By Bas Van de Haterd

COVID-19 has in many cases accelerated the adoption of technology in the workplace by decades. When writing articles on ‘the future of work’ 10 years ago much of what I wrote about back then finally has finally become reality. But technological adoption alone isn’t enough, processes need to change to use the technological possibilities to the fullest advantage. A great example of this was in the early days of the internet when online shopping became a thing. Many old brick-and-mortar stores opened a website, printed the orders, manually entered them into a sales system and folded the printed invoice in an envelope, and put that in outgoing mail. It wasn’t until the website automatically started talking to the back-end systems and shipping was done directly from distribution centers in cheaper locations instead of stores that efficiency started happening. The same is true for leveraging technology in HR.

Work from home technology

If your organization is adopting work-from-home policies, the process of feedback and evaluation needs to change to facilitate this. There are great employee feedback tools available, but unless these are properly used, and managers are also evaluated on using them properly the employees working from home will feel left out as feedback diminishes. Lots of organizations that have had work from anywhere policies for some time have learned that there is no such thing as an effective hybrid meeting. Either all are in a room or all are in zoom. Even if a group is in the office together, to have an inclusive meeting there needs to be a level playing field. So, nobody can be in the same room if one person is attending digitally.

Recruitment technology

In the field of recruitment, there have been some major developments in the last couple of years, especially when it comes to assessing talent. This will be more important than ever, especially for those recruiting internationally. The more an organization is willing to work with remote workers, the more talent is available. For the Middle East this means the possibility to recruit talent that might not be willing to relocate at a lower cost. As the difference between a Polish, Ukrainian, or Bulgarian salary and the salaries paid for expatriates in Dubai is huge, it’s easy to pay way above average local salaries for these countries while still saving money. But next to adopting policies that allow workers to work remotely, you also need to recruit differently. Not everybody is mentally suited to work remotely and it’s important to change your selection process to test for this. As COVID-19 has hit economies all over the world differently when borders open there will likely be a greater influx of job applications than ever before. Again preselection screening technology can help select the best candidates. Depending on the job at hand this can be cognitive tests, situational judgment tests are psychometric tests. Automated video interviews are a good process first or the second process steps as well, as well as the automated screening of the spoken English level before any human touches the application. The great thing about the modern assessment tools is that they can also be used to screen for potential. So when you have enough applicants, you might want to select not just those great at the job they are applying for, but possibly look a little further in the future and hire those great at the job, but with the potential to grow. Like Foot Locker many years ago in the USA hired retail salespeople with the potential to develop to (assistant) store managers solving two hiring problems at once. Since they screened for this potential the dropout rates for their internal store manager trainee program dropped significantly. Or you might be able to find new talent pools, like the Dutch air traffic control who lowered educational requirements from university graduate to high school graduate by using specific cognitive testing, for example testing stress resilience next to a birds-eye view, which led to much lower attrition in their training program. Or like British accountant Grant Thornton who started using aptitude testing and did away with educational requirements for their internships, opening them up for many talented people from low-income backgrounds that turned out to eventually have a longer tenure while clocking more billable hours.

Leverage technology

The technology is out there to become both more efficient while becoming more people-centric. However, technology is as good as the process that it supports. No technology will upgrade your HR department unless you are willing to look at your processes as well.