Human Resource function has always taken pride for its unique role in building a “Human Connect” in organizations which have been the core function of HR. However, traditionally, HR was always viewed as an administrative, paper-intensive, non-innovative function, mainly managing salary payouts, maintaining records, and hiring & firing people.
But with the advent of technology, in the last decade, the Human Resource Function has undergone a paradigm shift. It has evolved into a critical function enabling organizations to become more efficient in achieving their objectives. Technological advancements have helped HR reduce manual interventions and automate administrative tasks giving it time and resources to focus on strategic aspects of HR.
With advancements in Technology, Human Resource has also gone through the following stages of evolution:
1. HR as a Business Function
During the 1990s, as businesses were exploring global markets and technological innovations like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and personal computers being introduced, HR was able to automate and simplify its process chain, freeing up its bandwidth to expand its role and expertise on vital but non-administrative aspects of employee life cycle like employee behaviour and development of key soft skills amongst them.
2. HR as a Business Partner
By 2000, the economic landscape was swiftly changing as trade with emerging markets was on a rise leading to global operations and managing a diverse workforce. Accordingly, the role of HR also evolved to cater to changing business needs like workforce planning, organizational structure and talent management. It used technology to its advantage by adopting tools like online learning management applications, application tracking software, employee portals etc. With the use of these tools and software, HR was split into specialised sub-processes like recruitment, learning and development, payroll etc.
3. HR as a Strategic Partner
A decade later around 2010, technology solutions for data management and people analytics helped HR focus on more critical areas like retention and succession planning. With cloud computing and AI emerging as game-changers, these technological innovations have helped provide seamless access to information, detailed analysis and strategic insights helping HR to collaborate and network better with other functions in the organization. This has helped HR take the role of a strategic enabler for critical organizational decisions.
HR and Technology in Covid Times
In these trying times HR continuous to play a vital and strategic role in enabling organizations and employees come out of this situation healthy and happy respectively. Today, when work has changed dramatically, so have the priorities of HR in terms of workforce safety and business continuity. Through this transition to the new normal, Technology has become more important than ever, coming to HR’s rescue by offering viable solutions in these unique times. HR functions across organizations are now treating this crisis as an opportunity to digitalize their processes and leverage it effectively. Next-gen technology solutions like AI, machine learning, HR analytics, Virtual Reality Solutions etc are enabling HR function to focus on its key priority areas and enhance its role which is relevant today:
1. Bridge Communication Gap
This is probably the most evident advantage technology has offered in HR in today’s teleworking environment. With online collaborative platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype HR is able to stay connected and communicate regularly with its employees.
2. Make Data-Driven Decisions
Smart use of data analytics will enable HR to proactively take critical strategic decisions in a rational way. Data from analytics can be used to create actionable insights and support data-driven decisions around promotions or compensation, development and succession planning, and agile cross-functional team staffing in a virtual environment.
3. Upskilling of Talent
Thanks to Technology, employee training programs have become digital and cater to individual needs. Today, when upskilling of employees is critical, these solutions using interactive AI and AR/VR solutions as well as gamified L&D systems are ensuring increased participation. Also making it possible to measure their effectiveness against clear ROIs and career development goals.
4. Employee Engagement and Retention
Traditional ways are giving way to dynamic goal setting, regular performance checks and crowd-sourced feedback etc. with the help of technological advancement. This kind of engagement, with data analytics to back it, is making employees feel more engaged and works towards retaining them given the remote working environment.
Future of HR Technology
The global human resource management (HRM) sector is projected to reach $30 billion by 2025. The McKinsey Institute estimates that by this same time the global economic impact of AI will be somewhere between $7 and $13 trillion. The new-age technology powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is now enabling HR to make data-driven conclusions in relation to the nuance of human emotions, behaviours, motivations also. In a way, technology is also learning to be humane with time.
Technology has been key in changing the landscape of the HR and making it function in a way unimaginable a few decades ago. Whether it is processed like learning and development, payroll management, onboarding, employee engagement or outsourced services like employee background screening, HRMS technology has empowered HR like never in history before. Though technology cannot replace the human elements of HR, current unprecedented times will see how technology complements the HR functions to drive productive workplaces.