And what if HR Tech is only a means to an End?

Employees are KING. They RULE. They just don’t know it yet…. HR Tech, with candidate and employee experience, will free them from their shackles.

The saying goes, “Always look beyond what you can see” and this was my mantra when I attended the UNLEASH World Conference & Expo in Paris last month. I wanted to see if anything was going on beyond what meets the eye.
I spent time in lengthy discussions with zealous founders and innovators, listening carefully as  they shared their VISION with me and what they were HOPING TO ACHIEVE, less the bits and bytes of the product.   I also recorded some of talks I attended and had them sent to to transcribe (and had them back within the hour!) so that I could review later what was said.
As I was strolling the corridors of the Startup Zone, many people asked me whether I saw something out of the ordinary. Perhaps a disruptive startup worth noticing. After all, that was the latest tech showcasing there. But that was not my goal. I was there to potentially be able to connect the dots and ask questions. And indeed this question came up:

What if HR Tech, is only a means to an end?

As an evangelist, blogger, and influencer, I have the privilege and the luxury to share some of my thoughts, in hope they will trigger further discussions. I am only asking all of us to consider this train of thought and I welcome your comments.
But first off, let me first mention two points, as a background for further discussion:

1.  The Elephant Syndrome:  The story that tells of a baby elephant, chained by his trainers to a wooden stick in the ground so he would not escape.  Trying to do so would only hurt him.  The issue was that even when he grew up to become a magnificent, huge majestic animal and could free himself in a nanosecond, he no longer tried. The point here being, self- imposed limitations and entrenched thinking patterns. We’ll get back to that.

2.  As per Waqas Ahmed, in his thought-provoking book “The Polymath”, for the past 200, within both education and work environments, we have been encouraged, from a young age, to become EXPERTS in one specific field. If a child, or an adult, was multi-talented and multi-potential, he/she was encouraged to choose just ‘one area’ to specialize and become an expert in. What one studied at university, for example, determining a lifetime’s path — a real juxtaposition of academic success. Expertise became a goal, and success was measured by earning potential. “Core skills” were identified, map these to work, and voila. Vast masses of people trapped in unfulfilling jobs in fields they no longer felt excited about. Stuck in a rut and finding it very hard to climb out of. If not impossible. Creativity, curiosity and a sense of adventure are all stifled by the need to conform.

 Anyone wanting to break free from their initial expertise was frowned upon, and exhibiting “multi” traits, was and are still regarded as messy, unstable, confused. And how do I know? Because I was one and was led to believe that something was very wrong with me.

Yet in contrast to this, it is becoming apparent and a consensus, that in the age of AI robots and automation, those who will successfully adjust and remain relevant are the ones who are exhibiting a creative streak. And yes, the so-called, “seemingly,” unrelated range of skills are now back in vogue.  On the face of it, there may seem a small percentage of the population exhibiting such traits; however, according to Iain McGilchrist, this may not be the case. It may be that “hyperspecialized societies through history correlate with paradigms that had an overwhelming focus on left-brain thinkings.”
That is, we still have the ability to be “multi” but WE FORGOT HOW (hence the analogy of the chained elephant syndrome).
Startups like POTENTIALIFE from the UK (founded by Angus Ridgway and Tal Ben-Shahar) and Degreed and many others like them are exactly in that zone – Helping people in the workplace break out of their self-limitations reconnect with their passions and “lost” abilities to learn, create, lead and innovate.

Back to my observation:
As I see HR Tech now, it is nothing more than a MEANS TO AN END.  An ENABLER. And, that is in my opinion, the total and outmost empowerment of people in the workplace to the point of emancipation, breaking the self-imposed limitations, as well as those imposed for so long by companies (fear of being fired).

The sad thing is that employees do not realize that they are the NEW KING. They will Rule. Josh Bersin takes this up, discussing the views of Dave Duffield – “ … know, at Workday….most CEOs or many CEOs are beginning to realize that employees are actually more important than customers because the employees are not happy, the customers aren’t happy either.” These are strong words that are not being reflected in today’s workplace. Day after day, in my many advanced sourcing workshops, I still hear employees afraid their company will notice they are looking for a new job.  Sourcers, recruiters and head-hunters are still encouraged not to approach someone on his work email. This is still regarded as the norm.

Employees still do not realize that they are the new KING.

They will RULE.  

They are still bound by self  imposed limitations,

fear  and entrenched thinking patterns. 

HR Tech will help to free them from their shackles.

Karen Azulai

But the truth is …show me a company, in this day and age, where the war for talent is raging, where companies are doing their utmost to RETAIN employees in every shape and form, even helping them find their next gig (so they will remember them favorably) where they will fire someone for looking for another job (I am generalizing)! But the fear of that happening is ingrained in our DNA. Employees are still tiptoeing around their employers, unaware of the power they hold in their positions.

However, HR Tech / Work tech, I believe, is bringing on this change, where employees will finally begin to understand their WORTH and brake free from the fear and false boundaries.

People Analytics (PA), too, will suffer from this emancipation. PA is currently enjoying a golden age where everything and everyone is being measured. To quote Josh Bersin at Unleash, “PA is now mainstream. We want the data to be available to everybody, and we want it to be calculated in real-time. It is the fastest-growing domain in HR”.
At this point, unsure of their rights, feeling vulnerable, limited by false boundaries, employees still feel powerless to confront management about the vast amounts of their data being collected by HR Tech Apps. 
Employees are mostly unaware that within Europe GDPR legislation offers protection to employees, overseeing the handling of HR Data and personal information.  Especially where decipher consent VS legitimate interest comes into play, and in cases where there’s usage of automated decision-making with legal/significant effect. In such cases the company is required to do many things such as employing a Data Protection Officer (DPO) conducting a Data Protection Impact Assessment, publishing GDPR policies, and operating within the guidelines.
These can be a viable reason for employees to stop data collection right now (as not too many companies comply with all of the above). But when employees will become more educated and understand the MAGNITUDE of the power they have, they will not give their consent. They will say NO. ENOUGH. STOP. “Mutiny” in workplaces, is perhaps too strong a word, but I believe it will be something of the sort – an uprising.  We already see sporadic incidents where employees are trying to make their voices heard.

STOP uncontrolled personal data collection

Josh Bersin in his talk @Unleash Paris, also hints towards this direction:
“… Well, that’s because this thing called the employee experience has exploded. It’s the number one thing that’s affecting all the vendors outside is we used to build HR tech for HR. I mean, that was the audience. It was to make the systems and the data and the obligations easier for HR That’s not the game anymore. The game now is can we build enterprise applications that are good for people, for workers, for employees, for managers, give them the information and tools they need to make their jobs better.

To summarize – I would not stop at “make their jobs better.” It’s not only changing how people will feel in the WORKPLACE, rather how they will feel about THEMSELVES, and it is this new found “self-worth”,personal development and empowerment that will impact and change the workplace as we know it. AS I see it, HR Technology is becoming an ENABLER and a stepstone to an historical process of empowering employees to the point of emancipation.


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