Making decisions on the selection and implementation of new technology when you do not have a tech background can be intimidating and confusing. HR is under increasing pressure to digitize all areas of HR, and the impact of bad decisions can include wasted costs and poor stakeholder experiences. At a more extreme level, choosing the wrong technology could expose you to legal issues, particularly in relation to data management and privacy.
So what to do when you are responsible for progressing the HR tech agenda but do not have a tech background?
Set Simple Goals and Constantly Check Them
Goals around HR tech implementation are usually fairly simple such as “decrease administrative effort”, “enhance employee experience” and “secure employees personal data”. When selecting HR tech, however, these simple goals are often lost as you get deeper and deeper into what the tech does.
All HR techs can be demonstrated beautifully. However, you will only really understand the true capabilities (or lack thereof) as you get further into the selection or even into the implementation stage. As you and others from your company get to know more about the tech, constantly question if it is still meeting the simple goal. If it is not, do not be afraid to walk away. There are many alternative products on the market and new ones constantly being launched.
Find a Tech Ally
Having a tech ally (as in a person who has an engineering or computer science background) that you can trust is invaluable. This can be someone internal or external to your company but should be independent (i.e. not someone who is making a commission from your selection of a certain product). The tech ally will give you realistic feedback on what is and is not possible from a technical perspective (and tell you why) and give you alternative options when required.
In your selection of a tech ally, look for someone who values your subject matter expertise and avoid those who try and bamboozle you with technical language (there is really no need for this).
Over-investment into 1 or 2 HR technologies will make it harder for you to justify leaving that technology, even if it quickly becomes outdated and there are better products on the market. There is a real temptation to customize tech to your company’s current ways of work, but it is worth stopping and asking if that is really necessary. Anything customized will be more expensive, difficult and slower to change when the need arises (and this need will come fast). Try and avoid a “sunk cost dilemma” where you cling onto old technology because of the investment you have already made.
Embrace Your Non Tech Expertise as an Asset
Not having a tech background can be an asset when you encounter challenges along the way. By not understanding the technical limitations, your creative options are maximized. While your tech ally may need to give you a reality check from time to time, you can work with this feedback and use it to continue being creative and work towards problem-solving.
Embracing technology and moving quickly is essential for all industries, including HR, to stay competitive. By keeping focused on end goals, finding tech allies, and remaining agile, HR can fully take part in technology transformation and thrive.