13 Apr 2017 15:55 IST

‘Without HR tech a huge amount of time gets wasted’

"Traditionally HR was set up as a compliance and service function"

The marketplace for HR tech – which includes software products, tools and related services – is over $400 billion, estimates Josh Bersin, Principal, Bersin by Deloitte, a research and advisory firm. The average company spends $2,000-3,000 per employee per year on various HR services, including platforms, payroll processes, talent management tools, assessment and recruiting tools. “It’s an enormous, complex, constantly changing market,” he says. Ahead of SHRM’s HR Tech conference in Hyderabad on April 20-21, where he is the keynote speaker, Bersin shares views with Business Line on tech adoption by HR. Excerpts:

Why has HR lagged so far behind other departments in embracing digital transformation?

Traditionally HR was set up as a compliance and service function, so the HR leadership team never considered it their job to “lead the digital transformation”. The issues in digital business are so important now that CEOs and other business leaders demand help with new organisation models, new leadership models, and new training and workplace tools to help people build a more digital enterprise – plus HR itself has to “be digital”. In addition, most organisations have challenges with productivity and engagement. This has essentially reshaped HR and its mission.

Where is HR tech being deployed more – recruitment/ onboarding/appraisals or is it more for engagement and training purposes?

All are equally important, but this year deployment in learning is higher. In fast-growing companies the recruitment process is still top priority, but in nearly all companies learning and career management is as well. With the growth of technology and AI, learning has peaked.

Is Asia or rather India leapfrogging technologies being deployed in HR?

Yes, to an extent. Asian companies do tend to be “more mobile” so their employees expect mobile solutions first. On the other hand, most Asian businesses spend less on HR than European and US counterparts, so their traditional HR technology is often older or less mature. I do believe companies that start now can go “mobile first” and look at the cloud as a “back-end”, not the sole and primary HR platform any more. Nevertheless, all companies need a core HR system, without this no mobile apps are possible – so payroll and core HR processing is still critical.

What are the cost savings of deploying HR tech?

Without HR technology there is a huge amount of wasted time, inefficiency, and often legal and employee engagement problems. The process of recruiting, hiring, onboarding, paying, and providing benefits and training are intensely administrative, with many forms and lots of paper. If a company does not have HR technology this is all being done by people, which does not scale like software. There is a breaking point where technology becomes far cheaper and more scalable, and it’s often somewhere around 100-1,000 employees, depending on the company and industry.

Is AR and VR getting into HR tech? In what domains?

Yes, it’s coming soon. Right now the big applications are in training. I’ve seen VR apps for safety training and technical training in oil firms and other regulated industries, and over time I think we’ll see it in sales training, diversity training, and even leadership development.

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