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HR Tech Cannot Solve Everything

I have to admit that I am a major HR Tech geek. I read everything that I can about it, am the first one to jump into any conversation about the Future of Work, and am treating my upcoming trip the 2019 HR Tech Conference as my personal Woodstock.

Yes, I am hardcore.

As a tech disciple, I believe that tech can make work better. It can streamline and quicken candidate applications, it can provide a better onboarding experience, it can create learning and development opportunities, and it can make the employee experience more fulfilling.

That said, I have to admit that HR Tech cannot solve everything. There are still some things that will require pesky humans to solve.

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First, let’s set the stage regarding HR Tech. The space, like anything that has a “tech” label, is red hot when it comes to VC investment.

In 2019, VC investments in HR Technology is predicted to reach 5 billion dollars.

With all this money pouring into the sector, there are still some crucial areas where a technology solution is still not the answer. Sarah Fister Gale reports in her “Venture Capital Funding Frenzy Over HR Technology on Record Pace” that:

Despite years of VC investment into promising HR tech companies, there are still a lot of problems that current vendors haven’t solved, like:

  • How can we recruit strong candidates when unemployment rates are so low?
  • Why does our candidate experience still lag despite our cool new interactive recruiting page, YouTube recruiting channel, and automated email response tools?
  • Can I hire freelancers instead of full-time staff, and where do I find them?
  • How are we supposed to reskill an entire workforce when we don’t know what skills they are going to need?

These are big, difficult questions and VCs are eager to support entrepreneurs who claim to have the answers particularly because the market is strong, said David Mallon, chief analyst at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Companies have set aside healthy budgets for the right solution and VCs sense that there is money to be spent.”

The optimist in me says that all of the unsolved problems create a significant opportunity for someone with vision, grit, and resources. I do not doubt that technology will make the workplace better, but I also have to ask myself whether every HR challenge and function will require a technology solution.

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Here are some examples:

There are several software tools in the market today that will provide a predictive score on how likely an employee will be to leave the organization. I read an interesting Harvard Business Review article that talks about a software that has used machine learning to develop a turnover propensity index (TPI).

I will spare you the details. Take it from me; you do not need a machine to tell you who is the most likely to quit. Just walk through your office, and you will see:

  • The high performer who is not moving fast enough.
  • The egotist who mistakenly thinks that they are a high performer and wants a promotion now.
  • The underperformer who knows that the clock is ticking.

IMHO, I do not need AI to tell me that these people are burning up Indeed and LinkedIn after hours.

There is also this mindset that you can “virtualize” anything.

Take outplacement, for example.

There is a growing group of tech firms that are looking to migrate the outplacement experience to a self-serve/automated process. While this sounds great from a cost perspective, guess what? The highest-rated component remains the interaction that the candidate has with an actual career consultant (Humans 1, Machines 0).

In the case out helping someone through the challenges of career transition, there is only so much self-learning/videos/online content that can help. Ultimately, it ends up being one person who cares about helping another person who needs help.

Do not let this blog mislead, I love Big Tech, and I can’t lie (word to Sir-Mix-A-Lot). Tech is going to make the employee experience infinitely better in the days ahead. Tech will not have all of the answers.

Sometimes, a little humanity will go a long way.

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