The HR technology that will help as we emerge from lockdown

June 10, 2020
The HR technology that will help as we emerge from lockdown

HR technology has stepped in to save the day for many organisations who have found themselves suddenly forced to cope remotely under lockdown. Organisations with a good HR software solution in place suffered significantly less than those working from paper files and spreadsheets. And as we emerge into a new way of working, many HR professionals believe that this new reliance on technology will not go away.

The way we work is changing fast

Whether you like it or not, the way we work is changing, and it’s changing fast. We’ve already written about some of the ways these changes might affect you and your workforce:

It’s safe to assume that for most, this ‘new normal’ will involve fewer face-to-face meetings, more employees working remotely, a bigger focus on remote recruiting, and a reduction in paper files. Therefore, as we emerge into this ‘new normal’, we need to become much more flexible in our approach to HR.

Whether or not you were prepared for lockdown when it happened, you need to be prepared going forward. So here are the elements of HR technology that I believe you will find most useful in the post-lockdown era.

The cloud-based HR database

Without a doubt, the single most important staple of HR technology during lockdown, has been the central cloud-based HR database.

I’ve long been an advocate of moving HR processes away from local systems, spreadsheets and paper files. When your HR processes rely on this patchwork of systems, it’s a recipe for disaster – not only is data often duplicated (sometimes incorrectly), but it can slow down routine tasks. You’re also relying very heavily on your ability to continually access the same computer, the same server room, or the same filing cabinet. And lockdown has proved that this is not always possible.

The HR practitioners I have been speaking to over the last couple of months, have told me that their one true lifeline during lockdown, has been having remote access to their central HR database. Being able to access important data is what keeps many routine tasks ticking over – from traditional responsibilities like processing holiday requests and sick leave, to the newer and unexpected challenges of things like recording furlough leave.

Now, it is true that not all HR practitioners have been accessing their central database via a dedicated cloud-based HR system. For example, some are relying on special networks they’ve been hooked up to by their IT department, to obtain virtual access to their office machine. But I believe that as we move into the ‘new normal’, progressive HR professionals will be seeking to streamline the way they connect to their database in the event of an emergency – and for many, I believe this will take the form of a purpose-built cloud-based HR system like People HR.

Employee self-service

Executing administrative HR tasks is certainly going to keep HR running. But if we leave it there, it sort of sends us back to the dark ages a little. You see, the idea of HR as a closed-door office, hidden away in the darkest corner of the highest tower, is one we are thankfully outgrowing. Modern HR professionals are accessible and approachable.

So if the “bread” of remote HR is having access to a central HR database, then the “butter” is giving employees a way to engage with HR. For example, by giving them an easy holiday booking; or a quick way to grab their latest payslip; or the ability to edit their own personal details.

I see evidence of this when I look at usage statistics for the People HR mobile app. Currently, a total of 103,269 people use the People HR app to engage with their personal employment record – and many of these numbers have emerged since lockdown happened. This tells me that with fewer opportunities to interact with HR on a face-to-face basis, more employees have turned to their self-service portals in order to stay in-tune with their personal employment information.

Of course, employee self service has always been a win-win – even at the best of times, with no lockdown. You see, when you give employees a carefully-managed system through which they can interact with their own data, then you are not only removing a lot of personal HR admin for yourself, but you are also giving employees a better sense of ownership and empowerment. It’s far better for your employees to see things like their holiday allowances and Bradford factor scores right in front of them, than for this sort of information to be hidden away in a dusty filing cabinet.

But in a world of remote working and social isolation, this sort of engagement becomes far more important. It goes beyond “a nice way to do business”, and becomes what I would consider an essential part of smart HR.

Remote recruitment

When I wrote in December that video interviews would be a big HR technology trend for 2020, I didn’t realise quite how rapidly this trend would be catapulted into the spotlight.

Yes, lockdown has forced some companies to put a stop to recruitment altogether. But others have simply paused recruitment, or continued recruiting albeit within a different landscape.

Recruiting remotely is very possible.

Personnel Today reports that companies are managing to successfully hire people during lockdown using techniques like video interviews. And indeed, I’ve seen a surge of interest in video interviews over the last couple of months. For example, I’m seeing more traffic and activity around some of my posts about video interviews, such as my video: top 10 video interview questions and why you should ask them

If you’re thinking of waiting until life returns to absolute normal before you consider recruiting again, then I think you’ll be waiting a long time. So instead, I recommend making some preparations to implement tools such as video recruiting, as part of your process.

People are still learning the ins and outs of this. Including the candidates you’re trying to recruit. So if you decide to give this a go, this article might be helpful: four things talented candidates hate about video interviews.

But be careful about the type of HR technology you buy

If there is one thing that I hear HR tech analyst Josh Bersin talking about quite a lot, it’s that there is far too much HR technology out there. Or, more specifically, that organisations are buying far too much of it – something he calls HR’s ‘dirty little secret’.

The problem is not necessarily that there are too many cloud HR software providers to choose from – after all, healthy competition keeps developers on their toes, and stops prices getting out of hand. Rather, instead of consolidating HR processes under one or two really powerful tools, organisations are implementing almost a Frankenstein’s monster of systems – dozens of tools, each performing its own function. And this can be almost as confusing as using spreadsheets – if not more so.

So yes, I firmly believe that there is a lot of HR technology that will help you emerge from lockdown and enter the ‘new normal’ way of working with both of your feet on the ground. But I also believe that if you simply grab everything that looks like it does something nice, then you’ll end up biting off more than you should really be chewing.

Which is why I’ve kept my recommendations down to three areas of HR tech that I think will be particularly helpful post-lockdown – a central cloud-based database; a way for employees to access their own information; and a way to incorporate video interviews into your hiring process.

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