Is Technology Taking the “Human” Out Of Human Resources?

The meeting room buzzed with sounds of feverish optimism. Recently purchased software to streamline the HR-related functions within the organization was yielding positive results.

Everyone grew quiet as the CEO entered the room with the HR Director to address the senior managers. The solemn expression on his face foretold unwelcome news. Clearing his throat, he said, “I have just received the results of the latest employee survey and it indicates that technology is being seen as a limiting factor to progressive employee relations.”

“But,” responded one member of the team, “We have been steadily improving our business performance and achieving operational objectives.”

“True,” the CEO answered, “Our short-term outlook is positive, however, a majority of our employees have reservations about how the mechanistic imperatives are overriding the humanistic concerns. They feel we are losing our ability to stay integrated as a closely-knit organization bound by cohesive cultural values. Their engagement levels are being severely tested as efficiency trumps empathy. So, here is a question for us, have we overplayed our hand with technology?’

The challenge

This scenario is a reflection of the dilemma being faced by corporations across the world. Embracing technology as a competitive advantage, without conducting the necessary due-diligence of all its effects, has increasingly fueled the infatuation of organizations with profits at the expense of their workforce. Consequently, this has created a need for talent management practices that are designed for “risk accommodation” against talent flight as compared to “risk mitigation” that promotes talent engagement. The era of employee loyalty has been over for quite a while now, however, the concept of “employee partnership” that was built on the ashes of organizational allegiance is also under threat. Increasingly, professional careers are subjected to the whims of corporate profits and activist shareholder concerns with the consequence that the “psychological contract” is being eroded. The new arrangement seems to be one of employee gratification, where attractive pay packages are customized to serve as golden handcuffs on talent so long as the organization sees a healthy ROI in retaining them as part of its workforce.

One of the exacerbating factors in promoting good employee relations has been the pervasive use of metrics in analyzing the efficiency and effectiveness of performance.

Executive decisions are increasingly made on the data showing up in the dazzling displays of HR dashboards without considering the human story. Another aspect is the indifferent categorization and filtering performed by applicant tracking systems (ATS). An even more entrenched issue is the convenience of online performance management systems and its impact on training and development and associated succession planning initiatives. As a result, the career progression of promising talent is susceptible to stagnation based upon a tired or vengeful, pressured or hurried supervisor’s web-based performance appraisal form.

A synergistic pyramid

There is ample evidence showing the benefits of technology in streamlining of HR processes and enabling timely decision-making. However, the art of leadership has to be balanced with the science of the technology. While technology boosts management efficiency (the inorganic side of business operations), care has to be taken in addressing the humanistic concerns (the organic side). The soul of the organization should not perish in its effort to become more nimble in overcoming business challenges.

I propose that progressive organizations consider the following “Pyramid of Organizational Excellence”:organic and inorganiz pyramid

The pyramid recognizes there are no clear boundaries between the Organic and Inorganic sides of an organization. It also discounts the interactions that occur among the elements of the pyramid, apart from the five pillars, that are not juxtaposed to each other.

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The pyramid has been built with an emphasis on giving equal attention to the Organic and the Inorganic sides that exist within an organization.

The Organic side

This refers to the collection of significant elements that infuse a vibrant spirit within an organization. It is how an organization assumes humanistic characteristics and becomes an embodiment of a soulful presence. Such aspects include:

  • Ingrained core values
  • Effervescent organizational culture
  • Rousing vision and mission
  • Propensity for introspection and change
  • Discernible embrace of diversity and inclusion practices
  • Unfettered dispensation of organizational justice
  • Competent, motivated and engaged workforce
  • Unflinching dedication to the Triple Bottom Line

The Inorganic side

This refers to the collection of significant elements that reinforce the foundation of the various functions within an organization. It is how an organization operates. Such aspects include:

  • Robust management systems
  • Streamlined business processes
  • Rationalized procedures and policies
  • Optimized technological interventions
  • Responsiveness to competitive pressures
  • Proliferation of organizational discipline
  • Knowledge accumulation & preservation

The foundations of the depicted pyramid are defined by the following five pillars:

  1. Systems: Focused on seamless integration of strategy and business processes.
  2. Technology: Focused on efficient running of operations.
  3. Environment: Focused on risk management of internal and external influences on strategy, business processes and operations.
  4. Talent: Focused on key areas pertaining to talent management.
  5. Values: Focused on inculcating a cohesive culture.

These pillars give strength and support to the elements of the pyramid as they interact with each other, ultimately culminating in organizational excellence.

Conclusion

This article is not an indictment of the invasive use of technology; rather, it is an affirmation of its efficacy in enabling progressive organizations to achieve their operational objectives. However, technology initiatives should be considered in view of the human factor that is the real driver of long-term success. People, not technology, are responsible for ensuring a steady progress toward the goal of attaining organizational excellence under the umbrella of a galvanizing vision and a robust mission.

Murad Salman Mirza is an innovative thinker and an astute practitioner of areas within and associated with the fields of Organizational Development, Talent Management & Business Transformation. His research papers have been read in more than 60 countries around the globe.  His insights/articles/perspectives have been featured in more than 35 countries across the world.  He has worked in various geographical regions and has a rich history of delivering desired results for progressive organizations ranging from SMEs to Large Corporate Entities.  His scholastic accomplishments have been affirmed by induction into Beta Gamma Sigma, an International Honor Society, as a Lifetime Member. He is also a globally published author and an active contributor to various professional forums. His profile on LinkedIn can be viewed at: http://ae.linkedin.com/in/muradsalmanmirza

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1 Comment on “Is Technology Taking the “Human” Out Of Human Resources?

  1. The ultimate buyer’s guide for legal time and billing time tracker

    If you are to choose a legal billing software there are many options out there. How do you find out which is the right legal billing program for your firm? This time tracker buyer’s guide will offer advice on how to make that choice for your company.

    Instead of comparing titles to one another and having to decide which is “the best”, we offer you the tools to make your own decision by looking at the list features needed in billing software for lawyers, listing the more progressive functions to look for, and in the Part 2 of this guide discussing whether cloud technology is something you should consider for your billing needs.

    What Is Legal Time And Billing Software?

    The explicit definition is that legal time and billing software is the billing software tailored to the needs of the law industry. Of course many vendors name their product a legal billing program, but here is a list of the minimum features you should look for:

    Time tracker. Almost all firms use the billable hours for at least some cases. Built-in time tracking allows anyone from senior attorneys to paralegals to file clerks to log their working hours on any matter.
    Costs Tracker. Billable hours in office are only single part of the pay your firm will charge. Costs such as travel and witness fees should be included in the invoice to build all-round billing statements for your customers.
    Pro Invoicing. It’s no good to track your fees if you can’t make a bill. Law firm billing software should create understandable and uncluttered invoices that are easy to read and give your team a professional image.
    Payment Processing. Payments from clients might have to be distributed among plural cases therefore your software should allow you to apply a single payment to a few outstanding invoices.
    Financial Data. Financial information and reports give you an all-around view of the efficiency and liquidity of your firm, as well as necessary information in case of audit or billing dispute.

    What Do You Need From Your Time Tracker?

    Don’t make the fatal error of shopping by a list of functions. While you need to figure out your own needs, here are the top 5 billing features most law firms want. Use this list as inspiration for making your own list of must have solutions:

    1) User Friendly. Some billing software have steep learning curves and are hard to implement and use. They may have cool features, but no one can figure out how to use them so what is good in it? You end up spending money on high cost mentors to set up your time tracker, and more is money out the door.

    Every vendor says that their product is user friendly, so you should test it for yourself for 14-30 days. Download a free trial version of the software and use it with cases from your own work style. You should be able to enter fees and generate your first invoice within a few minutes. If it is not so, then this is in fact not a user friendly software.

    2) Billing For Your Attorneys. We’ll say it again: law practices simply can’t function under the limitations of general billing software. Important functions such as matter-based billing, integrated trust account management, and specialized reporting aren’t found outside of the field of legal billing software.

    3) Different Billing Rates. Hours billed by a paralegal have different rate than that of a senior attorney. Even a single employee often won’t charge the same rate. An attorney can bill different rates for different performance. A customer might be given discounts.

    4) Custom Invoices. You want to send out pro-looking invoices, but it doesn’t mean you have to create forms that look like every other invoice your customers receive. Customization allows you to put your firm’s mark on it, even if it’s something as simple as your logo. It also gives you control over what is shown on an invoice and where it is shown. Your time tracker customization should be easily done not requiring vendor’s or outside help.

    5) Outstanding Notices. Don’t ignore overdue bills, assuming people will pay when they get money. Numerous studies show that reminder letters greatly increase collection of outstanding payments. One screen should show all unbilled and unpaid matters so you can see your practice’s financial health at one look.The software should be able to create all reminders in a single batch rather than forcing you to laboriously generate them one at a time. The program should have a domestic e-mail send function so you don’t have to use an additional program to send the reminders.

    http://crocotime.com/en/

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