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Riding the HR Technology Tsunami Without Getting Swamped

Riding the HR Technology Tsunami Without Getting Swamped

Lessons from the HR Technology Conference

Forget what you thought you knew about human resources and human resources technology. It's a whole new world in the HR tech space and it's mobile, social and connected in more ways than ever before.

This I learned last week when I attended the HR Technology conference in Chicago, which took place over our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. While my family and friends were stuffing themselves with turkey and mashed potatoes in Canada, I was in Chicago stuffing my head with some new ways of thinking about HR and the HR technology tools that help it to function more efficiently.

But first I got to watch the Chicago Marathon, which also took place over the weekend. It’s been 12 years since I ran my first marathon and, since that first one happened to be the Chicago Marathon, watching it was a nostalgic experience. Cheering on the runners from the 25-mile marker gave me some perspective on how far I’ve come since 2001.

It's a Mobile-Social World

The same can be said for HR technology, which has made some incredible leaps over the same time period. Sure, cell phones existed 12 years ago, but not everyone had one and they weren’t the main form of communication for every business person. Today there are six billion cell phones in service. Mobile was really just getting off the ground back then, and it certainly hadn’t started to saturate HR. Mobile, it turned out, was a big topic at HRTech this year.

When Lexy Martin presented the results from the CedarCrestone HR tech adoption study, mobile was firmly in the picture. The survey showed that mobile-pervasiveness and mobile-enabled processes are growing and that social-enabled HR processes are clearly linked to higher financial performance.

Jason Averbrook of Knowledge Infusion told me that he thinks every worker will expect to be able to use mobile tools to do his or her work by 2020. His children, five and eight years old, are already using an i-Pad at an advanced level. This is the way they communicate and collaborate, he says, and they will expect to continue that once they enter the work world. It’s kind of like Y2K for HR, he says and, just like with Y2K, HR had better put some plans in place to adapt before the inevitable happens.

The Future Is in the Cloud

Speakers discussed the rapid development of cloud computing, SaaS (software-as-a-service) and even PaaS (platform-as-a-service) as factors influencing the future of HR.

Tom Koutopoulous, president and co-founder of the Delphi Group, talked about what the cloud means for today's employers. He described the "radical nature of the future" as constantly in motion and without boundaries. He admonished HR professionals to "get out of the box" and warned that looking at the future through the lens of the past will guarantee obliteration.

Koutopoulous talked about the notion of work moving to where workers are, rather than the other way around, and what HR would look like in this scenario. We live in a "social century" he said, and the workforce's hyper-connectivity will change behavior in unprecedented ways. HR must "surf the tsunami of connectivity without being swamped by it."

Yes, HR has had a marathon journey since 2001, but unprecedented change is upon us. As musician and speaker Mike Rayburn pointed out during his lunchtime segment, it's time to look at old things in completely new ways. The winners in this marathon will be the ones who let go of old ways of thinking.