To Leverage New Technologies, HR Teams Must Upskill

Over the last several years, human resources teams have been able to take advantage of ever more technology tools. One reason for this is the large numbers of businesses embracing digital transformation, helping business leaders understand the insights that data can bring them driving new vendors to enter the space. Another motivating factor is the innovation around Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which accelerates and simplifies the lower-value rote work that has consumed time for these departments in the past. Vendors are also increasingly leveraging machine learning to make human resource teams more efficient. As with many other parts of the business, the pandemic has accelerated this transformation, motivating HR professionals to find new and better ways to be effective in an environment with a distributed workforce.

As people teams embrace these new tools, they undergo the same challenges around culture change that usually is their responsibility to help guide the rest of the organization through. New ways of working and the need to upskill can be daunting for career professionals in any function. While the plethora of new tools can be exciting, they can also be hard to use as vendors find the best ways to integrate into existing workstreams.

As a technology executive, I am excited about the possibilities that these tools can bring. Being able to have the same understanding of the hiring pipeline for my team that I do for the customer funnel of my product can help me work more effectively with the recruiting team. Having an unusual personal time-off pattern flagged by a machine learning algorithm that a human may have missed can be the motivation for me to reach out to an employee that may be going through some unique challenges. Technology tools that reduce the amount of process work that my business partner does let them focus on higher-value projects for the organization.

To realize these benefits, the members of the HR team must embrace these tools and build the skills necessary to utilize them effectively. People teams are perennially seeking ways to add value to the other functions of the business. Leveraging these new technology tools not only allows them to support the rest of the company more effectually but also to show new leadership on ways to improve the business while raising morale, improving efficiency, and decreasing costs.

To use these tools successfully, a basic understanding of mathematics and statistics is valuable. As many of these tools are using pattern recognition and machine learning, they have a statistical underpinning. Being able to understand things like data set requirements for statistical significance, probability distributions, confidence bands, hypothesis testing, and regression will demonstrate depth in the discussions with other teams. If you plan to utilize machine learning tools, it is advantageous to have a grounding in the issues around algorithmic bias. While HR teams always managed the personal data for employees and prospective employees, additional grounding in security and privacy, given these new tools, will be necessary.

All the new things to learn may seem like a daunting task, but it is no more than what we ask of our other employees as they continue to grow in their careers. Developing these skills is, in fact, an opportunity for people teams to demonstrate leadership by example, embracing learning and development for their function. Even better than using external training resources for this would be working with analysts, technology and product leaders, data scientists, and data engineers to build and teach a curriculum. A partnership like this will also increase cooperation between these functions and create more empathy.

Human Resource teams now have access to a greater variety and more sophisticated tools than ever before. These tools not only create the opportunity for people team members to be more efficient and bring more value to the organization but also to create deeper and more meaningful bonds between them and the rest of the business if they choose to embrace the possibilities.


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