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    HR Technology as a Training Ground

    Last week on the HR Happy Hour show in between some bombs being dropped (certain HR types being described as 'secretaries' or 'blue-hairs') one really interesting technology related point was made. 

    Specifically, experience working in one of the leading HR Technology vendors, perhaps one that focuses on Talent Management technology like a Halogen or SuccessFactors, provides an excellent knowledge base for future success in an HR organization, and that an HR leader in search of talent should consider HR Technology companies as a great source. 

    Traditionally software companies have looked to recruit from customer organizations (I was recruited by Oracle many years ago in this way). It was an interesting, and I think correct observation. The best technology implementers possess the following attributes, all of which would benefit the internal HR organization.

    Problem Solving

    No two HR technology projects are ever the same.  Even if the consultant has spent a few years implementing the same solution, each project haFlickr- raptortheangels a unique set of requirements, demands, personalities, and pressures to make each one unique.  Solving new problems is a critical component for success, and one that the best consultants can master. In particular, being adaptable to varying levels of support from clients, and knowing when to take decisions and when to get help are skills that come easier to experiences tech consultants than to some others.

    Results focus

    Lots of technology vendors hold their consultants to extremely challenging target for utilization, revenue and profitability.  It can be, at some companies, a high-stress, high-reward type environment. To be a successful technology implementer you have to be able to deliver under pressure, managing multiple and sometimes conflicting demands and expectation.  A good, experienced tech consultant will be cool under pressure and probably be able to teach the rest of the HR staff a thing or two about successful project delivery.

    Customer driven

    Delivering successful technology projects requires relentless customer focus.  Tech consultants certainly operate under parameters and constraints, but the best ones know how to navigate these and maintain focus on the best possible customer outcomes.  During an engagement, a good consultant learns the customer's motivations, concerns, and weaknesses and incorporates this knowledge into the overall solution delivery. A mindset that continually places customer success first will benefit any internal or traditional 'support' organization.

    Breadth of experience

    Most technology consultants will have worked on a wide range of projects, across different industries, regions, and market sizes.  The number and variety of these experiences typically affords a good consultant a great range of direct experiences as well as a large network of contacts from which to draw from.  It may have been competency modeling for an accounting firm, performance management at a University, or compensation planning at a professional services firm, a good consultant carries all the learning from these engagements to your HR department.

    Technology skills

    Certainly if you recruit a new resource from a technology company you'd expect a high level of technical knowledge.  But this knowledge is exactly the kind most HR departments lack, specific ability to assess technology and apply it to help solve HR and business issues.  This is the hardest tech skill for most HR groups to acquire, and it will become more and more important in the future.  If you think your HR shop has enough tech skills today, you are probably wrong, since technology moves so fast, and has become so critical, beefing up your strength in this area is a necessity.

    What do you think? Should you source your next key spot in the HR department from one of the HR Technology vendors?  Or am I way too biased as to the importance of Tech in HR?


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      Steve's HR Technology - Journal - HR Technology as a Training Ground

    Reader Comments (4)

    Another great post. When I was doing my own implementation projects, and I did many of them, they were more custom than packaged software because packages didn't become mainstream until the early 80's for the largest firms and public sector organizations with which I worked. But many of the lessons learned on those projects continue to serve me well, and you've captured a lot of those KSAOCs here. I might add: excellent communications skills in all the needed formats and forums (he who writes the notes makes the unmade decisions), excellent work habits/time management/project mangement, ability to recognize and leverage the patterns in the problem (great consultants develop tools to leverage their work, great vendors institutionalize those tools), and a huge sense of humor coupled with humility.

    November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Bloom

    HR needs to introduce a new position called the Chief Collaboration Officer. A role that would be somewhat of a triple threat:

    * driver of a culture of engagement, collaboration and learning
    * connector / liaison to IT and vendors (software, systems, learning, etc.)
    * technology & OD futurist (yes - both sides of the coin)

    He/she is a unique individual, that's for certain ... but I think this undoubtedly help in an Enterprise 2.0 and Work 2.0 world.

    November 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan Pontefract

    It is often believed that despite the breadth of experience, technology professionals lack the human touch. In my stint as a technology professional, I have seen a number of projects fail caused by communication gaps between technology and business. Nonetheless, I echo your opinion regarding the importance of technology in HR. All it needs is polishing and realization of their skills (as I realized when I pursued an MBA).
    With the pace of collaboration, a technology and OB futurist as mentioned by Dan Pontefract will definitely make all the difference between a good and a great organization.

    November 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBhavna Wadhwa

    @Naomi - Your experiences and success serve as a true archetype of the path to HR and organizational success via deep technology skills that I really had in mind as I wrote the piece. Thanks for your addition of communication skills to the essntial mix of KSAOC's.

    @Dan - Thanks for the comments, I love the idea of the Chief Collaboration Officer. I think I will do some research on the idea and try to expand on it for a follow-up piece,

    @Bhavna - Thanks for the reminder and emphasis on communication. I see your points and they do resonate,

    November 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

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