HRIS to serve people, not only HR

A couple of years ago, attending a HRIS event may be boring boring. Not because the matter was not interesting but because it was so conservative that we had very little occasions to be impressed.

But it was logical. As we’re speaking about the future of HR, of its practices and tools (a never-ending story), touching the core of a function that’s conservative by nature and duty, we should not fall in the exact opposite of what used to prevail. Yes, the society changed. Employees changed. Yes, expectations changed. Yes HR in 2020 will have very little in common with today’s HR and maybe it will even get a new name. However the basics (core-hr, comp & ben, compliance….) are here to stay. A business can innovate and fail today on many emerging subjects that will be the new normal tomorrow but when it comes to such legacy sides of the HR function, failure is not an option.

Refusing to see the coming evolutions is dangerous but getting rid of everything that’s been done so far is at least as dangerous. Digital transformation is not a matter of “OR” but a matter of “AND”. This raises many questions for un function that is usually seen as a cost, often under-staffed and that’s asked to do even more : make the existing work perfectly while innovating for the future).

Here’s a quick overview of what I learned at HRTechWorld 2016 Paris, in last october.

HR vendors address the end user

To catch the big trends, I started by having a look at the exhibition hall. As many others I’m convinced that HR will get “consumerized” over time and that HRIS will move from being a back office solution to a front office one. The question was : “is it starting to happen ?”.

I started with the startups hall because if the market starts a move, it’s going to start there, legacy vendors needing more time to make a turn.

It was early in the morning and I thought I was at the wrong place. Three expressos later I had to admit I was at HRTech and not at any marketing solutions conference. As a matter of fact the discourses, catch lines and triggers were exactly those used in other industries. It’s not about talking HR with HR users anymore but services delivered to the employee. The back-office becomes a front office, the employee a customer and what is sold is a benefit for the end user that will result in a benefit for the HR Team. The message is “we’ll offer a service to your employees, they will love it, you will get the credit”. Or, in other word, “stop being the interface between your internal clients and your systems, keep your time to do what you’re irreplaceable at”. It’s not only about managing human resources but also about bringing services to humans.

From managing human resources to delivering services to humans

So let’s have a look at the legacy vendors. They don’t have the chance to be able to focus only on new services and leave the legacy side of HR to others. They must excel at legacy HR and not be too far behind innovators at the same time.

Surprisingly they have exactly the same discourse as the young disruptors. Either about core-hr or new services, everything is driven by the end user experience, who’s not an HR user anymore. I appreciated how UIs have been improved : most of them have understood that it’s possible to be serious without being boring or repellent.

In short :

• consumerization : end users are clients that expect to seen in the workplace the same services and tools they use in the consumer world.

• from back to front office : many tools that used to be in hand of HR people are now in the end of the end user.

• empowerment : self-service / on demand solutions and services.

• Experience :it’s a matter of service, satisfaction, even pleasure. The days were people had to use poorly designed solutions under duress are over.

Some examples. Hello Talent, from Talentsoft, allow anyone to manage its own recruitment ecosystem and candidate pool. The uberization of recruitment ? The Oracle HR Portal is as nice looking as a nice ecommerce platform : everything is designed for user experience, from interface to services. It also includes “Well Being” and “Health” applications (employees can connect their personal device, compare, organize challenges…just as they do in their personal lives). Oracle also had a lot to say about the future of bots in HR (what will be the theme of a future post). On the IBM booth it was more about putting cognitive computing (and Watson) at work to support HR Processes (and the year before we talked about how they used solutions designed for the customer experience to improve the candidate experience). And among the “big ones”  was Benify : comp&ben made easy with an employee centric approach.

The CHRO of a large business I talked with confirmed my impression : “we used to build HR processes to make the job of HR easier by making employee’s life complicated. We need to rebalance : HR processed designed for the employee that will lower the HR Workload“. Hence the need for new solutions to support them.

HR have been a very technical job for a long time and this is not going to change, no matter what some say. But their scope will become wider and new profiles that have very little in common with today’s HR professional will be needed.

This is a very short overview of the global trends. To sum everything up, let’s have a look at what the HR Trends expert says : Josh Bersin.

The HRIS market reinvents itself

Bersin shared the conclusions of the study he just published with Deloitte.

The starting point is easy to understand : the way we work is changing, people are changing and businesses are learning to deal with it. It’s becoming every day harder to manage this new normal with the HR solutions and practices that have been used so far.

What changes, from my opinion, is that, until recently, tools were a barrier to transformation (or an easy excuse for not transforming) while, today, technology is available, making HR face their own responsibility. When the need exists, the solution is available, and nothing happens, technology is not the problem anymore.

Bersin identifies 9 big trends.

1°) Performance measurement : based on actual achievements, team work, more qualitative, real time and based on many sources (manager, peers…)

2°) Real time engagement measurement :businesses want to know the pulse of their organization in real time. It may take man forms (surveys, answer “how was your week” weekly) and the goal is to capture employee’s feeling as often as possible, to get their feedback, to help them and help the organization. It complements performance measurement systems.

3°) The boom of “people analytics” : it took time but RH are beginning to hire data analysts. The purpose is not to do reporting but have tools to solve problems instead of just providing reports. Later the goal is to build predictive systems to anticipate, build the right process and policies, set incentives and indicators that will make sense.

Expected benefits : better recruitment and career management, less tunover, build teams instead of just adding people, improved innovation and collaboration…

4°) The learning revolution : learning is, with flexible work, the major concern for the new generations that know they’ll have to learn continuously to stay employable. Learning will become more personal, granular, autonomous, what requires new platforms and formats. Learning must become easy to consume and the Learning Management Systems will become Learning Experience Systems.


5°) The new recruiting landscape : better sourcing (with data),development of HR Marketing practices, candidate experience.

6°) Workforce management: It’s not anymore about managing employees that all have a full time job. Workforce management must include new forms of work, employees doing flexible work or the “on demand” workers of the gig economy.

7°) HR and team management tools will merge : employees are being equipped with tools helping them to organize their work in a fluid way. Talents self organize out of talent management systems and if HR don’t find their place in the flow of work their added value will decrease.

8°) Wellness and fitness :healthy employees deliver more and cost less. Well being and fitness now have some weight in HR programs (even if it depends on the country culture) and, what’s new, fitness apps are now a part of HR systems.

It’s not about measuring their health and behaviors in an intrusive way but to create in the workplace the same collective and motivating environments we all know in our personal lives. Help employee to self-evaluate, start challenges with their colleagues, between departments…

One more approach that will enrich performance and engagement systems.

10°) Towards  Digital HR  : a new generation of HR systems is coming. It will leverage robots and AI, be self service, directly usable by the employee for its needs and its own development.

HRIS for a better work life?

Everything show that HRIS will be more focused on the “employee-client” in the future, will be designed as much for employees than for HR. It will eventually mean that a large part of the HR to employee relationship will be “frontalized” so HR will be able to reallocate their resources to other tasks.

I love the way Bersin explains that : “Apps that make work life better”.

But I think there’s a mistake we should cautiously avoid to make. Either regarding to this matter or employee experience, most businesses think the substance of work and the work environment.

In other words businesses used to improve the work environment to make employee forget the substance of work was terrible. The work was hard, complicated by nature ou because of the organization and, on the other side, employees were provided with benefits and services to make the whole acceptable.

Work environment and substance will merge

What I think “work life” should mean is the entirety of life at work. So it includes the day-to-day work, operations, processes that connect the business and the employee, things that directly benefit to them employee and indirectly to the business.

This is where the biggest change is.

Photo Credit : Fotolia

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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