“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” —Heraclitus
In few places is this old saying more appropriate than in the HR technology space. HR has moved completely out of sight of the “Personnel Department” that they were in the 1980s and 1990s. The need to manage, expand, and groom talent has become a critical piece of a company’s strategy, and the idea that HR staff are just paper pushers and gatekeepers needs to be transformed along with the needs of the organization. This requires new skills sets and a wider array of software to support the organization’s needs.
On the other side of the equation, employee needs are evolving, too. The concept of employee engagement has taken hold and requires more than just annual reviews and salary increases. While the concept of continuous reviews has recently become more widespread, there are stops along that continuum between annual and constant feedback. Things like “quarterly conversations” are a good waypoint between the two.
Solutions, such as SAP, have risen to the call for talent management innovation in several ways. Their focus on software as a service (SaaS) based solutions has allowed them to step up their release cycles to a regular quarterly release. This brings enormous benefits, including fast turnaround for bug fixes and the ability to release new features on a rapid basis. During these quarterly update cycles, there can be dozens of updates across the entire suite. Some are mandatory, but many are flagged as “opt-in” to allow administrators some control over the release of the feature.
“Get me off this crazy thing!” —George Jetson
These changes, like any organizational change, bring some challenges to overcome. Your users are likely use to the way the system works, warts and all. If menu options suddenly shift, the order of operations changes, or even text on the screen is different, they may be unsure of how to proceed. This can be true even if the change is for the better or is involved in fixing a bug for which they have a work-around in place already. Some, like highly regulated industries, may have an even tougher time managing this pace given the need to adhere to strict validation processes to meet guidelines.
The difficulties are both human and organizational.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” —Albert Einstein
Fortunately, the solution is essentially organizational change management on fast forward. Change can be managed properly in multiple ways. The specific solutions vary as to your company, industry, and staffing levels, but all of them offer at least some management for change at a dizzying pace. You may choose to:
- Directly assign a person to manage the release process. Typically, either a senior administrator of your learning system or a consultant is charged with keeping up with all the release notes SAP shares before, during, and after an update. They should likely be a certified learning administrator as the Delta certification process involves much of this already.
- Opt-in intelligently. When possible, only choose the updates and changes that you need. This can help minimize the overall change and help reduce user adoption friction.
- Provide on-the-job training (OJT) or job aids to help users adopt the new processes where applicable. This requires some additional time investment but pairs nicely with having an assigned person handling the process.
- Bring on board a change management consultant to help you design a customized way to handle the speed of change.
Change in the HR space is inevitable, and the pace is only increasing. This is reflected in the speed of change in the technology supporting HR and talent initiatives like the SAP talent suite. Although the changes in this type of software are technology focused, they require people management and people solutions to be successful.
My parents were both technology focused teachers when I was a kid, and my father was a high school math teacher so in the ‘80s he was the “computer teacher” too. This meant I was lucky enough to have an actual computer in our house, an Apple //e. I clearly remember my father bringing home the sample programming exercises (in Basic!) for me to practice. From there, I moved on to entering the example programs from the back of computer magazines myself and tinkering with them. It was this that made me realize that the flexibility of the computer made it the ultimate tool to solve problems.
I also read a lot of science fiction when I was a kid. They were mostly the “classics” of the genre from the 1950s or so. I clearly remember Heinlein’s exhortation and that the main characters were inevitably able to do just about anything they needed to do to survive with their wide-ranging knowledge of multiple subjects. They knew metallurgy, biology, survival skills, hunting, cooking, sewing, and more in a large array of skills.
I resolved to do the same.
While I have not come close to mastery in all these skills, the notion of the “Renaissance Man” drove my early desire to learn as much as possible about as many things as possible. This led me to the Jesuits and their idea of “care for the whole person” and eventually led me to have my undergraduate education at Loyola College in Baltimore (now called Loyola University Maryland).
Combining both technology and the humanities helped put perspective on how computers and other technology really were just tools and that we were solving people problems even though we were using technology to do so. That remains true even now with the clients I help. They are just trying to overcome an obstacle and the method to fix it is immaterial. I happen to use technology as a tool for much of the time but there are human fixes that can be applied to human problems too.
At the bottom of every request there is a person trying to do their job. Sometimes they don’t really know what the source of their frustration might be which is why I always start by asking “What is the problem you’re trying to solve?” I figured if it was good enough of a starting place for Richard Feynman it would have to be good enough for me. Once these problems are clearly outlined, they are solvable. I enjoy helping people and solving problems. These things all work together.
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