HR has traditionally been an area where softer skills are called for. You, of course, need the core administrative skills and tech to manage that daily administration.
But until very recently, the role has been people-centric. However, with the increasing awareness of diversity, ethnicity, and integration, as well as a growing focus on accountability, there is now a focus on bringing technology into other areas of HR.
So, where might technology work in the HR field? And what are the pros and cons of technology deployment?
Classically, technology has always been good for speed and efficiency. It provides platforms to keep things organized and trackable. This means that everything is easily searchable, and it’s easy to execute in-house procedures. But now there is scope for so much more.
Tech in recruitment
Recruitment is the area where we have seen the greatest technological evolution in HR.
Hiring has traditionally been a lengthy process with a messy paper trail. Technology removes some of the established sticking points. It ensures that all applicants are housed in one area, so nothing gets lost, and no candidates get overlooked through the mishandling of resumés.
And those resumés can now be reviewed through artificial intelligence (AI), with bots searching for keywords to match candidates to roles.
For those candidates selected for interviews, AI can also help streamline the process. With candidates submitting answers to questions via portals or recording interviews where they are asked questions on why they’re the right person for the role.
If you progress far enough, you’ll eventually meet a human interviewer. But the leg work has been taken care of for the company. It seems like a win-win situation, but the reality is perhaps not as clear as it might be.
The benefits of tech in recruitment
Cost and time savings
There are three primary aims in the deployment of tech for HR. The first two – time-saving and cost-saving – are intrinsically linked. With processes automated and managerial tasks reduced, the drain on important human resources is limited.
With the recruitment process being so costly, a reduction of basic costs has to be a positive move. Because it is no small charge to onboard a new hire. In the US, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported in 2021 that the average cost per hire was nearly $4,700, and takes an average of 42 days to complete.
And in a world where no one ever has enough time and work-life balance is increasingly skewed towards work, reducing the time it takes HR to recruit carries its own benefits for both companies and individuals.
There has also been an enormous focus on diversity, ethnicity, and integration in the last two years. But while businesses have vowed to stamp out discrimination and systemic racism, actions are so much harder to implement than words.
Personal bias always finds its way into recruitment; both positive and negative.
You can be the most ‘woke’ person in the world, but when you’re sitting in an interview room, you will still be more personally drawn to one person than another.
It might be their mannerisms, their appearance, the tone of their voice, or shared interests. But with some people, you can’t help but ‘click’; no matter how professional you are. And that person will always fair more favorably in an interview.
While those whose qualifications glowed, but their tone of voice grated, are quietly set to one side. And the process works on paper too.
‘Gee, this person went to the same school as me, I wonder if they knew so-and-so… This one took the same gap year trip as me, I wonder if they saw such-and-such… This one is a mom… This one is from an ethnic minority.’
Bias is everywhere. And the ultimate goal is to take personal bias out of the recruitment question. While it is debatable whether you will ever entirely be able to do that, technology can help you to create processes to support hiring that ensures a diverse, connected workforce.
AI tech is playing a large part in that.
Why tech won’t be the answer for all HR departments
While the move for diversity and integration is strong, and businesses of all sizes are coming under scrutiny for their actions in this area, there is another movement that potentially threatens the viability of automated services.
In the last few years, post-pandemic in particular, the market has changed. People still, obviously, need to be paid, but more and more people want connection and balance over higher compensation.
Company culture is of increasing importance, benefits matter, flexibility and the ability to better control work-life balance is paramount. And candidates are actively looking for healthy, appealing working environments.
The necessity to jump through tiers of automated application process hoops does not sell into this market.
And depending on your industry, it is still heavily an employee’s market. The global talent shortage, coupled with the burgeoning awareness of what work life can be (again, thanks to the pandemic and the work from home experience), means that in swathes of sectors employers are having to work hard to attract the best talent.
The changing wants of employees means that you will lose talent if your high-tech, labor-saving, multi-channel digital recruitment system places candidates at a remove from the business.
When the priorities are culture fit, team wellbeing, and cohesion, the candidate really needs to understand what your business can offer them. And HR tech can create a genuine barrier to that happening.
The HR landscape has changed at a rapid pace throughout the last five years. The capabilities of AI are now at a level that seemed almost unimaginable a decade ago.
The challenges faced by businesses – and their employees – have been unprecedented in the last two years.
It is not an easy time for companies to navigate. Used judiciously, tech can help to provide an answer.
But before businesses fully embrace HR tech, it’s important that they also factor in what employees are looking for, the importance of work/life balance, and the value of quality over quantity when choosing tech.
Because the HR tech with which you work will only bring value to your business if it is paired with the human element. And that is the key to attracting and retaining top talent.
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