Technology Acumen

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This is one of the five critical differentiating competencies between Great HR Leaders and merely Good HR Leaders.

Click here to learn more about the five differentiating HR Skills

The great HR leaders:

  • Look out for and spot new technologies, and approach them with an open but curious mind.
  • Understand that the utilisation of new technologies goes through three key phases – Trial, Adapt, and Exploit:

    Trial – they hear about the new technology, tool or process; they try it and, typically, they attempt to do exactly what they used to do but, now, by applying the new idea. They soon discover that the new approach rarely does very well what they used to do in other, often manual, ways.

    Automated performance appraisals is a classic example of failed technology trialling.

    Often, they then Trial again but, this time, using the new tool as the developers intended. This too usually falls below expectation

    Many real-time feedback and recognition systems had exciting launches but short lives – not surprising as most creative developers are not HR professionals.

    However, via this Trialling process, they can learn and understand what the core technology may be capable of, and move to phase 2, Adapt.

    Core contemporary technology can, for example:

    • trigger individual behaviours through targeted alerts and emails
    • manage process compliance through workflow and blockchains
    • manage and enhance data quality through real-time validation and feedback, and via batched analysis
    • engineer behaviour (guide and reinforce) through gamification
    • monitor individual behaviour and well-being through sensors and system usage
    • detect stress through audio-trace analysis or through simple brain scans
    • enhance team performance via collaboration, modelling, visualisation, and decision support tools.

    These Trials must be tightly managed using participants who are genuinely curious and who understand the desired outcomes. Some risk of failure must be expected; effort and experimentation must be rewarded, not merely identification of a new solution.

    Adapt – in this phase, they select the core innovation that demonstrably has potential, and find a way to use it effectively. In HR, this is typically one or more of :

    • process compliance management
    • behaviour engineering
    • data management.

    However, more recent and imminent innovations are in psychometric assessment and profiling, decision support, team augmentation, and biometric feedback.

    In this phase, they take the core technology and develop new processes that seize on that technology, matched with technology that directly emulates or complements those processes – handshake development. This is the process of innovation – turning phase 1’s creativity into business advantage.

    Exploit – in this phase, they drive to achieve optimal utilisation to ensure and maximise the return on the investment (ROI) in the new technology. It is in this phase that classic OD comes into play, finding ways to ensure take-up and sustain utilisation until the new tools and ways of working become embedded.

  • Hold themselves accountable to determine the right tools to use (being informed by technical experts and early adopter users, but sufficiently technically skilled to make their own decisions). They do not allow procurement, IT, or legal to take the lead – rather to inform.
  • Are you an HR Anarchist – are you prepared to fight for technology that will engineer the behaviour of individuals and organisations?
  • Do you have a way of keeping up to date on HR-related technology?
  • Do you focus on what the new technology capability can do for HR, not merely what the developers are making it do?
  • Do you have people you can ask about technology who understand what YOU need to achieve with it?

Our Technology Acumen MASTERCLASS will help you to develop your technology acumen.

HR Technology – “Tool or Toy” – How, without becoming a programmer or technical geek, to specify and/or select optimal HR technology solutions; understanding the behaviour engineering power of contemporary technology; how to elicit skilled feedback without abdicating accountability for the decision; how to evaluate options and discriminate between toys and tools; how to discern the merely popular from the immensely effective.

Please contact us with any questions – email: or call us on +44 (0)1753 415534

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