Technology is the Driver of Organizational Transformation: O.C Tanner

In an  exclusive conversation with Dataquest,  Niel Nickolaisen, Chief Technology Officer, O.C. Tanner, talks about  how  HR is witnessing digital transformation, how technology plays a role in organizational transformation, and what are the key HR technology trends. Excerpts:

How is HR witnessing Digital transformation?

To me the essence of digital transformation is that no matter what products and services we sell and provide, we are judged on the quality of our technology. At a minimum that means that employees and prospective employees expect a high-quality technology experience during recruiting, on-boarding and in the workplace. At a maximum that means that HR should be experimenting and playing with advanced technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. Somewhere in the middle HR should be prepared to help employees deal with the job role, process and culture changes that accompany the rapid changes introduced by new and evolving technologies.

According to you, how can HR leaders draw a line between tech and human intervention and how can HR leaders respond to these technological advancements?

I sometimes think that my job as a technology leader is less about technology and more about human behavior modification – if I am successful then I have changed (and hopefully improved) how work is done, how a person spends their day and how a person plans their career. While I do this more from the technology side of life, HR does this more from the human side of life. As technology becomes more personal and pervasive both IT and HR need to work together to understand the impact on a wide range of activities – recruiting, training, career development, performance management, data privacy, etc.

How does the technology solve the engagement and balanced work culture challenge?

In my opinion technology has exacerbated the engagement and balance work challenges. In the days before online and mobile technologies there was a distinct line between work and the rest of my life. Now, they are intertwined. On my smart phone are photos of the architectural diagram we drew on a whiteboard as well as photos from my recent vacation. On my smart phone is my mobile banking app as well as my expense reporting app. Emails and text messages from work now follow me wherever I take my smart phone. Thus, my two worlds have merged. Is this a bad thing? That depends on our organizational cultures and this should involve HR. Does this improve engagement or make it worse? Does it make employees feel more involved or less? And, what can we do to make sure that technology improves engagement and balance? This becomes one of the more pressing issues for our organizations today.

How technology plays a role in organizational transformation? Is analytics slowly replacing the human in HR?

Being a technologist I feel that technology is the driver of organizational transformation. The vast majority of the changes we have experienced in our organizations – both internally and externally from competitors – in the past 20 years has come from technology (mobile, cloud, social and analytics). If I am correct then we should be sensitive to the role that technology plays in organizational transformation. How do we collaborate? How can we use technology to improve collaboration? How do we manage performance? Who can we use technology to improve performance management? And, to specifically answer one of your questions, how do we use advanced analytics (machine learning / artificial intelligence) to identify the cause / effect relationships in our organization, employee engagement, leadership actions and so on? I do not think that advanced analytics replaces HR. Rather, I think that advanced analytics become a pervasive assistant to HR decision-making.

How global companies have benefited from the Indian IT workforce that has been developing highly innovative technological products for their global clients

I have a great deal of respect for the forward-thinking of those Indian leaders who recognized that the future of our world would be driven by technology and who then made the investment to create the training and development infrastructure to create a technology-capable workforce. In our case, we have benefited from the technical know-how, skills and ideas of our Indian employees and I suspect that other companies have the same experience.

What are the key HR technology trends?

To me the key HR Technology trends are:

Everything is an app and all HR work (timekeeping, performance management, learning and training, etc) is done via smart phones. Additionally, all enterprise HR technology is delivered via a SaaS model

Short employee feedback loops via pulse surveys and sentiment analysis

The overhaul of performance management to include how we do training, learning and career development

The use of social networking tools in the workplace to change how we collaborate and also how we identify job and assignment opportunities

Technology that enables a more comprehensive approach to employee engagement – for example, employee wellness – and makes the information available to HR

The pervasive use of analytics applied to all things HR-related

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