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Don't Think HR Technology Will Do Much to Impact Your Company's Culture? Think Again
By Todd K. Horton, Director, Dignity Health
The first half of my HR career was spent in the world of HR technology as a systems engineer, ERP consultant, and leading in-house, HR technology teams. This experience taught me that success came through providing critical functionality such as core employing processing, organizational compliance, and talent management to name a few. It also taught me the importance of processes optimization, functional integration, and cost-of-ownership for that technology. What it didn’t teach me was that every transaction in every system has the ability to tell a story about the experience of your employees if you are willing to mine and analyze the data.
Over the last eight years, I have transitioned from the world of HR Technology to the world of HR Analytics. This transition occurred slowly at first and focused on things such as being able to accurately count heads and the number of employees that came in to or left the organization. This might seem simple but for a large organization of more than 50,000 employees, this was valuable insight and opened the door to deeper analytics. Eight years later, we are linking employee survey results to patient satisfaction results in order to understand what work environment factors impact better patient outcomes and building turnover models to understand the likelihood that someone will leave before they walk out the door.
Including someone on the implementation team with a background in analytics or I/O psychology can bring a valuable perspective to configuration and process decisions
At the beginning of this evolution, we struggled for credibility and relevance. We also struggled with learning new skills which were not typically found in HR such as multi-dimensional database systems, statistical capabilities, and understanding our own business data. But of all the challenges, one of the most difficult to overcome can be something that is totally within HR’s control, our own systems configuration and process decisions.
Technology teams with the best intentions often miss opportunities to ensure that systems collect data that will accurately “tell the employee story” on the back end (i.e. useful for analytics). On more than one occasion I found myself having to explain to my workforce analysts what we were thinking about and why we implemented the way we did when I was on the HR technology side of the house. Most of the time what we were thinking about was our own process optimization or achieving a specific functionality objective and not really any consideration about employee insights that the system or process could provide down the road. I understand functionality and process optimization are primary considerations for HR technology installations, but it is possible to accomplish these technology goals and ensure that your systems support the needs of your analytics teams and leaders to understand organizational culture and provide maximum value for your technology dollar.
Organizational psychologists think in terms of employee events; what is the event and why is that event occurring. Let’s take the employee termination event and the termination reason collected in the system. Having a standard set of reasons that covers all the important scenarios that you care about is a start. You also need to get agreement on exactly what those reasons mean, and then develop use cases demonstrating scenarios that help end users consistently apply those reasons. It is also important to think through who is entering that data and whether they have any bias or motivation that would impact the quality of that data. If the employee’s manager is entering the termination reason for the employee, ask yourself, “Will this person provide the most accurate information about this employee event?” If the answer is no, you might get the functionality that is desired but you likely missed a valuable opportunity for insight. Unraveling some of these decisions after implementation can be time consuming and expensive and in some cases, you may be waiting until the system is decommissioned and transitioned for your next opportunity to collect the data in a different way.
CHROs in today’s world of massive data and high cost technology should look at every system’s implementation as building a crystal ball and ask yourself, “What do I want this crystal ball to show me, what business outcomes am I trying to drive?” Including someone on the implementation team with a background in analytics or I/O psychology can bring a valuable perspective to configuration and process decisions. Having systems that provide needed functionality to support employee processing is important. But having those same systems accurately and thoroughly tell the story of the employee experience will deliver insights to your analytics team and leaders that help you understand company culture and ultimately maximize your technology dollar.
Founded in 1986 and based in San Francisco, CA, Dignity Health provides primary care, preventive treatment, clinical support, chronic disease management, trauma services, and a host of medical and therapeutic specializations.