Caveat Emptor… The Marketing of HR technology
How many times have you heard “Technology X is going to…save money, add value, deliver competitive advantage? Is this a shiny promise? Exuberance? Or just plain hype? There’s no doubt technology is in constant state of flux; a new wave of technology appears before you’ve had time to evaluate the previous. What’s more, time between waves is getting shorter. In many cases, these shiny new terms are merely repackaged terms, presented to a new generation of thought & opportunity. So how do you recognise & translate industry buzz, into real world value?
Five phases of Hype
In 1995, Gartner introduced the hype cycle to classify the journey from enthusiasm, disappointment, to widespread adoption of new technology. The first phase is the ‘trigger’, the event that generates significant press and interest. This is followed by ‘inflated expectations’, where media generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. This is where you find most of the implementation failures. Negative publicity follows & interest drops in the next, ‘disenchantment’ phase. This marks the end of the hype. Beyond this, is the ‘enlightenment’ phase where the benefits are realised & technology matures. Finally, as the benefits become widely proven, technology reaches the ‘plateau of productivity’. From here on, technology becomes inreasingly and evolves into second and third generations. Entering vendor discussions with this knowledge is important in understanding where exactly the technology sits on the hype cycle; However, it’s no substitute for informed questions and understanding the ramifications to your specific circumstance, both short & long term.
Consider the term Cloud. This could mean anything from SAAS, On Demand & Hosted. Cloud is more than just a delivery model. It’s about offering real-time, web based outsourcing of functionality through software delivered in a pay as you go commercial relationship. This means it has scalable & flexible architecture, with data storage outside of your firewall.
It’s widely accepted the term Cloud is currently over hyped & showing signs of marketing fatigue & customer disillusionment. It doesn’t help when vendors are offering traditional hosting services rebadged as cloud. Furthermore the location data storage component could refer to storage in Au, US or Barbados. It pays to clarify this point early in the discussion. These vendor actions are quite disappointing, hindering market growth & frustrating end-users.
Another hype term is Workforce Analytics. This can include, reports and information accessible through ad-hoc processes; Operational & managerial reporting requirements; & Executive dashboard reporting supporting workforce planning & decisions.
More & more, vendors are providing these capabilities packaged within their applications. This gives HR the ability to process information & reach a decision in a very timely manner. Uptake of the more strategic elements of workforce analytics has been sluggish. This is partly because the incumbent tools have been awkward to use, and, partly because the HR department does not have the skills to crunch & analyse the data. Overall, it’s quite hyped up, but the promise is there. We are seeing a new generation of workforce analytics, characterised by robust support & user-friendly flexibility, enter the market.
Brave New Social World
Finally, we come to social media. You can’t deny the incredible growth that social media has experienced. It’s a trend that’s set to continue, despite many organisations still grasping with the idea of how to leverage social media. In terms of functionality, it covers amplification of recruitment through to social learning. In short social media promises a future workplace complete with real time connectivity, collaboration and fully engaged employees. Despite all this, questions over efficiency & productivity still loom. Personally I believe the promise is there & the benefits outweigh the hype. More & more organizations are leveraging social HR technology to effectively address the war on talent. A positive sign is that 89% of job seekers are using social media as their primary search strategy. Social learning has witnessed one of the largest growth markets within the HR technology industry over the few years. It offer a passive & cost effective pipe into the collective knowledge and expertise of people. But don’t make it the only weapon in your learning and development strategy.
There is no doubt the tangible benefit social technology can deliver for business; however, few organisations are truly ready to commit to social technology. In short, it’s not about the technology, its about the ability to embrace the paradigm shift & culture of a truly social workplace.
While the benefits of new technology are certainly there, savvy organizations seek to balance this with understanding & preparation for change. Ultimately It’s not about technology, is about culture. Consider the advent of online banking, scary at first, issues. Then as it becomes commonplace, issues of trust & privacy dissolve. Until finally, we cant imagine a life without it.