Why Some HR Professionals Fear Technology



Full disclosure: I’ve been the editor-in-chief for the HR Exchange Network for nearly three months. Before making the career jump to this gig, I spent the last 11 years of my professional life as a television news producer. I tell you that to illustrate a singular point: I have a lot to learn about the Human Resources space.

One of my favorite questions to ask the non-HR masses is this: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when asked what do HR professionals do in an organization or company?

I’d be willing to bet it has something to do with “keeping the company from getting sued.” Before taking this job, it certainly would have been mine. Even if that wasn’t the first guess, I’d almost certainly guarantee it had something to do with compliance.

To quote one of my favorite television shows, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

There is so much more than just compliance, and because that fact isn’t recognized by so many, organizations and companies are wasting valuable resources… like a ruptured oxygen tank venting air. And so we’re clear, I’m not just talking about executives and C-Suite leaders. I’m also referring to HR leaders as well.

Lanning speaking at HR Tech Exchange Dallas

I recently attended IQPC’s HR Technology Exchange event in Dallas, Texas. I sat through nearly every presentation, but there was one statement that stood out to me more than any. While I cannot recall the exact quote, the statement made was HR professionals have the hardest minds to convince when it comes to the adoption of technology.

That’s a very bold statement, one with which I most certainly disagreed.

I’ve spoken to at least 100 minds in the HR field; some thought leaders, some working HR professionals, some professors. None of them said they were opposed to the adoption of technology. Some were downright excited. But my disagreement with the statement came from my research.

But then I started to ask around; get a lay of the land on the topic from others in the space. Afterward, I quickly changed my tune. Here are some of the answers I received:

  • Most HR professionals are hesitant not because they don’t want the technology, but because they want to know how it will actually function within their organization.
  • Most are worried they’ll lose their jobs.
  • HR professionals… most aren’t tech people. They have no idea what they’re dealing with and don’t want the burden of having to be the HR IT person.
  • Some don’t want technology because they’re resistant to change.

Every single one of those is true depending upon your point of view. I’d like to break down each statement.

Most HR professionals are hesitant not because they don’t want the technology, but because they want to know how it will actually function within their organization.

HR professionals have almost always been responsible for leading changes at companies and organizations. Sometimes they’re successful and sometimes they’re burned. When you’re dealing with people day in and day out, not delivering on your promises is a real issue. The burden can almost be too much. For HR professionals… making a safe bet is preferable over one that is not.

Most are worried they’ll lose their jobs.

This is a significant one. With an increase in technology there is a real, genuine fear of losing one’s job. I liken it to factory workers and robotics/automated systems. When automation started to become a big deal, there was real concern workers would be out of a job. To some extent, those fears were realized.

The same can be said for HR professionals.

As new technologies continue to appear on the horizon, there is and will always be the possibility the technology will “save money.” For those who make those money decisions, there is some real appeal… even if that means decreasing the size of the HR staff. HR professionals must, as they’ve always done, understand their value to the company and make sure the company understands their value. It is more critical now than ever before.

HR professionals… most aren’t tech people. They have no idea what they’re dealing with and don’t want the burden of having to be the HR IT person.

Technology is great when it works and a real pain when it doesn’t. When HR-related technology breaks down, HR professionals do not want to be the person employees run to for help. Not because they don’t want to be helpful or burdened. Often times, they simply don’t have enough experience to help. For people who are in the business of helping people, being unable to do so is a drag and seriously impacts their credibility with the employees they’ve promised to serve.

Some don’t want technology because they’re resistant to change.

Change can be scary. So can technology. And both give HR Professionals ample reason to shake in their boots. Think about it. As a person, you do things a particular way for a set of specific reasons, like tracking applicants for a job opening. Then, someone tells you not to do it that way; the way that’s worked for years. Instead, you’re going to have to rely on technology to track the data for you. You resist, not because the technology is helpful, but because you have a process you trust; that always delivers success.

Gold HR button on a black computer keyboard

Wrapping it up…

A healthy fear of technology is a good thing. It forces HR professionals to evaluate what they’re doing and offers real and positive disruption to everyday tasks.

Just like with anything else… figure out what you want to accomplish with a technology solution, do the research to see what’s available, ask some questions, have some meetings, and watch some demos. At the end of the day… technology is only enhancing the work you’re already doing. As HR professionals, you just need to figure out how to apply it and how best it will serve your organization/company, its employees, and you. But the most important thing here… technology CANNOT replace you or your workforce. They need you and you need them.

IQPC's HR Technology Exchange was held in Dallas, Texas December 10-12, 2017.  Mason Stevenson is the Editor for the HR Exchange Network, the digital partner of IQPC.

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