Is Technology Adoption Taking the "Human" Out of Human Resources?

Guest Contributorby Lizz Pellet | Posted | Culture

Is Technology Adoption Taking the \

As companies move quickly to adopt the latest technology solutions and embrace the burgeoning social realm, a rapid cultural shift is taking place — one that is having a real impact on human behaviors. What we’re actually witnessing is a dynamic change in the way talent management or human resources function due to the substantial evolution of technology and tools.

Sure technology adoption rates are on the rise for many business and social tools, but is this evolution taking the “human” out of human resources? Or maybe the foundational question is, “Did we really ever have the heavy adoption to the high-touch side of HR?”

Whatever the answer, we see that social and business technology tools are moving us further and further from direct human interaction. Whether we like it or not this shift is a logical progression in the bigger picture of how social media, social collaboration and social technology are reshaping our organizations.

Two key areas of the human side of human resources are talent acquisition and employee onboarding.

Here’s how technology adoption in HR is impacting both areas.

Auto-communication in talent acquisition

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) bring a level of organization and efficiencies that could never have been achieved by the old approach to keyword search and the sorting of resumes from an internal database.

Gone are the days of scanning resumes or manually entering candidate information, and then searching for top talent within that database. Today, the process of candidate data entry from a variety of entry points is done in one key stroke.

Our talent pool is constantly being filled without a lot of energy or oversight from any one individual. It’s all automated but, unfortunately, so is the response and interaction with the potential candidate.

This auto-communication can be detrimental to the organization and the candidate experience. Sure, automatically generated email responses are a necessity. Clearly, they are a time saver and an opportunity to provide follow-up information to the process or to manage candidate expectations.

But the thing to remember is that messaging and timing are key.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

A candidate applies for a job. Less than 24 hours (or sometimes within 15 minutes) after applying, they receive an auto-generated email telling them that their qualifications do not match the job requirements.

It’s more than a little bit insulting, wouldn’t you agree? How human is that message delivery?

By sending this unfavorable reply so quickly, the clear interpretation is that some automatic keyword search was applied to the resume and the candidate’s qualifications did not match the algorithm used.

No human read the carefully-crafted cover letter. No human perused the painstakingly written resume. And, the actual message can be just as damaging. 

Here is an example from a recent application attempt:

“Please rest assured that your information has been received and there is no need to try and contact us directly for a status.”

What’s the culture connection in this example? Companies operating in this manner — yet claiming to have a high-touch, personal, engaging environment — have committed a major incongruence in the candidate experience. Once potential candidates go through this process, the employment brand is diluted time and time again.

How about conveying a message more along these lines:

Thank you for your interest in Company ABC. Your information is now on file with us and will be reviewed by our HR team. We will reach out if we feel your qualifications and experience meet our needs. Should you wish to learn more about our company culture, connect with us on LinkedIn.


< Insert name of HR representative >

If you want to attract talent, you need to be open to engaging with them. It doesn’t have to be via LinkedIn, but the idea of providing an alternate way of connecting with the company goes a long way in demonstrating the right culture experience.

The well-intentioned employee onboarding welcome email

After the interview process is complete, the offer letter has been accepted and the start date established, many organizations shift right back into the technology and automation mode. These automated processes are widely accepted and generally transition into some form of an onboarding experience.

The key again comes down to how companies send the message. All too often, the automation has a glitch or the message is so generic that the well-intended welcome can turn sour:

Hello <New Employee Name>,

Welcome to Company ABC. We are excited to have you onboard and look forward to your start date: <insert month/day/year>.

Before your intake meeting on: <insert month/date/year> at 111 Sunshine Ave, Any City, USA, we invite you to have a look at your personalized benefit package for, <New Employee Name>, available on our company website:

Admit it — this example of a well-intentioned welcome letter from a company that prides itself on its high-touch, personally engaging culture is just not well executed.

What about adding a line about how this new employee’s role in the company supports the business? Take this idea one step further… what if the letter came from an actual human (e.g. the employee’s manager) to personalize the onboarding experience even further?

Will this take more time? Yes. Will it create a more positive onboarding experience? Most definitely. Could this personalization of the welcome email still be automated? If necessity breeds invention, then why not?

Don’t forget about the cultural experience!

The further we move toward automation, the more important it is to ensure our automation — in the form of messaging or any touch point with the candidate — is authentic and congruent to the culture, and ultimately  reflects the real experience the employee will have working in the organization.

False representation of the cultural experience can have a direct, negative, impact on retention, and end up costing more than what companies might’ve saved through automation.

So, my final words of wisdom? Remember that, while business technology and social media can be powerful tools for effective talent acquisition and onboarding, it’s also critical to keep it human.  

Your Turn: Can you think of other examples where automation of HR communications impacts the cultural experience in the organization?   

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