Re-Thinking How We Think About HR Tech

Every year, usually in Las Vegas, there is a big HR Tech Conference and Expo. This year’s was held last week. There is one thing that bothers me: Maybe we should just be calling it the “HR Conference” not the “HR Tech Conference,” because today, very little happens in HR that is not mediated by tech. These days you don’t design a performance management system and then go looking for software to support it; instead you start by investigating what different performance management software systems can

My sense is that the pervasiveness of HR technology is forcing a fundamental mindset shift in HR. Thinking back to the HR Tech conference, once upon a time you might have expected HRIS managers to attend, now it makes sense for chief learning officers and HR business partners and compensation professionals to attend because tech is so central to their life. Perhaps the right attendees are actually business leaders who know that with so much smarts and process built into a technology they should get directly involved.

The fundamental mindset shift will need to be combined with a skillset shift. Just about everyone in HR should be tech savvy with some expertise around new technology implementations, some basic understanding of database structures, and a comfort around quickly learning and using new technologies.

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If we see HR tech as playing a starring role in all of HR, instead of being a minor player in the supporting cast, then we need to recast our vision of an HR professional. I mentioned tech savvy, but there is something more than that: Ideally you would have some people on the HR team who are so immersed in a modern technology mindset that applying tech solutions is second nature. I’m not sure what the right phrase to describe these people is, but it shows up when you find they’ve set up a smart phone app to gather data on the corporate picnic not as an experiment, but because they can’t imagine a picnic without technology and analytics.

What is interesting

  • There are now thousands of HR technology vendors; we can’t possibly really stay on top of all the options any more than we can know all the books in our local library.

What is really important

  • HR tech has changed so much that our fundamental assumptions about the role it plays in HR may be wrong.
  • HR technology expertise can’t be limited to a small, elite group in HR; essentially everyone needs to be tech savvy.
  • HR technology vendors are becoming, and need to become, experts in solutions to HR problems, rather than programmers who write the code to automate our processes.

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.



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