Set it and Forget It: Cooking With HR Technology

Image: Kitchen Timer by Sambla Billån

I’ve recently found myself in numerous conversations with HR professionals and recruiters about striking the balance between effective use of HR technology and still maintaining a human touch in the processes that impact candidates, applicants and employees.

It’s a real problem in search of solutions.

Those solutions range from dialing back our reliance on the technology we implemented with much fanfare and excitement, scheduling ‘moments’ of human interaction and embedding them within a given process, or fully re-engineering the actual tools themselves.

I’ve had these discussions at various events and gatherings (conferences, meet ups, cocktails at the close of the day, meetings at coffee shops) with HR Leaders and HR Generalists, VPs of Talent Acquisition, Recruiting Coordinators, HR Benefits Coordinators and HR Assistants. Also, hovering, silently (or not so silently) on the sidelines for a few of these chats, have been the HR technology developers, founders, marketers, and sales business development guys. To the surprise of no one, the tech guys believe the way to bring in the human touch is to layer on more technology. Chat bots and/or AI anyone?

Are the bots coming? Undoubtedly. But while some get positively giddy at the thought and the implications for their HR or TA team, I hope to resist our HR robot overlords as long as possible.

Oh sure, the necessity for machine intervention in a large enterprise makes sense; if you’re an HR shop dealing with tens of thousands of employees or a TA team handling tens of thousands of applicants per year, the amount of labor hours needed to handle that volume requires systems chugging away behind the scenes to manage the data, the flow and the processes. And, of course, not every employee wants to pick up the phone and talk to the HR Care Specialist (with a condescending attitude) sitting in her cubicle in the Acme Corporation’s Employee Care Shared Service Center (service hours 8 AM ET to 7 PM ET).  In many instances, employees do, indeed, want to self-solve and self-serve.

Yet…there’s also a deep down realization from more and more HR practitioners and recruiters that perhaps, just perhaps, we have started to over engineer our core HR services and processes. To wit:

  • Joe Candidate lands on company career site and, heeding a well placed “Call to Action,” signs up for a Talent Network/Talent Community/Job Notification email blast
  • Joe gets regular emails of “Jobs of Interest!!” and eventually applies for REQ 23-456-2016
  • Over the next week or so, Joe receives emails (programmed, of course, to go out during business hours so as to appear as if a human being is typing them from their keyboard in real time!) apprising him of where he is in the hiring process
  • Joe is invited to complete an online assessment
  • Joe, apparently having passed the assessment, is invited to complete a video interview
  • Joe is sent a link to read employee testimonials and view company produced (Employer Branding!!) content including “A Day in the Life” and “A View Inside Our Offices”
  • Joe continues to receive emails at well-timed intervals
  • Joe has yet to hear the real live human voice of a recruiter, recruiting coordinator or the hiring manager

Now I’m the first to admit that in organizations having voluminous applicant activity, this sort of thing is not only a blessed thing but also, if anyone is to make any headway, a necessity. Bear in mind as well that it’s been about 10 years since I worked for a large enterprise with 3,000+ open requisitions; I myself managed 150+ open reqs (don’t even ask) and would have loved a bit more snap, sizzle and automation in our processes. But…

…we’ve become so damn enamored of this sort of thing that we layer on new bells and whistles and work tirelessly to get our systems to talk to each other so we can set them up and keep our hands off the part of the process that drew most of us to this profession in the first place…talking to people. Human to human.

And this is not just on the recruiting side of the people business, although that’s where we tend to focus the conversation and energy. I’ve also seen this play out in the absolutely most mind-numbingly boring side of human resources…employee benefits. Many a US organization just went through the annual open enrollment period and, undoubtedly, relied on System A (online benefit administrator) to pull data feeds from System B (HRIS) while simultaneously interfacing with Systems C, D and E (benefit providers) all while employees, lost in the labyrinth of confusion, were provided with nothing more than an 800 number, a website, and a generic benefits@ABCCompany email address that is unattended and rarely monitored.

Where’s the human? Why do we consider this movement to a “set it and forget it” mindset to be evolutionary? The use of technology should enhance and amplify that which we can do as humans – not merely serve to replace it.

How, as we move into the future of HR, do we best balance high tech while ensuring we’re still high touch?

I’m not sure I have the answer.



One thought on “Set it and Forget It: Cooking With HR Technology

  1. Hit the nail on the head here – “The use of technology should enhance and amplify that which we can do as humans – not merely serve to replace it.” Human interaction needs to be integrated into the OVERALL process from the beginning e.g. with performance development reviews, where a human ‘reviewer’/manager is a necessary part of said process.

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