The speed with which changes and evolutions have impacted our lives over the past 20 months has been like no other – apart from perhaps the change and advancement of technological tools that have been developed, modified and improved so that we can get on with our lives, even through periods of isolation and small group gatherings for personal or professional purposes. In the field of human resources, technical progress has been an important cornerstone of what is being done to keep companies going and sticking together.
To be fair, many of the advances technology has made in the human resources field began before the pandemic. Yet the programs in use today and the way in which they are used have dramatically changed many aspects of human resource management.
Take, for example, the role of big data in HR operations. As a strategic partner at the executive table, HR has turned to Big Data to provide the latest insights into staffing needs. Big data creates awareness of employee views and enables HR to spot emerging trends. It provides evidence-based information for executives and HR that can be implemented as part of recruiting, retention and performance measurement initiatives. According to a 2020 Inc. survey, 68% of companies use analytics to track employee performance. This may seem like a lot, but in reality there is room for many more companies to move to this useful technological insight.
Collecting big data is not only possible for large companies. Small businesses can do that too. Madhurjya Chowdhury featured in Analytics Insight on 10 Ways Small Businesses Can Gain the Information They Need to Make Big Data a Powerful Factor in Decision Making. Many of the suggestions incorporate elements and efforts that companies already have, including social media, marketing analytics, and excluding competition. It’s the part of putting all of this information together, rather than segments, to paint a bigger picture, which is ultimately the next step for businesses delivering the powerful insights of big data.
Another technical advancement in the HR world is the use of cell phones. Although they have been around for a long time, the way a mobile phone is used today is very different – and so is the human resources department. Individual employees now have the option of using their mobile apps for their services, for example: They can call up information on their coverage, excess, insured providers, etc. You can even access their registration forms right from their phone. The use of cell phones goes beyond, however, where HR departments have found ways to increase employee engagement, such as using SMS to communicate or fill out timesheets. The mobile phone has created self-service access to many HR functions, while tasks are also more readily available for employees.
Then there is AI. There is a lot of talk about it, and most of the time, the role of AI at the beginning of the recruiting cycle – like resume review – is pointed out. Looking ahead, common AI goals will be to help management and human resource planning (using intelligence to determine how much manpower is needed for a given project) and predicting last-minute changes, to reduce bottlenecks. AI will also be able to automate routine HR tasks, giving managers room to strategize, plan, and conduct more employee development activities.
Technological advances not only provide more information for engagement and personnel deployment purposes. There has also been progress in occupational safety. For example, an employer currently has a handful of ways to test for marijuana, but these tests only provide information that indicates the drug is present – none of the tests currently help determine if someone is impaired at the time of the test. And marijuana is a substance that lingers in the body for a long time. Technological innovations have led to new screening techniques, such as the Zxerex approach: a simple eye scan to determine impairment from substance use, alcohol or even fatigue. This is where neuroscientists have figured out how to measure impairment from eye movement (think, for example, of “finger following” exercises for DUIs on the side of the road). These types of tools could really compromise the safety of all employees by reducing the number of accidents before they happen and helping employers more accurately determine whether or not a worker is affected on the job site.
Bottom line – technology offers HR opportunities. Ways to better understand the workforce; better connect and engage; even to take security to a new level. Businesses of all sizes can take advantage of the wealth of information these new tools provide. If they are not now considered within a HR department, then there is a lot to lose in the larger area of HR management.
Monica Blackwood is CEO of Westsound Workforce, a recruitment agency with offices in Gig Harbor and Poulsbo.