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HR Software, Revolution or Evolution?

7th April 2015 - Posted By David Richter To News & Events
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When Octopus first launched about ten years ago we were pioneers of developing online HR software for the UK market.

The problem we faced back then was we had to educate organisations about the benefits that online self-service HR systems could offer over and above the clunky, centralised, on premise versions that they were used to. We had to persuade HR Directors that self-service HR was a good thing and that the HR department wasn’t going to lose control of the data it held on their workforce. We had to convince people that the data we held in our data centres was more secure than keeping it in a filing cabinet or in a spreadsheet.

The marketplace for online self-service HR has now evolved from being the domain of innovators and early adopters to appealing to the majority of the market. Nowadays self-service and online are no longer perceived risks but considered critical, must-have requirements of modern HR software.

Not so very long ago a popular theme in the HR media was that HR needed to embrace new technology. A few years ago I’d probably have agreed but not now. In my experience the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Nowadays when new technology is mentioned in HR circles it’s usually with the expectation of a revolutionary benefit that will change how we recruit and manage our workforce forever. This is presumably a symptom of hyperbolic PR departments and reader hungry media.

Today big data, gamification and social collaboration are popular buzzwords. My betting is that none of these will end up being the panacea that their suppliers (and some of their clients) hope they will be. I expect that these technologies will follow an evolutionary path, somewhat akin to the Hype Cycle. The expectation is that they herald a revolution in how we work but ultimately they will evolve to become useful and productive tools when used in the right situations.

A revolution is where there is a sudden, complete or marked change in something. Overthrowing a government and declaring the country’s populace to be communist is a revolution. Using Linkedin to see if any of your employees can refer candidates for a couple of vacancies certainly isn’t.

That HR technology is evolving rather than revolving isn’t a bad thing. The incremental improvements of many generations of new technology still deliver huge benefits over time but it would be wrong to call it a revolution.

Where we do need a sudden and marked change however is in how our leaders think about HR. In most companies HR is still seen as admin function, a cost centre and a necessary burden. One that is best left to the HR department. Another popular theme in HR circles is that HR needs a seat at the table. I disagree. Just as David Packard (co-founder of Hewlett-Packard) said that “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”, I think that the way we recruit, motivate, train, retain and manage our employees is too important to be left to the HR department.
David Richter
Marketing Manager - Octopus HR
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