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No, Everyone else isn’t Doing it: The False Adoption Rates in HR

If you attend any conference, participate in any twitter chat or read most of the blogs on human capital the world for you probably think that the world of human resources and talent management is rapidly advancing.

People are using “best in breed” technology to roll out “best in class” hr processes and strategies starting with needing the “best candidate experience” to recruit and hire the “best and brightest talent” and have the “best engagement numbers” to be a “best place to work.”

The problem is, they aren’t actually doing it.

According to Bersin by Deloitte research, only a third of companies will every reach “high performing” where their talent strategies, technology strategies and business strategies are actually aligned.  I think that is even high if you look beyond the F500 and tech industry.

Conversations about machine learning, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and big data are met with snickers or blank stares at a lot of organizations.  CHRO’s and VP’s I’ve met with over the last few year get excited when they hear about what the new technology can do, love hearing the stories at the conferences, then feel defeated when returning to their own reality.  Realizing they aren’t even close to that.

The overwhelmed team that support them respond in similar ways with confusion and frustration as they look around at disjointed strategies and paper driven processes. Instead of no technology, it could be a series of homegrown solutions so cobbled together its easier to simply work outside of it.  Or simply an bad implementation of outdated solutions with adoption rates so low, there may as well be no solution in place at all.

This is happening in Fortune 100 companies and small family owned businesses.

In high tech, education, government, manufacturing and business services.

No one wants to admit they are behind.

In a world of corporate brand and employment brand and social media brand and engagement brand and general one upmanship hitting business, the last thing an HR leader today wants to admit is they are behind on technology.  Even worse, admitting you are behind because you don’t understand what a certain technology does or how it works.  A 2014 Accelir study found the majority of HR Leaders would block or postpone a new technology purchase they didn’t understand before asking more junior level people on their team.   Companies are literally running less efficiently due to lack of admitting someone doesn’t know everything.  Take that in for a moment. 

What results is people not taking risks or making moves because of fear of the unknown – the product selection, implementation, strategy, and everything else seems overwhelming so they freeze.  They leave the ineffective status quo in place and put it back at the bottom of the list as something they will come back too….eventually.

The other extreme are the organizations that buy products they “should” have if they weren’t behind.  Then have a series of half implemented products no one understands or uses.  One company I saw even had multiple contracts with the same vendor that were sitting.  No one realized they had it the first time when someone else bought it again a year later.

And people from both of these groups continue to share content like they are actually doing what they are and are part of the group in the know.

So the gap widens.

This is the hidden secret in the world of hr technology and talent management.  Organizations with million dollar employment brands and excel spreadsheets for onboarding and performance management.  Millions of dollars of products bought and paid for and not used, sitting because people don’t know how or why to use them.  Companies that can’t run reports on things as simple as how many people they hired over the last year. Or from what source.

At the end of the day, the companies that are leading the way are part of an ever increasing chasm with the rest of us.  The ones that are behind, keep falling more and more behind.  It is a technology gap that will have major ramifications on businesses, their customers and their people in the years to come.

Luckily, there is no such thing as too far behind.

That may not be the case forever.  As we continue to push this false notion that advanced hiring and retention tactics are cutting edge for everyone, the fear that it is too late will discourage more than encourage those falling behind.

Ironically, many companies that feel they are “way behind” are only behind the future forecasting and trends they see at the conferences – ideas that are often expenses, not vetted for all companies and risky at best for others.   Most of the companies I’ve worked with over the years are actually “ok”.

Most companies have work to do.

Few companies are as shiny and perfect as they seem on stage at the conferences.  You’re seeing the highlight reel of their process – not the whole movie.   The companies that do this well, catch up and succeed have one thing in common – a baseline strategy they are working towards – one with clearly defined expectations, outcomes and goals that tie back to the business.  A strategy with underlying processes defined, but flexible enough to evolve with the market.   And a clear understanding that hr technology won’t solve your problems.

You can do this.  Start small.  Slow down.  Don’t expect everything overnight.

HR Technology can only be as strong as the strategy it supports.


PS Follow @incentintel he is awesome.

Sarah Brennan

Sarah Brennan is a recognized HCM industry analyst and advisor focused on improving the impact of technology on people, business and the future of work.  Sarah Brennan has been named a top global influencer in HR Technology by more than 50 publications and shared her insights at speaking engagements around the world. As Chief Advisor at Accelir, she partners with HR Technology vendors and investors as an advisor, interim CxO role and on engagements focused on growth strategies, product roadmap & market education/evangelism. She also works with corporate teams enhancing talent strategies.

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  1. Bennie Ben-Iriri October 23, 2017

    This is so true. Good write up


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