Does HR Tech Dehumanize HR?
Technology distorts and weakens vital human interactions that are essential to the development of healthy, productive relationships.
Living in scholarly articles and strewn across the internet, there are endless theories and opinions on the profound impact that rapidly advancing technology is having on our society. Mixed with these viewpoints–and perhaps coloring them with shades of the apocalypse–is a very real fear; it is the fear that with the gains of technology, we are losing parts of our humanity.
Humans as Resources
The term “Human Resources” was coined in the late 19th Century– at the beginning of the Second Industrial Revolution. Then, it simply referred to the concept of humans as capital assets, or worse, commodities. It was not until the latter half of the 20th Century in the United States, with the founding of what would become the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), that the modern understanding of Human Resources began to evolve.
Today, Human Resources Management has grown from a profession primarily handling payroll and benefits, to one that manages the entire employee life cycle, succession planning, compliance, and labor relations–to name just a few functions. But as the scope of Human Resources Management has grown, so too has the time and work required to execute these functions. This fact has led organizations to do one of two things: hire additional, specialized HR professionals for the myriad functions; or rely on a few highly trained individuals to manage it all.
For many small- to medium-sized businesses, hiring additional HR professionals is not an option, so these organizations must rely on the talents and efforts of a few–or even just one. But how can an “HR Department of One” perform at a level of efficiency that matches an “HR Department of Many”?
Dehumanize HR. Yes, a highly controversial answer when taken out of context; however, when an organization’s ultimate goals are considered, it becomes very clear that much of Human Resources Management is not about managing humans, it’s about managing processes. And a process managed by technology, rather than an HR professional, creates the time and opportunity for people to meaningfully interact–the net result being an experience that is more human, not less.
Over the past decade, our society–our world–has grown increasingly connected with rapid advances in technology. The Digital Age has brought efficiencies to almost every part of our lives, many that would have been unfathomable to those living in the mid-20th Century. So why could there be hesitancy to adopt technology to create efficiencies in Human Resources Management?
Fear: HR Software Is a Threat
Some HR professionals fear that by incorporating technology into their departments, they will be eliminating the need for HR staff. The thought is that if technology can automate so much, then why will we need a person to do it manually? This could lead to a fear of having to fire good people, not to mention the fear of losing one’s own position.
Reality: Technology is a tool to be used.
At least for the time being, much of the technology used in HR today still requires intelligent, experienced humans behind it. So the real danger for HR professionals is in failing to adopt and learn new technologies. The technology won’t replace you, but other humans who know how to use the technology will.
Fear: HR Technology Is a Liability
Transitioning from “do it yourself” to “login, click, and voila!” can be nerve-racking initially. There‘s the uneasiness of it being too easy–what once took hours to complete can now be accomplished in minutes. And so suspicion and doubt may arise as to whether the personal information is safe, documentation is adequate, and compliance reporting requirements can be met.
Reality: Technology can increase security and accuracy.
Although it may be natural to believe more in what we can see than in what we cannot see, technology has advantages: it does not forget, it does not misunderstand, it does not misfile. Great HR software is developed by a team that knows the HR industry and the compliance complexities that it entails. The best solutions will be backed by a customer support team that stays abreast of changes and ensures that the software is continually updated to meet a client’s compliance and reporting requirements.
Fear: Automating HR with Technology Is Just Wrong
For some, any change that radically alters their way of doing things will simply be labeled as wrong. End of story. This fear is held with the valid belief that not all things “new” add value. By refusing to consider new technology, these individuals can continue to think and perform within their safe zone, while feeling more in control.
Reality: Automation provides professional growth opportunities.
Let’s not get emotional. Yes, there is the aforementioned uneasiness of doing something new when we’ve done something one way for a long time. But, we must not confuse “change for the sake of change” with growth. It should be every professional’s goal to continually improve and grow in what they do. This can be done through learning new concepts, implementing new ideas, or finding and using new tools. Not all concepts, ideas, and tools will add value, but refusing to explore the possibilities inhibits your growth as a professional.
These are just a few fears that some HR professionals may have when they consider adopting HR technology for their organizations. The common thread among them is that the fears are unfounded when considering quality HR technology. Sure, there is junkware out there that may validate these fears, but organizations that carefully research options will find a number of solutions that meet their needs and empower their HR staff to focus on people, rather than process.