The speed with which change and evolution have impacted our lives over the last 20 months has been like no other – other than maybe the change and evolution of technological tools developed, modified and enhanced so that we could continue to go about our lives, even through times of isolation and small group gatherings for personal or professional purposes. Within the area of human resources, tech advancements have been a large rock in the foundation of what is done to keep companies operating and together.
To be fair, many of the advances technology has made within the realm of HR started before the pandemic. Still, the programs now used, and the way in which they are used, have drastically changed many aspects of people management.
Take, for instance, the role of Big Data within the operations of HR. As a strategic partner at the leadership table, HR has turned to Big Data to provide the newest insight within human resource needs. Big Data brings awareness regarding workforce views and allows for HR to identify emerging trends. It provides evidence-based information for leadership and HR to implement within recruiting, retention and performance measuring initiatives. According to an Inc. 2020 survey, 68% of organizations use analytics to track performance of their employees. That may seem like quite a lot, but really, there’s room for many more organizations to transition to this useful technological insight.
Collecting Big Data isn’t just possible for large corporations. Small companies can do it as well. Madhurjya Chowdhury posted in Analytics Insight about 10 ways small organizations can gain the information needed to make Big Data an important factor in decision making. Many of the suggestions include items and efforts that companies already have, including social media, marketing analytics, and scoping out competition. It’s the part about pulling all of that information together, rather than in segments, to paint the larger picture that is ultimately the next step for organizations to take that provide the powerful insights of Big Data.
Another tech advance in the world of HR is the use of cell phones. Although they’ve been around for quite some time, the way in which a cell phone is used now is vastly different – and it means that HR is using them differently as well. Individual employees are now empowered to use their mobile apps for their benefits for instance: they can access information regarding their coverage, deductible, covered providers, etc. They can even their enrollment forms right there from their phone. Use of mobile phones has gone beyond that, however, where HR departments have found ways to increase employee engagement by using texting to communicate, for instance, or to fill in timesheets. The mobile phone has brought about a self-service avenue to many HR functions, while also tasks more available for employees.
Then there’s AI. It’s talked about quite a bit and it’s mostly pointed to AI’s role early in the recruiting cycle – like reviewing resumes. Looking forward, common AI objectives will be to help management and HR with employee scheduling (using intelligence to determine how much workforce is needed for a specific project) and predicting last-minute changes to reduce bottlenecks. AI will be able to automate more routine tasks in HR as well, leaving room for leaders to strategize, plan and perform more employee development activities.
Technology advances aren’t just providing more information for engagement and staffing purposes. There have also been advancements pointed at workplace safety. For instance, currently an employer has a handful of ways to test for marijuana, but those tests only provide information that state the drug is present – none of the tests currently help determine whether someone is impaired, at the moment of the test. And marijuana is one substance that has a long-lasting time within the body. Innovation in technology has led to new screening techniques, such as Zxerex’s approach: a simple eye scan to determine impairment from substance use, alcohol or even fatigue. Here, neuroscientists have figured out how to measure impairment through eye movements (think about “following the finger” exercises for roadside DUIs, for instance). These kinds of tools could really impact the safety of all employees by lessening the number of accidents before they happen and helping employers more accurately determine whether a worker is impaired or not while on site.
Bottom line – technology is giving opportunities to HR. Opportunities to better understand the workforce; better connect and engage; even to bring safety to a new level. Organizations of all sizes are able to capitalize on the wealth of information that is provided with these new tools. If they aren’t being considered within an HR department now, then there’s quite a bit to be lost in the bigger realm of people management.
Monica Blackwood is CEO of Westsound Workforce, a staffing agency with offices in Gig Harbor and Poulsbo.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Monica Blackwood: The HR tools new technology can offer