Technology forces forward movement. It makes us figure
out what could be more meaningful or useful for people
to do. Rather than dig ditches and plow fields by hand,
we have machinery that makes that work faster and safer
and frees individuals up to do work that machines
cannot. Rather than take work from people, technology
creates new opportunities while taking on the boring,
repetitive, and dangerous jobs.
Are you able to take advantage of technology to do the
boring, repetitive parts of recruiting? Do you have
tools that automatically schedule interviews, recommend
people based on their resumes, create all the reports
and documents you need? Are you able to recruit faster
than before? Have you invested in systems, technology,
and process improvements to lower costs and improve the
speed to hire, develop, retain, or engage your
employees? If not, you are clearly lagging behind those
who have, and will have a tough time catching up.
HR will be (and already is) under full assault from the
third-party world. Increases in productivity
significantly lag the investment in tools and process
improvements. We normally first use new technologies to
emulate what we already do in another way.
It's only after significant time that we begin to find
new and innovative ways to use the tools and adjust our
An example is the introduction of the typewriter. In the
early days of the typewriter a manager would dictate to
a stenographer, who would take shorthand and then use
the typewriter to create a document. This took two
people and three steps. It took decades before we got to
the point of eliminating the stenographer by having the
manager learn to type and enter the document directly.
But when this occurred, the profession of stenographer
disappeared (as did shorthand), efficiency went up, and
the number of people an office needed went down.
There is a similar story about the applicant tracking
system. Introduced in the late 1980s, it really just
added a step to the standard recruiting process -
and even slowed it down and added staff - by
requiring resumes to be scanned and checked for
accuracy. They were weak on search. They consumed hours
of IT time to set up and maintain. It has taken 20 years
to get where they are today, and there is long way to go
yet before they are really productivity-enhancers.
These examples illustrate what I mean: It takes a lot of
time from the introduction of a new technology for
people to learn how to use it and to adjust processes
and structures. It takes a long time for technology
vendors to adapt and improve the outputs, interface, and
From the 1970s through the mid-1990s organizations
globally were investing heavily in computers and
software, and everyone assumed that because of those
tools, productivity would soar. For anyone old enough to
remember, that did not happen. Lots of economists called
this the productivity paradox. It seemed that no
investment in technology, computers, or software caused
any major change in productivity.
Then, around 1995 everything changed. Suddenly
productivity began to climb and averaged 2.6 percent
until 2000. Then another amazing surge occurred when
productivity jumped to 3.6 percent through 2003. It has
now settled back into a comfortable 2.4 percent per year
growth, which is still greater per year than those
before 1970. The great lesson is that investments in
technology and process improvements pay off - time for
that to happen.