Early this week, a longtime listener sent #HRTechChat Lead Co-host Brent Skinner a direct message, via Twitter. Because the listener would probably like to remain anonymous, let's call him Casper. He really is the chat’s friendly ghost. And Casper had an idea: Big Data might one day make the management of human capital look like the world envisioned in the movie Minority Report.
Between workforce management and talent management, that is. We’ve erected an artificial partition. Haven’t we? Or have we? Don’t technologies for the two reside along an unbroken spectrum of the employee lifecycle? We’re stealing this week’s idea for #HRTechChat.
It’s Just Semantics
Following is some hypothetical dialogue, and we at #HRTechChat are willing to bet that a version of it is about to run its course someplace on this planet of ours even as we write and you read this blog entry, the preview for #HRTechChat Episode Fifty (whoa…):
Head of HR: So, what does this technology do that’s so great?
…with human resource technology, that is. What can’t she do? What can he do? What should he or she do, if only the technology could or would do it? What should they definitely not do? Take note, vendors of HR technologies: The preamble to #HRTechChat Episode Forty-Nine may be extra short, but the answers (and questions) to the question are many.
#HRTechChat Episode Forty-Nine: Join Us Today, March 8, at 2pm / 11am PT
Think about that for a moment. A common and healthy reflex to the question in the headline is to say, no, human resource technology is not strategic. But that’s not really the answer to what the question’s asking. The question asks whether or not HR technology can underpin strategy. And, anyway, it’s not quite the right question, which would be, does human resource technology help you lead? And the answer is…well, #HRTechChat has an answer—an informed opinion—but we’re stopping short of sharing it outright right away. Why?
The alternative headline for today’s #HRTechChat is, “Will It Blend?” The idea is to explore the extent to which humans and their technology for human resources have already merged, or blended. We’re going to challenge the urge to merge, for organizations of humans to become one with their human resource technology. Even in human resources, human influence ends somewhere, yes, and here is where technology takes up the slack—or at least tries to. Or so we think.
Reflecting on the successes that Allied Forces’ had achieved about halfway through World War II, Winston Churchill said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” That Winston, he had a way with words. And that’s probably why he had a way with leadership, too.
To the public sector, that is. There, HR technology is one of those things: You don’t really think about it till prompted to think about it. Could it be, too, that vendors of HR technology don’t really think about the public sector? That would be a shame, and isn’t the case, either. But we of the chattering class in this market space don’t really think about it. At a blog or LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else, identify just one debate that has gone viral over the topic of human resource technology in the public sector.
We who champion the cause of technology for human resources like to bemoan the glacial pace at which, at times, HR departments adopt technology. But let’s be honest with ourselves: When the opportunity is clear for them to absolve themselves of responsibility for failure, aren’t HR leaders just as quick, as they're otherwise slow, to implement technology? “It’s the technology’s fault,” they might hope to say when matters turn for the worse, and HR process is actually to blame.