High tech requires high touch and vice versa. This continues to be reinforced as we move into an era where more analytics are required for successful HR management and more leadership is required for better numerical results in every area. The two simply have to be integrated to be effective.
It was eye-opening attending what might have been the largest Canadian conference yet on Social selling and HR a week or two ago. The state of the hi-tech/hi-touch connection in HR was further put in perspective in a discussion with a number of senior HR consultants and advisors the following day. Together the two events were immensely thought-provoking.
The conference was put on by salesforce.com, which must be doing OK to spend its sales budget on free registration and lunches for more than 3200 people in just one of several cities it visits. Naturally the focus was on their products, but a range of associated vendors were also showcased who piggyback on their offerings and platforms including Deloitte and Accenture, who, among others, have substantial units that specialize in installing the systems, if one can call the modules that.
Companies have and will continue to come and go in the analytics integration field, but salesforce stands out as pulling together the widest range of modules of ‘cloud’ software and applications I’ve seen yet. (See http://www.salesforce.com/crm/editions-social-enterprise.jsp for a quick overview of some of it.) The pieces all reside in the ‘cloud’ – software as a service, online, by subscription, so ‘installation’ boils down to setting the parameters that fit your organization, a pretty rapid process. Everyone talked in terms of weeks to get set up rather than the months required by in-house installations of software and a few observed this creates a challenge since users take a longer than that to get their heads around how to use the new ‘systems’ and capabilities that are suddenly dumped on them.
Of course anything you think of buying into in this area requires some serious evaluation of cost/benefit rations, but the demos are riveting and the prices being thrown around were startlingly low at least for start-up. Subscription costs have to be looked at in terms of not only (what else) the staff they might replace, but the improved results one should expect – an intangible guess that will assure a few early adopters and plenty of skeptics, no doubt.
Most attention-getting were the interfaces for a lot of the system pieces. Chances are few organizations would attempt to install all the elements and those chosen would likely be staged so users could learn to use some parts early while adding more later. The aim, as the salesforce site says is “Social Enterprise.”
The over-riding focus in ‘look and feel’ seems to be to make all modules somewhat like a Facebook interface on the user facing screens – with a heavy emphasis on ‘social’ or sharing of information, rapid connection and communication and storing of useful notes. This gives the whole a very ‘human high touch’ capacity not seen in many other integration methods.
The fact that users can exchange and share information easily (knowledge management), can communicate with each other and their bosses through instant messaging, set objectives either publicly or privately, designate who gets to see what, etc., means a lot of social learning will be required, which in turn means a serious role for HR leadership in designing who has what access and how the systems and information will be used.
The capabilities went so far beyond what I used to dream of in terms of making dashboard information readily available to individuals and business units, I was struck by how much more one could likely do with these tools that users and even the developers haven’t yet thought up. So when we talk about leadership from HR, it is shared leadership with line management and staff, all of whom are going to have opinions pro and con the new capabilities and how they are used. Just how creative a team could get remains to be seen and would certainly be something one would want to try to assess before signing up, but it showed good possibilities rather than clear, measurable, fixed uses. If you install these hang on for a ride.
The key puzzles for HR are how people will actually use the analytics and social media-style applications beyond their surface functionality (more in future posts). Simply by making the right information appear on dashboards, one solves a great deal of the analytics puzzle, by having the systems behind the dashboards do the number crunching. So for instance, if a manager can view their people, their attendance records, their comp, benefits, bonuses, performance measures and ratings, objectives, career aspirations, training taken, training needed, etc., etc., with just a few clicks or even assemble all the key indicators on a single screen, HR can begin to seriously follow what is most useful, what helps managers manage and staff work more effectively, what more might be needed, etc. Moreover users can become knowledgeable and offer innovative suggestions as well – ones that have a chance of being implemented instead of the usual response from the ‘old days’ – that we’ll have to ask IT, fill out an extensive needs analysis, wait till the next budget cycle and then be told, there are other priorities for scarce IT dollars.
What we’ve been missing all these years! Of course, it won’t all be quite as easy as it looks, but I think it’s safe to say HR systems have turned the corner with some of this stuff. What an interesting learning curve awaits! Sadly as I burbled on about these possibilities with the senior HR group I mentioned, their focus immediately shifted back to today’s hot problem for each of them – finding talent in the toughening market, reviving a lost pay equity program to meet regulators sudden demands, finding the solution to a thorny termination problem, all of which they assured me was ‘all’ that small businesses (98% of our economy) was interested in. Once more I suspect we’ll enter the new era facing backwards and surprised when we get bitten in that sensitive blind spot. Someone else will implement this stuff and catch up will be the order of the day in HR unless we pay attention.