The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

systematicHR Avatar

I’ll have to be honest – I’m having a really hard time with some of the new technology.  I’m supposed to be a technologist and be up on all the latest stuff.  But I find myself at odds with some of the theory and philosophy.  There seems to be an emerging sense of immediacy and generality emerging in communications that I don’t like, and this blog is one that seems to be in the middle of it.  You see, over the last few years (for multiple reasons including my own commitment to writing), systematicHR has suffered from a gradually declining readership, from a rather amazing peak of 20k unique hits per day to around 5k now, the audience has gone off to things like twitter for news.

I don’t blame twitter one bit.  I use twitter because it’s the fastest and most efficient way to cull through a hundred ideas to pick up what I might be interested in.  You decide you like and trust certain people and you read their tweets and go on to read the links they have decided to put out there.  I’m not one of the people who will go out and tweet though since the most successful people are literally putting out hundreds of tweets a day.  I don’t have the time or interest in transitioning systematicHR from the blogoshphere to twitter.

However, there is a deeply engrained philosophical problem here too.  While my readership drops, twitter really can’t function without blogs like mine.  Without me and many other bloggers, the guys on twitter just don’t have much to write about.  A one sentence blurb might be an interesting thought, but does not convey any depth that the reader is eventually looking for.  This idea of immediacy without details is good and bad.

We love managers who will actually look at their dashboards occasionally.  We want them to be able to pick up the overall direction of process and HR statistics.  We want them to be able to quickly diagnose and understand what they should be thinking about.  To be honest, the dashboard is spectacular, but we can’t forget that our managers are not HR experts.  In the deployed HR service delviery model, we also have HR business partners that are out in the field with our managers, theoretically coaching them and presenting the context that the data sits in.  Without this context, managers understand generalities of direction, but not the full meaning that the dashboard is presenting to them, and certainly the should not be expected to know how to act.

We always seem to deploy HR technologies with simplicity in mind, and this is absolutely the right approach.  Just like twitter, we want high engagement and high activity.  But we must also remember that as with twitter, there is also another side with context, detail and more depth.  HR technologies are not the source of all information, but more of a reference point.  We provide data, and sometimes we provide process, but we don’t provide explanations that come from our service delivery partners.  No matter what we do, we are not the full solution, and any technologies we deploy must be augmented if we expect our customers to have a complete understanding of HR.

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4 responses to “Immediacy without Details”

  1. Jan Brockway Avatar

    Couldn’t agree more! This is something we think about with our HR technology related to managing performance and compensation for employees. I’m thinking and talking a lot recently about the fact that technology drives behaviors and you need to be careful about the behavior you want to drive. Case in point, discussion last week with a large organization looking for “simplicity” in a performance management tool. The one feature they really wanted was an email to managers when the employee updates goals. Does it make it easy for the manager? Yep. Does it drive a certain behavior? Yep, updates in the tool and no communication which is really what drives the value of performance management, goal achievement (or lack thereof discussions), in my humble opinion.

    I am in the process of gathering feedback on an update to our compensation interface. Managers need lots of information to make a well informed decision but where do you cross the line of the information becoming noise? Easy to do and a line that is probably different for different managers. How do we solve that with technology is our challenge!

    I guess my long winded point is that HR technology has to be aligned and integrated with the behavior you want out of the employees, the process that helps you drive those behaviors and technology that supports it in a manner that employees are comfortable with, etc.

  2. systematicHR Avatar


    That is such a great example. There is so much conversation these days about “taking HR to the user environment” instead of employees and managers coming to HR. However, if we go to the employe environment (increasingly fast, micro/nano, automated, and virtual) you ask the perfect question: does this drive the behavior we want it to drive.

    Even more problematic, HR activities are often at the bottom of the to-do list for all but the best leaders. Does the end user environment simply affirm the position of HR in their daily activities and priorities?

    (I’m actually an advocate of all the newer technologies, but jumping in without understanding the risks and tradeoffs seems like a bad position)

  3. Vince Lammas Avatar

    The world of work is full of distractions which the best managers recognise for what they are – paying attention to and spending time on “meaningful communication” with their teams.
    New technology can be a real enabler but can also be just one more distraction. If technology diminishes or presents obstacles to personal communication it hinders good management.
    I think you have captured the key point about Twitter – it is good for capturing a general mood and can rapidly draw attention to items of interest ….. but sites like yours provide analysis and real insight into issues which a rolling headline can’t replace.
    I’ve been follow your RSS for a while and now watch on twitter too.

  4. […] also written before that I think that the value I provide will never be on Twitter – I honestly just can’t stay on top of it that often considering the work that I do for […]