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Being Effective in HR Isn’t About Technology

I just left the HR Technology Conference and really had a good time. I love talking about the intersection of humans and technology. Learning how it can be used to improve (or even degrade) the quality of our life (which includes work) is fascinating to my nerdy side.

Here was my takeaway from the show: Having an effective HR function has very, very little to do with the technology you have.

Seems like a strange message to get from a conference focused on HR technology and that’s got to be a little scary to vendors out there that sell themselves as the end all be all to their current and potential clients. But let’s back this up a bit to get some perspective on it:

  1. Technology will not replace leadership — Of course, nobody explicitly sells their product this way but many vendors sell something that may replace parts of leadership or automate processes of leadership. Now if you have solid leadership, can automating processes improve reach and effectiveness? Sure. But you have to start with leadership.
  2. Don’t put the cart before the horse — Don’t build your programs and processes around software, select your software based on your programs and processes. The biggest mistake is people seeing a problem and throwing technology at it without thinking about their culture, history and current process issues.
  3. Execution is all that matters — We can talk about bells and whistles on products all day but the biggest thing most vendors sweat is implementation and execution. The software may be great but if employees and administrators don’t use it, you’ve already lost the audience.

And guess what? That last point is why HR has so much more impact on HR technology than the HR software providers. Not saying that there aren’t some bad products out there (there are, believe me) but that they aren’t the reason why HR is ineffective. Just like social networking isn’t the end of the world. Nor is HR process outsourcing.

I’ve got another post early next week but I wanted to thank Bill Kutik and the team over at HR Executive Magazine for allowing me to show up at the last minute.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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