HR Disruption: HR technology - The next wave

What’s next for HR technology? HRD sat down with Stephan Scholl, president of major tech player Infor, and Helen Masters, Infor’s ASEAN regional VP, to chat about why technology remains the single greatest disruptive force in HR

HR Disruption: HR technology - The next wave
HRD: What for you has been the biggest workplace technology game changer of the past decade?
Stephan Scholl:
Mobile and cloud are the biggest game changers I’ve seen as part of this digital transformation that’s happening in every industry, from government to manufacturing to retail.

It probably started in retail when the Amazon playbook completely disrupted the retail space and put it on its ear. A $400bn company came out of nowhere and took that market by storm. Every aspect of all industries has been dramatically impacted by digital.

HRD: What do we mean by ‘impacted by digital’ and can you provide an example?
‘Digital’ is a broad term, a bit like ‘cloud’. If I think about the manufacturing sector, which is one of Infor’s largest sectors and probably the next sector being forced to transform, manufacturers used to have a somewhat simpler business model. You were either a manufacturer that built products like sports shoes or cars, and you had production set up with staff and employees who were acclimatised to low volume and being highly specialised. Or on the other side of the coin you had widgets, volume, size and scale.

What’s happening today is both those models have collided. Everybody wants a configured or customised order – from golf clubs to Nike running shoes to Ferraris and Fords. It’s the shift from a one-to-many relationship to a one-to-one relationship. Everyone is looking to build a unique oneto- one relationship with a customer. For HR, that has disrupted the sort of people you hire, the profiles of the people you need, the business process and architecture you require, and the connectivity across your supply chain. That’s just one example.
With constant upgrades, and new systems and gadgets always beckoning, it’s no surprise workers are feeling the strain. How can HR help mitigate the risk of tech fatigue? Stephan Scholl responds:

“I see tech fatigue occurring when companies undertake tech transformations and it’s positioned – as the cloud has been – as a cost-saving measure instead of a transformation. Tech fatigue is avoided when the CEO has demonstrated to the workers that they are transforming their customer’s relationship with the company. The business is growing and digital transformation and technology is at the core of it. From the HR point of view it’s critical to translate a CEO’s message around transformation and make it applicable for each employee. It’s magic when it happens.”

HRD: Do you believe Australian businesses are fast or slow adopters of new technology? 
Helen Masters:
I do business in Southeast Asia and here in the Pacific, and I’ve spent time with Australia’s public sector, and what I’ve noticed is local governments specifically are bringing on board people focused on digital transformation. They’re calling them digital transformation officers and they are focusing on customer engagement.

What I’m telling manufacturing clients is that right now things are slow in your sector, but the key is to undertake your projects now – modernise, upgrade, get your cost centres as efficient as possible – so that when we do come out of the slump you are so far ahead of your competitors that you leapfrog ahead.

SS: The conversations we’re having, particularly with government agencies, are around moving off old, highly modified HR systems and adopting the newer HCM suites that run in the cloud. Twenty years ago government and government agencies spent heavily on technology. So this is the cycle of renewal; rather than just doing the small changes and upgrading existing systems, they are making step changes and adopting a whole new philosophy.

It’s hard to get money from existing public funds, so they are now saying rather than just undertaking incremental small steps let’s go big.

HRD: All aspects of the workplace have been impacted by technology – can you talk about how it has impacted efficiency and productivity?
The big piece right now is the talent science side: the notion of profiling and hiring the right people. We have amazing data from Footlocker, the shoe retailer. The productivity improvement per salesperson is dramatic when talent science is utilised to hire the right people: high double-digit improvements not just to performance but in terms of retention rates, attrition rates, and satisfaction rates. We’re seeing a huge rise globally in taking the human element of interviewing and adding a moneyball element – using a baseball term. Talent science methodology will have a huge impact on retail, government agencies, hospitals, every industry.

HRD: How about the impact on collaboration?
Today email is an old-fashioned way of communicating and collaborating. We have our own tool called Mingle, which is like a Facebook for companies. The notion is it’s all based on the end user – so you come in on the morning and it’s all based on your function, your wall, you have your network of friends. Friends in the business context are people you work with every day. If you’re in sales and you deal with the order, then you have the plant manager, the receiving division, the packing group, the shipping department. It’s all instant and it’s all auditable, so it can be tracked.

It’s matching how millennials connect with their friends. I’ve hired 4,000 people over the last four years in this company, and I’ll tell you the interviews are all about our culture, our workplace environment, how we conduct business, and how we communicate.

“The big piece right now is the talent science side: the notion of profiling and hiring the right people” - Stephan Scholl


HRD: Looking ahead to 2017, what is going to be the next big disruptor in the technology market?
It’s the next evolution of data science and analytics to help businesses run better. The byproduct of that is we’ll get more into the dynamic science of getting so much more information on employees and customers. That will impact everyone’s job. We’ve built a dynamic science lab with MIT that does nothing but crunch the data for large customers. It’s amazing what you can uncover in terms of hiring profiles and product strategy, to name just two areas, when you have the right data and your customer behaviour information can be crunched in minutes rather than weeks.

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