HR Technologies: Creating Time for Strategy

Chuck Werner, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
June 18, 2021
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Chuck Werner teaches us to slow down and look at the importance of strategy in a rapidly changing landscape.

At a recent panel discussion about technology and the benefits of innovation, which included representatives for shop-floor manufacturing as well as experts in research, employment and tax law, the conversation among this diverse group reminded me of an area in business that isn’t frequently considered in this context, but can greatly benefit through the application of technology: Human Resources.

One of the primary improvements provided by Industry 4.0 is the ability to free team members from mundane tasks, enabling them to think more strategically and be more flexible to the changing needs of the business. And what aspect of business has changed more drastically in recent years than HR?

Most notably, recruitment and hiring, a key function of any HR department, has experienced many transformations lately including:

  • Unemployment has maintained a low percentage, creating more competition for labor resources.
  • More generations than ever are coexisting within the workforce, so companies must find ways to be attractive to both Baby Boomers and Millennials simultaneously.
  • Training and development, whether new-hire orientation, safety or job performance, is rapidly transforming.
  • As new technologies, products and processes are implemented, the job skills required to run, maintain and improve them are shifting as well. Companies must decide if they should seek external expertise, or upskill internally.
  • The rules regarding compensation, benefits and policies seemingly change every year. It is critical for an HR department to be able to develop a comprehensive plan for how to maintain an appropriate balance of employee experience and profitability.

Taking all of this into account, there likely is no other part of business where a stronger focus on strategy is more needed. And while it is now easier than ever for companies to prioritize strategic planning with the enhanced support of technology, in most cases, HR departments are still spending 80% of their time on administrative duties, with only 20% of time devoted to strategic actions.

Find Time for Strategy with Innovation

As administrative tasks such as hiring, payroll and employee relations are taking up the majority of an HR department’s day, minimal time is left for strategic planning. Fortunately, all of these areas can be improved through the use of technology, and in turn free up more time for strategic planning.

  • Self-service technologies enable associates to access their personal records for attendance, vacation and performance and serve as an anonymous conduit for feedback – a way for employees to share improvement ideas, or even recognize the performance of a fellow team member.
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR & VR) ensure employees receive proper training and serve as a guide to refresh the team on activities they may not perform frequently. The programs behind the AR/VR solution also can collect the data needed to show compliance to training processes.
  • Human Resource Information (or Management) Systems provide the ability to collect data, reducing the amount of time spent gathering, filing and maintaining records. Even more critical to success, many of these systems allow for the data to be compiled and analyzed as desired, minimizing time needed to prepare information for strategic functions. Some systems have the ability to employ artificial intelligence to detect and manage new employment, tax and pay rules by automatically identifying when they are applicable, rather than relying on people to remember each new law and catch them manually.

As with any application of technology, the first step is to define the needs of the business. By knowing where the HR team is spending their time and implementing what will best support both the Voice of Business and the Voice of the Customer (internally and externally), the benefits of technology adoption can be truly realized.

Chuck Werner, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
Chuck Werner, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center

Chuck Werner has been a Lean Six Sigma Program Manager at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center since 2016. His areas of expertise are in Industry 4.0, Lean, Six Sigma and Quality. Chuck has devoted many years to practicing Six Sigma methods, ultimately earning a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt in 2011. He is passionate about helping small and medium-sized manufacturers become more prosperous using a variety of tools and methods gathered from nearly 30 years of experience.

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