HR digitalization has started but it doesn’t look sexy
As announced I was at HRTech World Congress a while ago, and this post is the first in a small series dedicated to what I saw and learned about the event.
HR digitization is underway
Nearly 5,000 people of all nationalities are present in the amphitheater of the Palais des Congrès in Paris. An exhibition hall that is always full, “breakout sessions” where we congregate to listen to cases on learning, the “social” (understand collaborative and networks), data and analytics, a start-up scene. up very active: the world of HR has taken the turn of digitalization there is no doubt. On the other hand, the way of proceeding was the occasion for many discussions.
I praised in my post announcing the conference the quality of the keynote sessions of previous years, capable of giving energy and vision and going beyond technology, said technology only having meaning when we know what to do with it. That was all the beauty of previous editions of HRTech. This year was the year of returning to earth.
So the good news is that the train is on. The less encouraging news is that he goes underground, visits tunnels and plumbing and does not seem to be lighting far in front of him.
As in 2014, I was thrilled by Yves Morieux’s keynote. Simplicity and complexity are a real subject for the future of our organizations and all that this implies for the HR function as a stakeholder in the “organizational design” of the company. Then the big companies follow one another on the big stage proving that the world is on the move. It will not be difficult to synthesize what was said session after session since the message was systematically the same: “We put our HRMS in the Cloud”. Too many technologies, too many publishers, not enough vision and HR practitioners who talk more about infrastructure than how their profession is transforming.
The sovereign functions of HR trump the future of work
Hence the legitimate questioning of many: “yes and why?”. And above all “Yes and after?”. This reminds us that the HR function has constraints and contingencies that we often tend to forget when we want it to be more innovative, leader and proactive.
1 °) The primary mission of an HR department lies in payroll and recruitment. He can do what he wants afterwards but he has no margin for error on these two subjects (and especially the first). In the Maslow pyramid of the HR function the first level is called payroll, the second recruitment.
2 °) Having a vision of tomorrow’s HR is good, but you still need the IS that allows all of this to work. Starting with… payroll.
So logically the first stage of the digitization of HR begins with the foundations, starting with the vital functions and the infrastructure. The rest will come later, but nothing is possible until this phase is completed. And migrating a heterogeneous, highly customized HRIS to the Cloud is a healthy dusting and rationalization exercise, but one that is anything but trivial.
Towards the recentralization of HR
An inventory not as “seller” as one would like but a necessary evil. Hoping that this step will be quickly taken in order to move on to the next phase.
In the meantime, and second point of surprise, this rationalization is accompanied by a recentralization where there has been a tendency in recent years to give more and more room for maneuver to the local. Contrary to what we have seen in recent years but logical: what is the point of moving to the Cloud if it is not to take advantage of the scale effect? I would also add that the centralization of tools is a false problem which in no way allows us to assume a loss of local agility and autonomy. If the solution allows it and with adequate governance, centralization of tools does not mean standardization of practices. If we come to this, it is because governance was designed for today’s tools with a yesterday’s mindset… or because the choice of solution is wrong.
And then this recentralization also corresponds to a special moment when we install a new infrastructure, so the best moment to do things in a clean and rational way, knowing that over time pragmatism and the choice of opportunities will take over. . As one speaker confided after his presentation: “we have put everything in order and recentralized, but the logic of things is that the decentralization movement will resume once the new architecture is in place”.
Emerging HR topics down
If ultimately all this is only logical I am a little disappointed that the “vision” left the main stage of HR Tech. Of course, the different “breakout sessions” were full of very concrete and less IS-oriented use cases. But in the end I think that the vision / business case / technology triptych was only based on two legs this year and that something was really missing, something to help project oneself, share a vision, set the profession in motion.
While the last editions clearly mentioned the transformation of the world and the company, of the digital phenomenon as a managerial, societal and organizational phenomenon, nothing like this this year. Programming error or vision failure It must be a bit of both. But remember what I wrote above: blaming the conference scheduling is easy, but when you were listening to a large part of the participants their concrete concern at the time was really the “lower layers” of the HR function … even if they would have liked to be able to project themselves a little more.
However, more than emerging subjects such as the future of work or the employee / candidate experience were therefore rarely mentioned (if not at all).
Could it be because the cause is heard and there is no longer a need to raise awareness on this point? I think it would be presumptuous to believe that the message is heard and understood by everyone, especially in HR departments.
In short, the speakers explained to us that they had started something without us having understood very well if they knew where they were going and if they knew what it was going to be used for. The “Big Picture” forgot to take the main stage.
Is the vision of the future of HR for publishers?
We have laughed at the HR editors enough for their side old school and their lack of vision to recognize that they have taken the turn, often pushed by start-ups who came to walk on their flowerbeds but that at home too the train is on and I found that it was going fast and in the right direction. Because by scratching a little, if you wanted concepts that convey meaning, disruptive but embody what HR will be in 3 to 5 years, it is their place to go.
Until a few years ago, technologies did not seem able to support the vision of the most digitally mature HR. Today, I think the vast majority are not culturally ready to take 100% of what is out there.
It is therefore at IBM, ADP or even Talentsoft that I have been validating some of my convictions and I have found with pleasure reflections that have real consistency.
In future posts we will therefore talk about the consumerization of the HR function, marketing and the future of work, employee and candidate experience. Hoping these topics replace piping in keynotes in 2016 (October 25 and 26, 2016 to be more precise).
Technologies change, it’s a fact, but HR cultures and practices are revolutionized even more. It might have been good to give more points of reference on this point.
I already have good news … even before talking about Paris in 2016, I had a very good discussion with the organization that told me that from the London edition next March, the subjects linked to the future of work and the transformation of HR would find a place of choice and that the keynotes would regain the level and orientation that they experienced in Amsterdam. I applaud the return to the “old” format and look forward to seeing you in March…
Bertrand Duperrin is Digital Transformation Practice Leader at Emakina. He was previously Consulting Director at Nextmodernity, a firm in the field of business transformation and management through social business and the use of social technologies.
He regularly deals with social media news on his blog.