There has been a lot of talk in 2014 about precision in defining HR technology solutions, and and I fear that a lot of it is taking us in the wrong direction. Any discussion about precision in HR technology has to begin and end with the problems HR is trying to solve, and not the technology that could conceivably be used to solve those problems.
It seems surprising at first, but when you think about it, HR is a highly precise practice. Take for example something every business is trying to do, get the right person in the right place at the right time – a worthwhile goal.
Now, try to write a mathematical model for it. Or even better, try to write a simple linear program where you optimize on any one of those three “rights,” and see what happens to the other two. You find that the other two become constraints because all three are specified as having to be “right.”
But let’s assume that you’ve got all that wonky stuff covered with good data scientists. Now, where are you going to get the data? You quickly have provisioning problem because HR is definitely not going to have most of that data at the ready.
But let’s assume your data scientists are really on the ball, such that modeling and data aren’t problems. If you really want to get all three right you are going to have to be very precise on what you are looking for and when to act, because the talent you really want is going get snapped up quickly.
Or take retention – the employees most likely to do you damage if they left are also likely to be the biggest influencers in your Salesforce Chatter groups or similar online communities. But if your online communities aren’t where your talent hangs out then you lose perhaps the most precise predictor of retention risk.
So predicting who is going to leave and what next quarter’s headcount ought to be to be just devolves into a classic GiGO situation that will percolate all the way up to workforce planning. But HR leaders will just go ahead and blame the “talent shortage” instead of tackling the real problem.
The point is your enterprise HR solution is almost guaranteed to be less precise than the talent management issue you really want to address, and so all discussions that confine themselves to tech enablement will be exercises in false precision.
On the other hand, once you get a precise definition of the things you are trying to influence through HR, it is much easier to specify technology solutions. But if you don’t have precision about the things you are trying to solve, no tech is going to fix it for you. Period. And HR really needs to get this to stay relevant.
Let’s take this whole precision conversation to the next level at Workday Rising. Bring us your HR problems!