Now or Never

The past 30 years of HR and talent management technology have been marred by HR professionals looking in the rear-view mirror at data that has been inaccurate, incomplete and structured in a way that is unusable for the average HR leader. As a result, HR has been labeled as unable to provide credible data, and even more damning, unable to provide information and intelligence that offers true value to the business.

As a profession, we have been more concerned about studying our functional efficiency than looking at how effective we are at providing true business, not HR, value. Why? It is much easier to look for trends and patterns in past data and make statements such as:

• “Since we implemented new technology, our time to fill has decreased.”

• “The implementation of performance management tools let us track whether people have submitted their reviews on time.”

• “We now can get rid of Excel spreadsheets and our compensation processes are more efficient.”

We live in an era where much of the past cannot be used to describe the future — the future is so murky that it is hard to plan for, and what matters most is the now, the impact we are having daily on making our workforce and workplace more dynamic and in alignment with overall business goals and objectives. This is where one of the biggest buzzwords of the talent management market in 2012 comes into play: big data — looking at information in a manner more holistic and real-time oriented.

Let’s look into the crystal ball of big data and understand that going forward we will not look backward at whether a performance transaction was completed on time and effectively. We will look at the real-time workforce feedback and performance gauges on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and have the ability to make adjustments as needed.

Today we gauge workforce attitude, engagement and alignment quarterly at best, and in most cases yearly. Imagine if we could only hear from our friends on a quarterly basis. Would we know how they were doing? What if we heard about our kids’ day at school on a monthly basis. Could we make adjustments if issues were there? The answer is no, and that is what HR has been doing for the past 50 years with data that looked at process efficiency instead of real-time interactions between the workforce, customers, co-workers, managers and networks.

The days of once-a-year processes are over. They are not only over for HR, they are over for the world, which will no longer accept status quo or average as the answer, but insist on continuous improvements based on the new normal of minimal standards. HR has a ton of work to do in this area, but the moment is now, and we are poised to take advantage of the time.

We are so far behind because up until this point in time, gathering and using this type of interaction intelligence has been impossible. The technology hasn’t been there, the acceptance of the workforce to interact with technology hasn’t been there, and we in HR haven’t been ready to make changes to our decades-old processes and how we look at our profession.

We have finally gotten to a point where the workforce is ready and begging, the technology is there and waiting, and the business is ready and moving faster than ever. The biggest question is if we are going to be leaders or followers in moving from a look-back generation of HR leaders and professionals to a now generation of leaders and professionals who really understand what matters to move a business on a daily basis toward goals.

The time to think big data is now. The time to rid ourselves of old processes that we think add value but don’t is now. The time to stop implementing technology in a module fashion and to deploy technology with a focus on now is now. If not now, my bet is that for HR, it will be never.