Five questions with Jason Averbook

Jason Averbook did read my last post and I cannot begin to describe my joy when he agreed to discuss technology a little further for my blog.

For all those who need a quick introduction, Jason Averbook is the go-to guy if you want to know how technology fits with HR. He dons multiple hats of an analyst, thought leader, consultant, and speaker and has the most fascinating blog. I would strongly recommend you to check his website. I will hereby suspend all further rambling and get to the Q&A.

Q1: Would you agree that HR in most organizations leverage technology and analytics at less than optimal levels? If yes, what in your opinion is the reason?

Jason: Most organizations do not leverage technology at optimal levels at all.  In fact, most organizations only leverage technology and analytics at the most basic level – getting people paid and other VERY basic transactional functions.  This is one of the biggest opportunities in business today, to optimize the overall workforce experience by leveraging technology and analytics to create personalized approaches to providing tools, intelligence and prescriptive actions to leaders, managers and the workforce to perform better in their jobs.  The reason this does not and has not happened is simple; HR takes a tactical, reactive approach to leveraging technology deployments instead of a proactive, 3 year strategic approach that is tied to both organizational and HR goals and objectives.  We are all technologists and it is time HR begins leveraging technology instead of hiding from it.

Q2: How important is user interface and simplicity in technology?

Jason: User experience is one of the most important of a workforce technology strategy.  Note I did not call it a HR technology strategy, as that denotes technology for the HR department.  We live in an era where we are developing and delivering technology to the entire workforce to gain the benefit we are looking for.  Just as the world has been “applified” – HR must realize that applification – which is instant value, ease of use, beauty will make or break its efforts.  The best underlying technology without a front end that is simple and beautiful is like building a perfect hotel without allowing guests to stay in it.

Q3: Technology changes at a tremendous rate. How important is it for HR to keep up with these changes? Where would you advise HR to draw the line?

Jason: HR should never draw the line.  We live in a world of perpetual beta.  I believe HR needs to look at its processes and decide which ones are timeless (don’t change often) and which are agile (change frequently based on changes in the working world).  For example, payroll doesn’t change much but talent management changes yearly.  The HR function must be equipped to be constantly innovating and digitizing itself.  The minute HR draws a line, its falls behind its competitors in the war for talent.

Q4: Which stream in HR has made greatest headway in implementing technology and which stream is hovering furthest away?

Jason: One of the biggest problems in HR is that we separate things by stream.  The issue with this is while HR may be separated into streams, the workforce (managers, leaders, employees) do not think of things that way.  I can talk about each of the streams and say we have made progress but overall, we have made progress without thinking about our foundation.  We must have a foundation that looks like a hub and spoke.  The hub is our core people data and the spokes being the “streams”.  Overall we have made progress with our streams but failed at our foundation.  Talent Acquisition is the area if I had to pick a stream we have made the most progress, but I would say that without having other talent “streams” at the same or greater levels, we are wasting money because we lose the people we work so hard to acquire.  Until we realize that it is one stream, not multiple streams running in different directions, we will waste a lot of time and money and not deliver back to the business.

Q5: If you could leave the readers with one caveat as they begin to explore technology, what would it be?

Jason: The one caveat I would leave leaders with is that every organization has a unique signature.  The culture, the technographic, the status of the HR function, the objectives of the organization, etc.  There is not a ONE RIGHT answer when it comes to HR/Workforce technology but the goal should be to develop a long term holistic strategy that involves people (change management and governance), process (design thinking and innovation) and technology (what works for a specific organization).  Until we start to think this way, we are spinning our wheels and making very slow incremental progress.

*I must admit to having a mini fan girl moment on getting a chance to interact with Jason & I look forward to meeting him at the SHRM Technology Conference on 20th & 21st of this month at Mumbai. Needless to say, follow me on Twitter for the latest on what’s happening at the conference. If you are around, you must drop by.


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