If you are using a smartphone or you have a small voice assistant, or maybe you have a self-driving vacuum cleaner or a dish-washing machine, you understand the importance of technology in our lives. Technology has impacted everything in the last over 300 years. Including the human resources industry.
Started at the beginning of the 20th century, the job of personnel administration evolved into a stable function taking care of recruiting, payroll, evaluating and firing people.
In the early 2000s, some people noticed a wave forming around the increasing number of employees in the biggest US corporations, expanding all around the globe, that was the time to move HR departments from keeping, manipulating and interrogating data about employees from Excel spreadsheets to more complex systems.
This is how the era of HR Tech started.
With it, a new pool of jobs started to bloom into the HR Jobs Market: HRIS Software Implementation consultant, HRIS Analyst, HR Data Analyst. It soon evolved into complex systems with multiple integrations and data feeds, moving an entire department activity in the enterprise software world: Applicant Tracking Systems, Onboarding Modules, Payroll Engine, Advanced Compensation module, Benefits platform, Performance Review systems, Analytics, HR Business Intelligence systems. All these systems, platforms, modules – needed to be created, implemented, adopted by the HR teams and maintained. This is how a new job category appeared: HR Tech Jobs.
What are the HR Tech Jobs?
I would split this category into 3 main areas that cover the majority of the jobs in HR Tech:
- HR Systems Implementation Jobs
- HR Systems Support Jobs
- HR & People Analytics Jobs
In the last decade, the software vendors raced in building such complex solutions that a new class of jobs needed to be created in order to handle the difficult process of implementation of an HCM. PeopleSoft, Workday, Oracle, SAP, ADP – the biggest players in the enterprise software are offering workforce management solutions. Each one has it’s particularities, it’s own architecture and it’s not easy to align with human resources processes. This is how the Implementation Consultants appeared. A combination of practitioner, business analyst, and consultant, a unique set of skills made the demand for this role to increase over the years.
Once a system is implemented, it has to be maintained. Again, it’s complexity plays an important part and the regular HR practitioner could find it challenging to handle technical support for these systems. Moving from payroll registers to Excel sheets might have been a tedious process, but moving from Excel to HCM was even harder. This is why IT people have been brought on board to provide support. They soon became an independent entity in large organizations, mostly known as HRIS or HR IT teams.
With all these systems storing data, the opportunity of studying it soon came on the radar of organizations’ leaders. In the beginning, it was only about HR reporting, dashboards and descriptive analytics in general. With time, storing all this data made possible advanced analytics, pattern recognition, and predictive analytics.
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What skills are required to pursue an HR Tech career?
From now on, I’ll switch to first person communication. If you are still reading this, I assume you are really interested in an HR Tech career.
- Technical skills – you must be comfortable with Microsoft Office suite, especially Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. You will have to manipulated data on a regular basis and even if SQL is nice to have, most of the time you will be doing that in Excel. Outlook will be the main communication channel and you should master formatting a body message, setup meetings, filtering, and rules to keep your inbox clean. PowerPoint is pretty straight forward. You’ll need to make presentations sometimes, because why not?
- Data flow – you’ll need to understand data is traveling across systems, how it’s inputted into the system, where is stored, what’s a “sources-of-truth” data system, who has access to that data, how it’s extracted. Basically, you need to be able to understand the data life cycle.
- Communication – I hope you really enjoy communicating with other people because at HR Tech you will spend a lot of your time interacting with various stakeholders, team colleagues, technical teams and so on. You will have to be able to explain in a simple and successful way an idea to others.
- Writing – yes, writing. You will be documenting almost everything during the creation, implementation and the support of an HR System. So you should be able to seamlessly explain each step of your project to others. In writing.
- Negotiation – sometimes, a new system comes hand in hand with change. The end users might be reticent to the changes, so you will have to find a way to meet in the middle.
Moving from a regular HR Job to an HR Tech Job. How?
Nowadays, almost every role in human resources involves working with an informational system. All these systems are built by programmers, but based on who’s instructions? Since the end user is an HR Practitioner, anyone working in HR can move to an HR Tech job.
HR Administration – you are working with data about employees. From entering new hires into the system, maintaining their data, taking care of employee data accuracy to offering system support to employees and managers, you interact with systems. You know better than anyone how to operate them, the workarounds, their limitations and what would make them better. Moreover, you speak the language of other HR Admins, you can find what they need. Most of these systems are not hardcoded but configured. This is a great opportunity for you to jump into an HR Tech role. You only need to learn how to configure applications like Workday, SuccessFactors, Oracle HCM and so on. Most of the vendors offer training and certifications – they might be expensive, but companies usually invest in their talent.
Recruiting – do you hate your ATS? Then make it better. I am fascinated by how many recruiters complain about their ATSs. And I don’t blame them, some are awful. But most of the modern systems are highly customizable and they can be adapted to almost any recruiter’s needs. Same as HR Admins, recruiters can move to a recruitment technology job that involves system configuration, requirements gathering and so on.
Compensation & Benefits – well… there’s hope for you, too. C&B is for me the most difficult stream of HR. Highly complex, with dozens of exceptions, very dynamic. Unfortunately, the systems that support C&B operations are also very complex and still need a 2020 touch. I know companies that use 20 years old technology in C&B. Same as payroll, when you work in a transactional environment with weekly, biweekly or monthly cycles, it is very hard to change a system or even to find ways to improve the current ones. But having the functional expertise and adding the technical skillset on top of this, will make you a high on-demand talent in the market. Typically, C&B people are proficient in Excel and reporting in general and already have an analytical mind, so the transition to an HR Tech job should be smooth.
Employer Branding – someone has to measure the EB initiatives results. Or to identify the problems using data (please, don’t do it in this order). I think HR Data Analysis should be part of HR Tech. Everyone created at least one survey in the last 5 years, but surveys can be very complex, with tons of conditions and validations. Sometimes companies pay consultants to help them with survey creation and data analysis and consultants are not cheap. Survey creations, data resulting from surveys analysis, campaign metrics analysis are just a few areas where EB people can improve their skills to pursue an HR Tech career.
Learning & Development – Learning Management Systems are hot today. Every company either has, is implementing or is looking for a LMS and they should. AI and RPA automating most of the non added value tasks will result in a huge number of people in need of changing their careers. This is why continuous learning should be a strategic pillar for all companies. All the systems support this need to be implemented and maintained. You see? Some jobs vanish, others bloom.
Talent Management – while there is a huge debate around the current performance appraisal process and some companies are moving from the annual to ongoing evaluation, performance is still tracked using HR Systems. Same as the above: these systems need to be designed, implemented and maintained. While this can be done by IT people, some smart organizations are training their talent management people to do this. You can do this, too.
Payroll – I can write a 2000 words article about how payroll practitioners can transition to an HR Tech job. While for small companies payroll can still be done in Excel spreadsheets, companies over 100 employees need a system to do this. There is a huge opportunity for payroll people to work in all streams of payroll systems, especially in large and centralized corporations. The impact of payroll is one of the biggest in employees’ lives: salary. This is why a payroll system should be flawless. The lucky combination is a mix of legislative knowledge, payroll calculation, and system configuration.
HR Tech Salaries
Last but not least, HR Tech jobs are very well paid. I couldn’t find a relevant study to present it but based on Glassdoor, HRIS Analyst’s average base salary is around 58,000$US and for HCM Consultants is around 66,000$US, way higher than regular HR jobs. In Europe, the salaries are even higher than this, especially in cities where corporations have their EMEA headquarters: London, Dublin, Munchen, Amsterdam.
With enough motivation and work, almost anyone working in human resources can switch to HR Tech. Personally, I find the tech part being more satisfying from a career perspective. But it’s not a smooth road, it takes time to learn and sometimes it can be very challenging.
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