The Human Side of Tech: How HR Leaders Can Drive Innovation and Disrupt Tradition

Last week took me to Nashville, though sadly not for Taylor Swift. Instead, I was privileged to join the Unleash HR Summit. I have been fortunate to cross paths with Dirk Beveridge over the years and witness his remarkable efforts in transforming legacy distributors into dynamic and innovative market leaders. It’s great to see him extend his expertise to HR executives, because the radical reinvention of people and culture is central to any organization’s transformation. The conference was truly exceptional, and I was delighted to be part of such an incredible community.

My keynote centered on the intersection of HR and technology. Here are a few of the thoughts I shared:

  1. See the lasting impact technology, and the shift from digitization to ‘data’fication, is having on HR

Technology has revolutionized nearly every aspect of modern life, and the field of human resources is no exception. To stay ahead of the curve, HR executives must keep up with the latest advancements. New tools and software can provide valuable insights into workforce analytics, increase employee engagement, and improve talent management. HR executives must understand how these technologies impact the future of work and their teams on a personal level. It’s important to remember that technology often has unforeseen second-order effects, which can be much larger and more impactful. HR executives need to spend time understanding the second-order effects of tomorrow’s technologies.

  1. Embrace the Changing Nature of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The future of work is decidedly human and AI is unlikely to take your job anytime soon. However, a burst of new AI applications does suggest those who can fully leverage its potential will have the most significant impact on their organizations. AI is disrupting the HR role in specific and special ways. Ultimately, it is also elevating the HR role to a more strategic level than it has sometimes played in the past. HR executives should aggressively experiment with new AI tools to find the ones that best support their unique mission and culture. These might be chatbots to answer employee questions and provide support 24/7 or perhaps predictive analytics to identify employees who are at risk of leaving so HR executives can take proactive measures to retain them.

  1. Understand how demographics shifts are changing HR

As Gen Z enters the workforce and becomes a larger consumer base, their tastes preferences are exerting a greater influence on workplaces. This generation values quick access to information and the ability to independently solve problems. They expect services to be available “on demand” and facilitated by technology. HR technology tools need to change with changing demographics. At the same time, most organizations now have employees in their workforce from more generations than ever before and HR executives will need to balance different needs. Technology can be utilized to improve the employee experience. HR executives can use tools such as employee self-service portals to provide convenient access to information. You might also use virtual and augmented reality to provide immersive training and enhance onboarding experiences. These tools can also be used to help scale the expertise of some of your most seasoned employees.

  1. Employees need more from their companies

Current data on employee sentiment is troubling.

  • Workers are broadly dissatisfied with their company when it come to their work.
  • Half of the workers report that they do not understand what is expected of them at work. I am concerned hybrid work environments might exacerbate this problem because they often eliminate the small clarifying conversations that occur serendipitously throughout a workday.
  • Only approximately one-third of workers feel that their company’s mission and purpose make their job feel significant, and similarly, only about a third of workers feel they have the chance to utilize their unique strengths every day to do what they do best.

Employees need more from their employers. They need to feel they are making a difference and be recognized for their contribution in meaningful ways. HR executives will play a central role in delivering these needs in the future, and technology will also play an important role.

  1. Growth requires new processes

James Clear’s assertion is that “you do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” This means that having lofty goals alone is not sufficient; we must also establish effective systems to reach them. It is not enough to apply new technologies to old processes. Modern technology demands new processes and procedures to harness its complete potential. HR executives should prioritize agility by fostering a culture of experimentation and innovation. They should inspire employees to contribute novel ideas and offer opportunities for learning and growth.

  1. Executives need to think differently about the future

HR executives must think differently about the future to remain competitive and relevant. The time to act is now. HR executives, in particular, must anticipate future trends and adapt their strategies to attract and retain top talent.