline.

Alain Lepine

“You really need to make sure that you understand the impact across your entire organization. And going back to that big bang concept, you need to take it to a local site or a smaller scale and make sure that you can get it done right in that environment before you start to roll it out on a wider basis.”

Q: How can tech be implemented smoothly in the workforce?

A: “Wherever there's change, there's a learning curve and disruption, possibly in the way that the employees embrace the technology… It's important to get people properly trained and understanding the platform.

“We have a theory that we call the ‘big bang’ — when technological change is implemented too fast — that can be avoided through a series of implementations that reduce the impact for organizations so that they don't have a large change affecting daily functions. You’ve got to understand the impact on all age groups and teams.

“It’s really important not to disrupt the flow of the company’s processes so employees can maintain their day-to-day business.”

Collaborative technology can help boost culture amid the pandemic, say experts.

Q: What are some key areas where technology can enhance HR?

A: “You'd be surprised at the organizations out there today that are still lacking modern HR technology. Many still function in a Word-document-and-Excel-spreadsheet world. Those are excellent tools, but they don't offer, for example, the ability to enter data once and have it populate other aspects of a platform and read many times across the organization.

“That legacy technology really lacks some of the tools and features that can support the dynamic workforces in today's environment. Integrated solutions present one version of reality for organizations to engage in and provide tools for leadership, managers and employees.

“Senior management teams can view dashboards, analyze data, create analytics and reports to help them manage their business. Employees and managers can self-service and do the functions that a legacy technology environment requires an HR person to do. They can initiate and carry out many tasks on a platform without having to engage with an HR person.”

Q: What has the shift to remote work meant for HR technology?

A: “If you are connected in some way, shape, or form to an organization on an HRMS platform that provides employee self-service, a lot of the things that used to be done in an office with a sheet of paper or an emailed document can now be done from anywhere.

“When somebody isn’t in the office, you've got to be careful with security. Typically, an office has security around the employer’s own IT environment. Hackers, malware, viruses, ransomware — all of these could come into play and organizations need to make sure that the security employees have at their homes is the same as in the office.

“Compliance and legal matters have become very important. There have been cases that show that if there isn't an accurate system in place to track hours and attendance, courts are siding with the employees’ record of those hours, and a lot of companies are being forced to pay when they have not kept proper records on remote work hours. The organizations have to be able to track hours and attendance so there's an audit trail and they can properly pay employees for their time.”

A reluctance to adopt new technology can be risky, according to a report.

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