May 4, 2021

Why Does HR Technology Suck?


Episode Highlights

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Raise your hand if your ATS, onboarding, talent development, and LMS systems all work seamlessly.

We didn’t think so.

All around us, technology keeps advancing. Cars can drive themselves. Alexa can tell you the real-time weather. And you can watch a full season of Schitt’s Creek on your phone.

But chances are the HR systems that run your organization are still as clunky as they were 10 years ago. Why is that?

HR process nerd Jeff Smith and technology junkie James Hornick discuss the disconnect on why a lot of the core tech we use is so painfully behind.

Episode Transcript

All right. The 10 minute talent rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith and we are on the clock. The 10 minute talent rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space, and maybe even pitch a solution or two. This week’s topic: why does HR technology suck? Jeff, you’ve been begging me to give you the reigns on the topic for a week. So it’s not just me saying all kinds of stuff, and you’re just nodding your head in agreement. So this one’s all you. Floor is yours. Take it away. Yeah, I will. So for one, thank you for allowing me this pulpit.

I very much appreciate it. I saw firsthand, like how much this technology lagged behind its counterparts in finance accounting, supply, you name it, CRM CRPS. There was always been a fundamental, I don’t know if it’s a flaw, but it’s a deficiency for sure in HR, onboarding, compliance, LMS, recruiting.

Like if you think about HR, that’s the core bucket. I think it comes down to two issues really. There is a internal corporate, there’s internal corporate problems and then there’s external market facing problems. And the internal problems really revolve around like two main, I think topics. One is there’s no real tie to direct revenue generation.

I know you had some thoughts on that. HR just isn’t generally historically or it’s just not talked about it as a cost center. Well it’s a cost center but not a revenue generating center. And so these things, these solutions kind of sit stale. There’s not a lot of vibrancy to a lot of these systems.

It’s still very much text driven. A lot of the business leadership that I interacted with when I was a director of TA wanted to know why they couldn’t just put their feedback into an email and have it superimposed into the system. I’m not a developer, but I think that that would be relatively easy to do.

I’m just kind of going in and out of all these disparate systems for something that wasn’t generating revenue was a big problem. Secondly, the adoption. When there isn’t a cost associated to it, I think it becomes last on the list of housekeeping items that people want to take care of.

So then, we as HR, become the compliance police and it just becomes us hunting down you know, various forms, et cetera and there’s no real strategy involved to it. The market facing issues, listen, I’m not going to get super in depth into what candidates experience and what perspective onboard employees experience.

But I think we can all agree it lacks pizazz, if you will. We’ve all done the 30 minute application process. That sucks a lot. Especially when you do it 17 times and nobody gets back to you. And then also when you’re onboarding, it should be simple in theory to get your clean list of documents and there are companies that do this a little bit better.

But just send a repository to candidates so they can get all of their onboarding stuff taken care of, and it answers all of their questions so that you don’t have to manually go back and forth 16 times to figure out if a 401k vast after 900 or a thousand hours of service. So that’s my main crux, but I know you wanted to dive into a little bit of that like the revenue generation perception in the business side though.

Yeah. It’s hard to monetize the value of a good culture or monetize the value of a smooth onboarding process. I think that in order to drive any kind of change in any kind of organization, you need some level of urgency to have any kind of buy in, no matter what it is. I think one challenge, and this is indicative of the larger HR space and talent acquisition space.

And it’s a challenge that all of our contacts on that side of the fence, you know, have all the time. A lot of organizations, think your small, medium sized companies- they have entrepreneurs who started them. They’re really excited about their product or service, they’re really excited about what it is they wanted to create and all of a sudden hiring gets hard and they just, they want someone else to take care of it. They want, we’ll hire this HR person, they’ll deal with it. Right. And there’s an underestimation of how difficult employee relations, employee retention, all these HR function, how difficult it really is.

And they just- it’s oftentimes it’sassigned to someone else to handle. You can take things back a bit too. You know what I mean? In smaller organizations, oftentimes they bring in someone who’s fairly junior, may not have the professional experience to really drive something upward to manage up.

You know what I mean? So there’s issues like that, but I think in general that’s where a lot of it comes from is just that there’s not always, there’s always going to be some friction around anything that’s not a revenue driving aspect. And that means the people running that aspect have to be twice as good as building that case, which is hard.

These are not easy things to do. And I think that carries over kind of the provider side, you know what I mean? I look at the amount of tools I see out there, the amount of new technology being created. So let’s jump to that side. New tech being created for sales enablement, for marketing automation for all of these kinds of more revenue customer front facing things like I’m inundated every day with someone trying to like pitch a new tool to me, you know? And it’s just because for people who want to make new technology and that’s a way easier sell. It’s easier to sell to the head of sales or the head of marketing or the CEO with an idea that’s going to make them more money.

So there’s a bigger rush to the market with software entrepreneurs who want to create new things or developers who want to create these things because that’s an easier path to success than it is trying to sell something to the HR group, right? Because ultimately when you’re trying to sell something to HR, like you’re selling to someone who then also has to sell to someone else.

Because again, like you said, it’s a cost center. Meanwhile too, like all the legacy places and I think there was a gentleman who mentioned this sort of talk about this in one of our LinkedIn posts, kind of promoting this whole thing. Legacy systems, the things that already exist, like they have a, just another button syndrome, right?

So there’s something new we need to add. Okay. Let’s add that feature to add that feature. And pretty soon you end up with this like clunky technology that doesn’t- like it needs a complete refresh or it needs a complete reboot, but that’s typically not going to happen, you know, for all the other kinds of things we mentioned.

So. Being in that seat and knowing that pressure and asking my senior leadership team for what ends up being a pretty pricey bill with the idea in the back of my head that I have no idea how much of the business is going to adopt that. Like I’m one person, there’s 5,000 people that potentially could touch this.

Like where is the value? It is a tricky, tricky position to be in. Alright, we got a little under three minutes here. Fixes what do you got? What do you recommend? You hit the nail on the head with the extra button. Do not overcomplicate it. Don’t buy more than you need. I mean, if you’re a hundred person company, there’s no reason to go overboard.

Simplicity via automation is the absolute key. Make things as easy as possible for everybody involved. Yeah again, we’ve talked a lot about the implementation and the adoption of HR technology and it’s probably the most critical, you know, it maybe more critical than any other enterprise- tech stack is, you know, if you lose your users early, it’s super hard to win them back. Like as soon as somebody has a notion that that system isn’t getting the reqs filled quick enough or isn’t getting their people up to a certain level that they need to be, they give it up altogether. So I think you do need somebody that is business savvy enough and a relationship builder too, and has seen enough business problems to like advocate for it internally.

I think my take and this comes down to my favorite catch phrase. It all comes down to data-driven storytelling. I think that HR leaders can do themselves a huge favor by presenting better cases, upward at an organization by explaining the business case, using data and telling a story about how this is going to impact an organization, why this is business critical, both from a standpoint of why more money needs to be invested into newer technology or why new money or why there needs to be more of a push around kind of user adoption or what these types of things, but it all starts there. And then, you know, kind of outwardly- I think we’re a couple steps removed from lots and lots of places jumping into wanting to create new HR tools that are better being disruptive, but at least you can, if you’re an HR leader or kind of managing your own house, if you can tie what you’re trying to do to actual business deliverables and outcomes and selling that upward in the organization, you will have a much easier time making these types of changes and getting better adoption of the technology or getting more investment into it.

So if there’s a time to do it now is the time. I mean, with what’s going on culturally it’s still an uphill battle, but there’s a crack of opportunity here that has never existed before. And we are short on clock. So that’s a wrap for the week. Thanks again for tuning into the 10 minute talent rant, which will always be available for replay on the Hirewell YouTube channel, as well as the talent insights podcast on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon.

See you soon.

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