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HR must understand automation versus digitisation

Speakers at HR Tech World discussed HR's critical role in reimagining HR technology

HR must better understand the difference between automation and digitisation, according to author and consultant Jason Averbook.

Speaking at HR Tech World in London, Averbook explained that HR has already automated many processes; for example moving employee information changes to a self-service online model, and putting performance management processes online. What’s needed though, he said, was for HR to “take existing processes and reimagine them”.

This requires HR to be “brave” and better able to embrace “danger and pain”, said Averbook. “We have to be bold and push things to the edge. Some people hate that but we have to love it.”

HR practitioners must task themselves with the consumerisation of HR technology, he said, so that employees enjoy and become “addicted” to using it in the same way as consumer apps for instance. “Think about 10 years ago, [HR tech] was designed for HR. But who are the majority of your users today? The way this is going, they’re going to be more and more the workforce. So the question is: have you consumerised your workforce experience?”

“It means I might not log into a system to change my address; I might do it through Alexa or Siri,” he said, adding the further example of D&I: “When it comes to D&I you need to think about how do we use digital to give people information and knowledge to understand that a diverse workforce is better,” he said. “We don’t want to just use technology to be compliant. That’s what we’ve already done.”

It’s crucial to prioritise which areas need reimagining through technology, however, said Averbook. “Think about which functions need to be great versus which need to be performing,” he advised. “You might need to hold off on [radically overhauling] recruitment processes for instance because the biggest priority is training people for a rollout of something new… Or the biggest problem for your organisation might be getting in talent, which might be more important than your performance management system. We can’t do everything; we don’t have the budget or the time.”

Averbook added that this takes a different mindset and skillset on the part of HR. “We have to be brave and along with everything else we’re doing in HR we have to be technologists,” he said. “We have to think like technologists and realise we need new skills. First of all it’s just being digitally competent. Then: are we digitally literate? Do you understand how to utilise technology?"

He added: “When I speak with people around the world they’ll say: ‘we don’t deal with HR technology that’s IT.' That way of thinking has to stop… When you have a problem you work with IT to solve it”.