The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

systematicHR Avatar

I have a friend who happens to have a particular way of ordering steaks. This is interesting for a number of reasons. First, I’m not sure how many Indian guys order steaks. Perhaps Gautam can shed some light on this for me. (I think my friend lives in Goa if that makes a difference). Second however, he orders steak in a way that just kills me every time. “I’d like it well done, really well done, like… burnt to a crisp well done.” I don’t really understand this. I mean, if you’ve cooked it this much, you’ve cooked any texture and flavor out of this thing. Why bother ordering a $40 piece of meat if you’re just going to kill it for the second and third time?

We do the same thing in HR technology. Not necessarily overcooking things, but definitely going overboard. We tend to look at the HR technology world in extremes. We’re either 100% vanilla, or we allow customization to the point of burden and we can’t support the application anymore. We like to support either lean HR processes that are sustainable and scalable, but we forget the impact on our end user customers, or we support those end user customers to such a degree that the view on sustainability and scalability is forgotten except in philosophical terms.

Unfortunately, our HR technology utilization in these terms is not usually driven by ourselves. Most often, we have a corporate philosophy that says we should take care of our customers at all costs (or take care of efficiency at all cost). We often are held hostage by those philosophies, but then 5 years down the road, we’re bought into them as well, and tell vendors and external consultants that we can’t possibly change.

In almost every consulting engagement, I do what I call a set of “sliders.” A display of extremes, and where the current state and future state lies within these extremes. In almost all cases, organizations don’t sit on either end of the extremes, but in a happy medium somewhere towards the middle. For example, in my “face to face contact vs. self service” slider, most organizations weigh in on the side of wanting to have more self service than face to face contact with their employees. However, at the same time, even HR technologists who answer my surveys intuitively know that there is a balance to be served, and that the answer is not all the way to one end of the bar, but a mix of approaches that combines both types of interaction. What is more telling, is that non HR technologists also get it, but know they have an equally hard time being centrists in practice. As I’ve built a few years of these “sliders” my experience is that organizations want to be in the middle, but the historic philosophical approach is usually an extreme, and that is a hard past to get away from.

At the end of the day, we often implement what we are most comfortable with, in a manner that continues to make us comfortable. We realize that our HR technology approach is deeply influenced by how the rest of the HR organization interacts with the enterprise, but we should also understand that we an equal or larger influencer on how HR services are delivered to the organization. I think as HR technology organizations go, we should try to start exercising some of this influence, rather than sitting back and “taking it.”

For me, I order my steaks a perfect medium. (sometimes a medium rare).

systematicHR Avatar

One response to “Burnt to a Crisp”

  1. […] HR APRIL 21, 2010 Burnt to a Crisp We’re either 100% vanilla, or we allow customization to the point of burden and we can’t […]