We love our technology. I will freely admit that my dependence on things like my smartphone, email, etc. only increase on a daily basis. They make capturing and disseminating information so much faster and more efficient. They inform, entertain and frankly sometimes just annoy me.

When does technology go wrong, when it gets in the way of having a meaningful interaction with people!

I am an HR dinosaur. Who am I bullshitting I am beyond that, when I started in the profession they called it Personnel. For those of you that don’t remember that meant we treated people even more impersonally than now when we call them human capital.

Then we evolved to employee relations, which was HR speak for union avoidance. In the eighties we began hearing about human resources, but I am not sure the attitude significantly changed; Frederick W Taylor’s theories about scientific management were alive and well.

 In fact the accountants got in the act in the eighties when it was discovered that activities like outsourcing and right sizing were discovered to be good for the corporate bottom line once you got past walking back all the promises about employment security and the concept of human capital was born.

In the nineties a few companies caught on that really good talent isn’t human capital and that identifying, attracting, and retaining top performers was really good for business. We just struggled and continue to struggle with how to identify these people and get them in the door and so applicant tracking systems came into being.

Applicant tracking systems are not without value, especially as there has evolved more and more regulation about how we hire, reward, and promote. There have been some downsides however:

·         The art and science of recruiting has been dumbed down. I happen to believe that highly effective recruiters whether they are on your staff or hired specialists have enormous value in helping you identify the attributes and skills of top performers in both current employees and applicants. The new systems in many cases believe, I have an app for that! We just load a formula into the computer and it does that pesky work of screening. Therefore the role of recruiting can be delegated to more junior people who manage the process.


·         Recruitment and selection has become much more impersonal. I have a client who is seriously considering walking away from an organization she feels could be a great fit and who has demonstrated an interest in her because a glitch in their system continues to demand she complete a supplemental questionnaire she has already completed…twice. You can’t pick up a publication without reading about an applicant’s experience with a hiring organization where they applied, were interviewed or both and never heard from the organization again. Current applicants are often potential future hires, customers, or know a great hire, but we turn them off.


Social media has added some interesting complexities to the employment relationship as well. Not the least of which is who is accountable for and controls your employment brand? I won’t go on one of my usual lengthy explanations about what your employment brand is and how you manage it, but I will make some key points:

·         Every organization has an employment brand. It is how employee/customers perceive you as a place to work and form a relationship with you.


·         Really smart employers are deliberate about their employment brand and manage it proactively. It is why some employers have lines out the door at job fairs or get swamped by applicants and your recruiters are treated like they have an infectious disease and your ads don’t yield qualified applicants. They have a great employment brand and yours sucks!


·         You can Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog your ass off and if you have a lousy employment brand it doesn’t matter, applicants will find out and avoid you. If you have never heard of Glassdoor or similar sites replace your HR department, now.


·         Your employment brand doesn’t live in HR or Marketing it is owned and distributed by your employees and customers. Can you manage it yes, but you have to do the work. Great share from David Zinger today on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/employee-engagement-david-zinger?trk=hp-feed-article-title-share.  His point is you have to do the work not pretend to do the work.


Technology has also aided and supported the hopelessly outdated idea that our leadership are ok, they aren’t they still suck.

I read posts everyday about how to manage Millennials, how women are genetically better leaders than men and lately how men have conquered the market on incompetent leaders who have been promoted. I personally think they are mostly bullshit.

Our current leadership models are largely based on entitlement emerging from either deterrence (I have power and authority) or competency (knowledge based, I am certified, bona -fied, or whatever). Every profession is running about garnering certifications of what type or another.

Real leadership requires we evolve to identity based trust (shared experiences and shared ideas) and there is no certification or technology which creates that. You have to do the work

In HR what has become increasingly alarming is that the profession seems increasingly invested in compliance rather than engagement and scrambling to increase their credibility through certification programs that validate competency rather than identity.

I want to go all the way back to my original point and that is technology is not a bad thing. What is a bad thing is in our culture technology has usually been used or perceived to be used against people rather than with them. I don’t think I have ever been involved with a major technology initiative where the CFO didn’t lean over and ask “what efficiencies will we garner” which is code for how many positions can we reduce.

Technology offers us great opportunities to gather, analyze, and disseminate information to support our broader intentions and goals.  Let’s just take a page from Rosabeth Moss Kantor’s observation about change,   “Change is an opportunity when done with me, and a threat when done to me”, and look at how technology can facilitate trust….


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