For decades, technological innovation has changed our world at a rapid pace. Across industries and departments, businesses have a plethora of new and exciting technology and tools they can utilize to deliver products and services more effectively and efficiently to their customers. This is especially true of today’s human resources department and function. Recent trends have shown an increasing number of technology innovations aimed at HR professionals that offer to help more effectively recruit employees, manage workforce productivity, and address employee and labor relations issues as they arise. However, as businesses begin to adopt these new methods of workforce management, human resource professionals must stay ahead of the curve to ensure this technology is being used effectively and, in some cases, legally.
Technology Ahead of Laws and Regulations – Or Is It?
It’s generally accepted that technological advancement will outpace the legislatures and courts tasked with regulating that technology. But that isn’t to say the legislatures and courts won’t catch up. Just recently, we have seen social media enter the spotlight as the newest target of potential government regulation. And with the European Union enacting the General Data Protection Regulation, companies must be vigilant in how they collect and maintain job applicant information, or face the possibility of severe fines. As fast as new technology is introduced to the market, regulators are working to act just as quickly to mitigate potential harm from that technology.
However, one thing that may be lost in the shuffle is the unintended consequences of some of these technologies, and how that may expose businesses to potential claims under existing laws. Take for example a business that decides to shift its recruiting efforts from a more human-driven approach to a process that uses data to steer the course. There is a trove of data points that a company can collect on a job applicant, such as experience and education. But if HR allows these data points to drive the recruiting and interview process, they may be allowing this data to exploit innate biases, albeit unintentionally. If a data-driven process leans too heavily on quality of education, the process may filter out those candidates who may not have had a ready access to high-quality education, but still may be a good fit for the job. HR professionals need to be careful in implementing these types of processes and work to eliminate these issues, otherwise they may face heightened scrutiny.
Technology Reacting to New Laws
This past year has seen a flood of new employment laws, mainly at the state and local level, as well as the wide-reaching implications of the seismic #MeToo movement. These developments have not gone unnoticed by the technology sector. New software will help HR departments manage the various state and local employee leave laws, help employers implement employee schedules that comply with scheduling laws, and even assist companies in conducting internal investigations of employee complaints. But for each new technological advancement, there is a potential pitfall.
To illustrate this point, let’s consider a company that implements new software in order to guide and streamline the employee complaint process. This software will surely be more efficient and provide a place to store all of the information regarding the investigation. But HR professionals cannot allow the process to create a “one size fits all” approach to these investigations, providing nothing more than a checklist to mark off as the investigation moves along. Professionals must work to integrate the technology to augment their investigation process, not replace it, since a subpar investigation process can expose a business to liability down the road.
There is no doubt that technology has the potential to simplify the jobs of HR professionals in today’s fast-paced world. But that business must integrate that technology in a way that makes sense for them, and utilize professionals who can use it effectively.