09. HR tech today: Not your grandaddy's payroll

Posted 2017-03-16

I’ve been thinking about tech’s role in HR. Two years ago my friend Jack Altman started Lattice to redefine how companies and employees set and meet goals, and conversations with him led me to try to understand this space. After some research and chats with founders and experts, it’s clear new tech can greatly impact this growing $15 billion market, helping us work better and more productively.

Shifting views and needs

At b-school, I’ve had a chance to study the history of management. Starting from Taylorism’s scientific focus to an emphasis on employee empowerment to today’s rise in analytics, one can trace the evolution of how management and employees interact in organizations. It’s fascinating to see the HR thought that goes into incentive and org design to maximize productivity and wellbeing. Suffice to say, Henry Ford’s management style made different human behavior assumptions than does Google’s team focus.1

Changing practice has led to a shift in HR tech’s role. In his latest annual report, industry guru Josh Bersin outlines HR moving from basic “talent management” — automation and integration of core HR business processes with minimal employee engagement — to “people management” for engaging and empowering employees through fit, culture, and analytics. It’s a shift from basic process efficiency to tech-enabled productivity improvement, transforming HR as a cost center to a hub of actionable talent intelligence.

Add to this a new generational workforce seeking that kind of engagement, and exciting use cases emerge: