HR Technology Q & A with Robin Schooling


With the HR Technology Conference (#HRTechConf) just around the corner, we're inviting our Next Official Bloggers to offer their perspective on how technology is impacting the profession today -- and their predictions for the future.

The following is a Q & A with Robin Schooling:


Q:  What area of Human Resources profession (recruiting, OD/Training, comp/benefits, employee relations, etc.) do you see technology affecting the most in the next 5 years?  

RS: I think HR technology will continue to explode in the employee relations area. And when I say employee relations I mean that in the broadest sense of managing the employee/employer relationship. There are a number of tech products, of course, addressing this now in the areas of culture and engagement. As more people realize that Culture (with a capital “C”) is not driven down from on high but is an amalgamation of the collective norms, behaviors, attitudes and actions of the existing employees we’ve begun to see some culture/engagement products that gather data and continuously identify patterns for culture and brand fit. On the other end of the E/R spectrum we have solutions that help large (and often dispersed) HR teams effectively utilize case management software (i.e. help desk environments) which is much more effective than what many of us have historically cobbled together with shared spreadsheets and Word documents. I’ve also seen some interesting technologies emerge that assist HR teams so they can effectively conduct structured investigations, ensure consistent documentation and, most importantly, identify and analyze employee relations (and discipline) trends and patterns across the scope of the enterprise.

Q:  Technology is enabling HR to look at how their strategy affects organizational performance, in addition to HR-specific problems. To what extent are today’s HR professionals able to step outside the box that has traditionally defined their role?

RS:  I really like how the increased adoption of enterprise social networks has encouraged communication and collaboration across organizational boundaries. When these platforms first appeared many HR professionals believed their role was to keep watch and monitor. While some human resources teams pushed out ‘one-way’ communication there was, initially, only ‘policing’ with very little engagement. But today more and more HR practitioners are diving into conversations about the business with their peers and colleagues who are discussing sales or finance or business strategy. I’ve observed HR professionals providing insight and sharing resources on these platforms that go well beyond merely pushing out content or promoting the HR agenda; they are using these networks to be integrally involved in the business.

Q:  Employees are increasingly using smart phones and tablets to access their employers’ HR services.  How will employees’ evolving expectations affect an organization’s HR technology regarding access and security?

RS:  We have to realize that our employees expect the same timely and seamless usability of our internal (HR or otherwise) technology as they have at home. They don’t want to have to call the Help Desk or, heaven forbid, the HR Department to get an answer – they want to find information NOW and be able to take action.  They expect to move beyond self-serve to self-solve. Access should be a given – we need to make it as easy as possible. And, just as with any HR processes, we have to be vigilant in safeguarding employee data; this is, after all, merely the electronic equivalent of the “HR file room.”

Q.  What are the advantages of combining both HR professionals and technology process experts to design software that will address HR’s future challenges?

RS: A critical step in the development of any technology solution is to include real-in-the-trenches HR professionals in planning conversations with developers as they go about the process of designing a solution. Certainly there are some technology companies that are founded by people who have worked in recruiting or HR or benefits; they know what problem they’re trying to solve and instinctively understand how a solution will provide assistance to their potential customers. But I’ve also seen some products launch (based on a snazzy/sexy idea) that fall flat because the founders and developers had neither experience nor a desire )early on) to talk to their ultimate end-users; the HR and recruiting professionals who would use – and purchase – their product. 

Q.  Is an applicant tracking system still the single most important piece of technology an HR pro can have? Why or why not?

RS: Ah yes; the much-scorned, often maligned, and still heavily-utilized ATS. What’s interesting to note is that not every HR professional uses an ATS; there are numerous HR professionals (especially those who work for organizations with less than 500 EEs) whose applicant tracking system consists of email folders and an Excel spreadsheet. And it can work perfectly fine for their needs; especially if they’re not a government contractor with OFCCP reporting requirements. In my estimation, the single most important piece of technology an HR pro can have is – wait for it – the telephone. Mobile or landline; take your choice. Pick it up; call your employees and text your managers to find out how they’re doing. Post a congratulatory message to a team member on the social network of your choice. High tech? Perhaps not. But important. Let’s never forget it.   


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