Tech is your path to a modernized HR organization

As an HR leader, you’ve most likely invested in various kinds of enterprise technology, from core HR tools that help manage basics like payroll and benefits, to digital recruiting tools, learning management systems and more. But are you getting the most value out of these technologies? Are you using these tools to drive business insights and guide decisions?

If the answer is no, you have plenty of company.

While most HR executives are using tech to automate routine functions and low-level tasks, many of these leaders are not taking full advantage of the capabilities and functions at their fingertips. For example, you may be using your HR cloud management system for basic functions like benefits administration or time and attendance, but not using included features like workforce planning, analytics or succession management. 

And if you’re using tech only for the basics, you’re missing an opportunity to make real progress on HR transformation goals. 

Many human capital leaders want to modernize the role of HR at their organization—to advise the business on workforce-related issues and focus on higher-value goals, like creating an inclusive and equitable workplace or delivering a world-class employee experience. Accomplishing that transformation will require buy-in from other business leaders. 

A surefire way to get their attention: Show you can bring data-powered insights that add real business value—and that starts by going all-in on tech.

Clearing tech hurdles

Most HR leaders know many of their technology tools are capable of doing much more than what they’re currently using them for. So why aren’t they using more features of these sophisticated tools? 

Some are held back by budget constraints: In our latest Pulse survey, 66% of CHRO leaders said a top challenge at their organization is enabling human resources systems and tools, an effort that typically requires a healthy budget. Others lack the HR tech capabilities on their teams to use every feature.

Others, however, may not fully realize the significant business benefits and actionable insights that advanced HR technologies can provide. For example: 

  • Workforce analytics tools can pinpoint the traits of top-performing employees, identify potential skills gaps and analyze pay gaps by gender or race to help you improve pay equity and make progress toward diversity goals.
  • Compensation software houses market-based compensation studies to help you stay competitive—critical to retaining top talent at a time when a desire for higher wages is the No. 1 driver of higher-than-normal turnover.

  • CultureTech platforms measure and monitor metrics related to your organizational culture so you can make improvements and track progress. Given that 67% of C-suite executives and board members say culture is more important than strategy or operations, this can be a powerful tool in identifying valuable insights.

  • Digital recruiting tools are now so sophisticated that you can simultaneously cast a wider net and identify better-qualified candidates, while also making the recruiting process faster and more efficient. For instance, AI-driven software can revise the wording in job descriptions to attract diverse candidates; chatbots can keep candidates engaged and informed about where they stand in the process; and preselection software can help identify the best matches by conducting online assessments and simulating real-life job scenarios with candidates.

And that’s just scratching the surface. 

Here’s a prime example of where HR leaders aren’t going all in: cloud investments. Most HR functions have deployed cloud-based workforce management systems, and executives across the C-suite see its potential to connect systems, data, devices and emerging technology to better respond to change. Our recent survey of business executives found that CHROs see the ability to make workforce plans based on data as one of the biggest benefits of cloud technology, and 39% say they see cloud as central to their business strategy and critical to revenue growth. 

Yet many don’t utilize all of the system’s capabilities, even though they pay for those capabilities as part of a license. More than half (53%) of companies say they have yet to realize substantial value from their cloud investments.

Budget woes challenge the HR agenda


Not a challenge at all
Minor challenge
Moderate challenge
Major challenge

Investment budget for HR function
%
%
%
%
Enabling human resources systems/tools
%
%
%
%
Human resources organization structure
%
%
%
%
Quality and availability of credible workforce/people data
%
%
%
%
Overemphasis on short-term HR priorities
%
%
%
%
Human resources talent
%
%
%
%
Alignment of business and HR priorities
%
%
%
%
An inability to customize our current HR programs and policies to meet changes in business needs and workforce preferences
%
%
%
%

Q: How much of a challenge are the following for the HR department to address the business’s future of work priorities?
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, August 19, 2021: CHRO base of 100

Four actions to ramp up your tech success

Going all-in on tech starts with fully utilizing all the features and capabilities of your existing systems. But that’s just the jumping-off point. Here are four actions you can take to use HR tech to help gain buy-in on your transformation goals.

Technology can provide data and analytics, but it’s up to HR professionals to interpret it. Many HR functions do not have enough employees with the skills needed to take full advantage of analytics. It’s critical to develop analytics capabilities throughout your HR organization, including hiring data-savvy employees and elevating the data skills of your existing team.

Simply providing administrative information—headcount, turnover rates, compliance reports—does not necessarily win top management approval for a comprehensive transformation effort. Dig deeper and deliver strategic business insights that could improve business outcomes to the C-suite and the board. Demonstrate how technology enabled those decisions, and you’ll be more likely to get buy-in on future tech investments, too.

Whenever possible, zero in on data and insights that will be relevant to the top priorities of the business. For example, with 88% of companies experiencing higher-than-normal turnover, talent retention and recruiting are key issues for C-suite business leaders. HR leaders have an opportunity to respond by using workforce analytics to identify flight risks early on so leaders can intervene with retention tactics, or by deploying recruiting software that allows you to go beyond qualifications and credentials to match people who fit the company culture. 

Here’s another top area where HR leaders can play a significant role: making hybrid work a success. With 59% of executives planning for at least a portion of their workforce to adopt a hybrid work model, HR has an opportunity to design what that looks like. Technology can help power decisions by tracking complete, accurate, up-to-date data on employees’ roles and responsibilities—making it easier to identify which roles must work on site, versus which can be done remotely, now and in the future.

It’s critical to focus on adoption in order to drive more efficient operations and get the most value out of your tech investments. But that’s often easier said than done—getting people to use new technology solutions has long been a challenge for HR organizations. 

While there are numerous reasons for lack of adoption, one of the key issues is that planning phases often miss getting the perspectives of the end user when choosing tech. That can result in a poor user experience or technology that doesn’t improve the way people work. Our research shows that while 90% of C-suite executives believe their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, only about half (53%) of staff say the same. 

To increase adoption, consider bringing your employees into the process when making technology choices. When you roll out tech solutions, communicate the benefits, and offer plenty of training, and ask leaders to champion the technology and model behaviors. Offering incentives, gamification and personalization can also help boost adoption rates.

When your tech-fueled insights pay off by delivering business value, don’t be shy about sharing that information with the C-suite, the board and any other stakeholders. The more they see HR as a valuable business partner, the more likely they are to support your transformation goals. 

Consider, for instance, this success story of an oil company with workers all over the world that was able to pivot quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Thanks to help from their cloud-based human capital management system, the firm was able to immediately identify virus hot spots, track which employees were working in each location, determine who may have been exposed to the virus and know instantly when to add workers as territories reopened or pull back when they closed. Having fast access to that kind of data—and more importantly, using it in a way that let the firm change course quickly—made it possible for the oil company to successfully navigate one of the most tumultuous economies in recent memory.

Contact us

Dave Eberhardt

Dave Eberhardt

Principal, Transformation, PwC US

Dan Staley

Dan Staley

Partner, HR Technology and Transformation Leader, PwC US

Elizabeth Yates

Elizabeth Yates

Partner, PwC US

Diane Youden

Diane Youden

Partner, PwC US

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