We spoke with Geoffroy De Lestrange, Senior Product Marketing Manager EMEA, Cornerstone, at Learning Technologies 2018 about the past, present and future role of technology in HR and learning.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, TrainingZone: Throughout your career how have you seen the role of technology in both the learning and HR landscapes change?
Geoffroy De Lestrange, Cornerstone: What we've seen is that HR was a bit late to the game with enabling technology that impacts the way we work. The sector has been very process driven for a long time.
Cloud computing, which Cornerstone has been using for 18 years, arrived fairly late to the HR industry. And mobile and social, which have both been widely available since around 2007, also impacted HR only recently. So we’ve only just been able to start having proper conversations on this topic.
In terms of L&D, five years ago it would not have been possible to consider training all of your employees simultaneously from a technical point of view. For those working in shops, warehouses, factories etc you would not have the budget to buy computers for all.
But today almost everyone has a smartphone (and if they don’t a work phone could be purchased for a low cost), and through using cloud technology everyone in the organisation can access training and personalised content by logging into a platform on a mobile device. This was simply not possible 12 years ago.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, TrainingZone: A big priority for HR professionals is around improving employee engagement and retaining talent. How can new technologies support these objectives?
Geoffroy De Lestrange, Cornerstone: Technology can be a big support in these areas, but having the right mindset is key. This entails creating a culture of curiosity, and seeing learning as something positive for the organisation.
For successful learning and development to take place, employers must acknowledge the need to free up time. In retail, for example, you still have shop managers who don't want their staff to be trained, as there’s not enough time and selling is seen as more important.
Organisations need to invest in flexible, modern technology and remain agile going forward – this will stop them having to ‘rip and replace’ technology in future.
So only once the leadership team has accepted that they need to make time can technology come into play. From there, technology can do a lot to support the learner, through micro learning, videos, user-generated content and much more.
Another important element is trust. You need to trust that your people know what is important for them to learn, and trust that if you give them time to learn they will use it wisely. It's HR’s responsibility to ensure there is interesting content and easy-to-use platforms available, which will help nurture a learning culture.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, TrainingZone: What steps should organisations take to ensure they can use employee data effectively while also being GDPR compliant?
Geoffroy De Lestrange, Cornerstone: GDPR doesn't actually bring many new obligations. What it does is make the fine for not being compliant much higher. So companies should have already been doing what is now essential for them to do.
HR deals with both company data and private data. So there’s not only the issue of compliance but an additional dimension of perception. My advice would be to take this as an opportunity to be transparent towards your employees and candidates about how you treat their data. It's a great way to improve your employer branding and builds trust.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, TrainingZone: To what extent do you think outdated, cumbersome workplace technology has contributed towards the UK productivity gap?
Geoffroy De Lestrange, Cornerstone: In 2017 we did research with the IDC on European HR and found that, when respondents were asked about how their organisation compares to its peers with leveraging digital technology to drive changes in business models, the UK was one of the worst performing countries surveyed in Europe. Almost a quarter (24%) felt their organisation’s ability lagged behind peers and 3% felt it lagged far behind peers, compared with European averages of 20% and 4% respectively.
This suggests that while UK companies may have invested in on-premise technology early on, that technology is now dated and hindering productivity. The numbers are bad for the UK, but even across Europe there’s a lot of improvement needed.
Organisations need to invest in flexible, modern technology and remain agile going forward – this will stop them having to ‘rip and replace’ technology in future and help them keep up with the pace of change in the digital world.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, TrainingZone: For employers who feel overwhelmed by such fast-paced digital developments, what advice would you give to help them keep pace?
Geoffroy De Lestrange, Cornerstone: It’s a good idea for companies to start with a pilot project before fully implementing new technology. Companies should identify an area where they know improvements need to be made, where they already understand the problem and have analysed where they can improve and start their pilot there.
If you could start from scratch, how would you change the way you engage your workforce?
For instance, if a company looks at its employees and asks whether it has enough women in senior leadership roles, they may find a specific department has overwhelmingly male leadership. The question then is: do we need to reconsider how we are promoting people and making career progression plans in that department? Or is it actually a matter of recruiting more women at lower levels who can progress upwards?
This is where HR technology can help, as it can help quickly identify these problems and solutions, removing guess work and assumptions from the HR team’s strategy. If companies can identify these ‘headache’ areas within their company, a pilot project can be an excellent way to trial a technology product and see how it helps, before making big investments.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, TrainingZone: In the next 10 or so years how do you envision technological developments will impact the HR and learning industries even further?
Geoffroy De Lestrange, Cornerstone: We’ll definitely see more expansion and adoption of the workplace technology that’s available today, as many companies are a bit late to the game in adopting these.
In terms of new developments, it’s impossible to predict everything. A lot of disruptive technology is called this because it’s unexpected. What we can predict though is that new technologies will enable things to be even faster than they already are. If you take quantum computing as an example, it’s still in the research and development stage, but once it becomes the norm, the power of our computers and processors will be unimaginable.
It’s therefore critical for HR to anticipate technological change – because it will come. We need to train people to be flexible, agile, and ready to constantly learn, because there will always be more to learn.
My advice to HR is to imagine what your human capital management and learning processes could be if you had no limits: if you could start from scratch, how would you change the way you engage your workforce?
Next, HR needs to set clear objectives and goals, putting metrics in place and constantly re-evaluating them – if you can combine this with the intelligence of data drawn from workplace tech, that’s even better.
Finally, give employees the freedom to innovate from within. HR must help managers trust their people. When employees have the room to try new things, they’ll be curious – and that openness and flexibility to new ideas is key for being ready for new technologies.
About Becky Norman
I am deputy editor for global online publications HRZone and TrainingZone. As a newcomer to the worlds of HR and L&D I am keen to hear from the community, so please do say hello via our social channels!
My past editorial experience includes working on science communications content, international development policy reports and craft magazines.
Outside of work, I enjoy cycling, eating vegetables and drinking posh gin.