The Best Thing About HR Technology

I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to work in several major functions, including Operations, Quality, IT and, of course, HR. You could probably deduce that HR has a special place in my heart, since it is where I decided to stay. But the intersection of HR and IT is, to me, the most amazing area in which to spend your time. Great HR people who are tech savvy working beside brilliant technical minds who understand how to interact with others. It’s a truly remarkable field.


The best thing, though, is the impact HR technology can have when it is done right.


One of the toughest things about being in HR is the aching need to help others that so many practitioners face every day. Oh sure, there are some knuckleheads in every organization that you could live without, but for the most part HR professionals are empathetic, sympathetic and filled with a desire to make the world, if not just their office, a better place. We hear the calls of those around us for help, in a number of different ways.


“I need help understanding my benefits.”


“Can you help me with my resume?”


“If I talk to you about a problem, can you give me some advice?”


What is unsaid in most of those requests, though, are the tough problems that we are really being asked to solve.


“Someone in my family may be very, very sick. I’m afraid of what comes next. Please help me understand this so I have one less thing to worry about.”


“I need to make major changes in my life. I can’t do it alone. Please help me figure out the first step.”


“I’m being taken advantage of by someone more powerful than me, and I have no idea where else to turn.”


The truth, though, is that HR is administrative overhead, not a profit center. And that means that too often we are in the crosshairs when it comes to cost reduction. Do more with less, and do it faster. How do we accomplish that and still meet the needs of these people? How do we quench our own desire to spend as much time as needed with each person to help them when they really need us?


The answer, I think, is HR tech.


It is the simple act of automating and streamlining our processes and systems that allow us, ironically, to spend more time on the human part of human resources. Rather than spend our time searching for documentation, pouring through files for historic information, or handling the mundane tasks of phone number updates and publishing headcount reports, we let our systems carry that load. We automate what we can, move it off our collective plate, and return to the real task of taking care of the people around us. No system will do that for us.


In Lean, we talk about the value stream and the percentage of a process flow that is “value added.” It can be tough to quantify in HR sometimes. Is our value in keeping records up to date, or in keeping people productive? Are we part of the team to keep track of data, or to help that team become more than the sum of its parts? Are we administrators, or are we something else?


The answer, I think, is all of the above. By leveraging technology, and doing it well, we get to move past the mundane and make a real impact in the lives of those around us. By investing in the right systems, we become curators of information that calms fears, supports growth, and makes the difficulties of life a little easier to bear. By taking the time to understand our own processes, we can focus on the work that doesn’t show up on a flowchart.


HR technology, when done well, supports all of that. And in turn, helps you support the people who need you most. In that way, working in the HR tech field mean you putting your peers in a position to help more people that they otherwise could. That’s what it is really all about.


And that, to me, is the best part.

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