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The impact of technology on talent management

Carly Lund

The paradox of being in an industry that is disrupting organisations whilst being disrupted itself presents a challenge. Contributor Carly Lund Director and Global Head of organisational leadership – YSC Consulting. 

HR must consider the implications of new technology for talent development and also embrace the possibilities of new HR-related technologies. For a field focused historically on people, HR’s journey towards a world increasingly underpinned by technology and data is proving at times to be slow and complex.

Organisations are facing a period of unprecedented change; an age of disruption. The rapid pace of technology development and deployment is staggering. Long standing roles are being made redundant as fast as new ones are created. For example, AI engineers, DevOps, and social media consultants are all roles that didn’t exist 5-10 years ago*. Technology is becoming a driving force for survival within and across organisations and those who do not embrace this and develop the necessary skills quickly are at risk of being left behind.

Given this rapid evolution of roles and workplaces, having relevant experience is becoming less important.  Instead, the focus is on an individual’s skills and capabilities and how they apply these to new contexts and environments.

The leadership skills of the future
A recent Dell EMC study proposes that 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented, which leaves employers in a tough spot as they need to consider how they will identify and develop talent for jobs that won’t exist tomorrow.** Unlike performance, potential is about predicting the likelihood of future success after controlling for contextual factors. In a situation where context is unknown or evolving, it is critical to understand how individuals are likely to respond to and grow within changing environments, which can only be achieved through the lens of potential.

Focusing on leadership potential can help organisations identify and develop the leaders needed today and in the future. Currently available models of measuring potential draw from psychological research on the constructs that predict likely success in the future. Typically, they centre around intellect, conscientiousness and self-awareness – constructs that are stable, but developable, and play out in different situations over time.

When evaluating the potential of a future leader, these are the qualities and skills HR need to start considering: Cognitive flexibility and innovation; Understanding of big data and artificial intelligence; Presence of a global mindset; Comfort with ambiguity Ability to interact with diverse teams; Capacity to attract, retain and ensuring the success of talent and Capability to coach, inspire and empower teams

An exemplar of this model is Google, which is well known for its advanced people processes that bring much of the future skills noted above to life. For example, in contrast to many organisations where effective decision making and strong aspiration predict whether someone will be promoted, Google prioritises being able to influence through their leadership impact, which enables them to thrive in a flatter, more agile, organisational structure.

In order to ensure organisations have the talent they need to thrive, HR will need to do the following: Broaden the view of the organisation, what constitutes talent and what is critical for the business strategy. Improve technological literacy amongst employees and understand the skills and capabilities needed for the future.

Identify leaders who understand how to leverage technology and can capitalise on the changes it demands.  Qualities such as openness to experience and feedback, resilience and customer focus are key for a leader who will thrive operating in a digital environment.  

Improve the understanding of how to operate within an agile workforce and the implications of that for how talent needs to be sourced and configured into teams. Interact with data and using it to substantiate data led decision making about people.

How to choose the right technology for your business
Whilst HR grapple with the implications of technology on the type of talent it requires it is also inundated with HR technology promising to solve all its problems. The technology now available is wide ranging in terms of its functionality, the business models it caters for and the quality of service.  Choosing the right partner to meet business needs has become a critical task for HR. To make the right decision consider the following four points:  Identify and agree on the key problems that need to be solved. Understand what success looks like, set evaluation criteria and ensure the chosen technology solves that problem effectively.  Many technology companies will promise to solve wide ranging issues, but often not as well as specialists who are more niche.  There is always a risk to end up with functionality that compromises quality or workarounds on the key functionality you require and as a result is rarely used

Leverage internal expertise.  Internal technology teams are often a great asset when choosing technology partners. They speak the same language and can stress test systems beyond the sales pitch

Plan the change journey and use it in earnest. The best technology in the world is only so if it is used universally and consistently. Ensure the business knows why this technology is relevant to achieving the strategy, the associated benefits and how to use it day to day for successful roll out

Plan for change.  Technology evolves at such a rate that what is bought this year may not be right next year.  Find a partner who wants to grow with the business and is agile enough to adapt and iterate their system at pace

How technology helps businesses make better people decisions
HR technology that helps businesses make better hiring decisions is not necessarily something that is new.  Over the recent decade we have seen moves towards gamified psychometrics and video-based interviewing drawing on techniques such as facial recognition. The movement towards linking data across various technologies to make better people decisions, however, is a trend that we are continuing to see develop; with an increasing number of organisations appointing people analytics roles or teams. 

The challenge that ever-changing technology presents to organisations means that HR needs to think about talent strategy in a very different way whilst simultaneously learning how to embrace and capitalise on the opportunities technology provides. If HR is to become a true strategic partner to the business by leading through change, it needs to ensure that it can identify the skills required to lead the business into the future and coach the business to do the same. HR professionals who are able to effectively use data to substantiate insight whilst being technologically savvy, resilient and comfortable with ambiguity are likely to thrive and be pivotal figures in the HR function of the future.

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