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The Five Ps of Implementing HR Tech

By Debbie Mannas, Head of Organization Development and Talent, Asia, Sun Life Financial

Debbie Mannas, Head of Organization Development and Talent, Asia, Sun Life Financial

Technology continues to evolve and change the way we work in human resources (HR). It is an exciting time as HR tech has become much more sophisticated, speeding towards deeper data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) applications. For example, predictive analytics for workforce planning connecting the many data points, and the use of micro-expression recognition in recruitment. If you are just embarking on your HR digital and data revolution, perhaps the lessons I have learned in my journey in Hong Kong may be useful.

A great system and project team are not the only ingredients for sustainable success. If I thought purchasing a system was the largest hurdle I had to navigate, I soon found out that I’d barely scratched the surface. What goes on internally is far more important, and here are some of the lessons I learned, that I shall call the five Ps: purpose, philosophy, process, persistence, and positivity.

Purpose: Make sure you and your leaders are very clear and aligned about the purpose of HR Tech and their own role in its usage and uptake. Why do you need an HR system? Is it just to store information, automate (for ‘HR convenience’) or truly learn about your people and use the data to make business decisions, retain and reward top talent, identify and develop successors? Focusing on purpose will clear the way for alignment and transparency, and prepare you to embed the right criteria.

Philosophy: Stakeholders may concur on the purpose, but if the talent philosophy has not been agreed, you will find yourself scrambling as you configure. Philosophies that drive culture cannot be decided unilaterally. It’s best to really understand how you are going to evaluate competencies, how the organization identifies readiness, potential, C&B philosophies, risks and impact of losing talent, and even really tactical elements, such as whether or not you will use the system to communicate—contracts, bonus or increment letters for example. There are a myriad things to align.

"A great change management plan will ensure that processes are started and completed on time and that they are serving their purpose"

Processes: If you have multiple processes/approvals and believe that ‘automation’, will eliminate frustrations, you will be disappointed. Substance over form is critical, so be ruthless about identifying what stays and goes. It is also important to train leaders on strategy and alignment, philosophy and benefits, so they can make sense of the process. In my first roll-out, we had done the work: used the balanced scorecard, to which performance matrices were aligned; goals, behaviours, metrics were thought through, so we configured the system to house those. But in hindsight, we could have further simplified things.

Persistence: Seek those early wins, but longer-term culture change takes time with respect to consistent use, process improvement, and building up great data for employee insights. Persistence, feedback, continuous refinement (communicate, communicate, communicate) and training are important. In my first roll out, we deployed ‘systems training’ teams, and had manager KPIs on uptake. We had multiple off-sites where we set up computers and gave leaders hands on training, branded the system and messaged users proactively. A great change management plan will ensure that processes are started and completed on time and serve their purpose.

Positivity: Leaders have a critical part in ensuring that HR tech is viewed positively by their teams. Take the time to share the benefits to all stakeholders, seek feedback proactively, and be prepared for the unexpected to happen. Build vocal champions, check for completion status and reward engagement.

In short, reaping the benefits of the digital and data era to our ‘HR’ will take culture change, but HR professionals should embrace the journey for the value it can bring to all stakeholders.

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