Human Resources

Why Tech Is HR's Friend, Not Its Enemy

Why Tech Is HR's Friend, Not Its Enemy
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Why is it that human resources is the one department people love to hate? From the outside, the job looks simple. So, why can’t HR professionals just process requests faster, be better organized and manage talent more efficiently? people ask.

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Well, those same people need to exercise a little more brain power here, because the notion that every HR department is old-fashioned, full of red tape and works in a bubble is a misguided stereotype.

Nonetheless, because of the surplus of innovative HR tech available, some thought-leaders in the industry are questioning if we even need HR at all. Can't apps and platforms do what whole departments used to do? they ask. Can't they do it better?

The reality is crystal clear: People are the most important asset to any business, and employers will always need experts to manage them. While tech can automate administrative work and take the productivity of many important HR tasks to the next level, HR professionals are -- and will continue to be -- a vital part of every business.

In the age of automation, HR isn’t going anywhere. Here’s why:

HR knows which new tech will benefit employees most.

Tech will never fully replace the power of people. HR analytics are great, but people are the ones who make the important human decisions regarding employees.

New HR tech can help give employees all the tools they need: self-service employee profiles, affordable employee benefits, a social news feed to keep everyone connected and more. But it's HR professionals who guide and grow a company culture, encourage career development and analyze the important "people" data coming out of the tech a company uses.

Businesses don’t need just anyone to drive the use of tech forward -- they need HR. In 2016, HR departments are more focused on innovation and adopting new technologies to improve employee experience, suggests Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Report. And that’s what's key -- they’re focused on the employee experience.

In a 2015 report sponsored by Visier and released by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 44 percent of the 323 CEOs surveyed said their workforce planning was driven by finance and didn't take talent availability into consideration.

So, while those in the C-suite remain focused on speeding up processes, improving productivity, boosting profits and reducing costs, HR sets its sights on people. HR tech and processes bring a unique view to the table by analyzing which tools and resources will make work easier for employees. And employers need that point of view.

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In fact, a July 2015 CareerBuilder survey of 88 leaders at companies with revenue of at least $50 million found that 65 percent of CEOs thought that HR opinions at their organizations carried increasingly more weight with senior management.

Employers need HR's unique input, then, to make sense of new tech and analytics and to make the best decisions for employees, the culture and the business as a whole.

Employees need guidance, even with new tech.

Tech can handle a lot of the time-consuming duties that used to occupy HR. It can automate payroll and benefits enrollment, provide paperless onboarding and maintain all employee data in one place for easy reporting. But these processes represent only half the picture.

Specifically, there will always be a "human" side to human resources. Automation doesn’t put HR professionals out of a job -- it helps them to do their jobs better, enabling them to spend even more time on the human and strategic aspects of their work.

People are the resource best suited to provide opportunities for career development and standardize processes around promoting from within. People are the best resource for handling delicate workplace issues -- and then making a company culture the best it can be.

Apps can help deliver benefits communications and information, but they can’t answer individual questions or explain confusing plans step by step.

Apps and tools can’t really listen to employees.

HR tech is a game-changer for communication. Social news feeds allow the whole company to communicate in real time. Mobile apps mean people can find and contact coworkers instantly. Surveys and reviews collect feedback whenever it's needed.

But employees want a living, breathing human they can share their concerns with. And employers need someone to take that feedback and turn it into action. That person is an HR professional.

No matter what technology is implemented to improve communications, HR is the sounding board and voice of employees -- a role in which even managers may even fall short. A 2015 SHRM survey of employees found that only 37 percent of respondents described themselves as "very satisfied" with the consideration their ideas received. And just 23 percent were "very satisfied" with communications with senior management.

Related: A New Wave of HR Technology Is Disrupting the Market

Emails and social platforms may make communication easier, but HR makes that communication count. HR professionals mediate problems between peers and managers, make improvements based on suggestions and take employee concerns seriously. Tech can’t do that.

HR’s power to make communication effective is uniquely its own.