CEO’s Letter: The (Techno) Wizards of (HR)Oz

In the mythical world of HR Oz, I imagine Dorothy landing in the colorful world of Oz disoriented after a tornado of irresponsible tech investments blew her house across the sky. She would be tentative and uncertain when approached by Glinda, in all her sartorial beauty, and asked, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Unfortunately, I’m afraid Dorothy would answer, “I am not a witch at all. I am a solution set using heuristic algorithms, NLP, and AI to optimize user experience, enhance workplace productivity, and optimize associate performance.” At which point, Glinda would stop her insipid smiling and say, “What the heck does that mean?” When Dorothy just repeated the same sentence over and over, angry munchkins would seize Glinda’s magic wand and start running after Dorothy until they chased her back to Kansas (and not the good city with the Super Bowl champions but the very flat state nearby inhabited by Elvira Gulch).

Ok, so that wasn’t the way the Wizard of Oz started but not a bad description of HR executives who are presented technology with an indecipherable mountain of jargon and nonsensical phrases that mean literally nothing. One of our CTEN members said during a recent meeting of the affinity group, “I am so tired of the nonsense; just tell me how to use the stuff in the real world.” 

The reality of the HR technology marketplace is that there is so much overlapping functionality and so much repetition of “groundbreaking solutions” that it is very confusing.  I have joked that if I went back to the software industry, I would open a company called “RipOff Software” and tell the investment bankers that it just does what all the other HR technology does, and I could raise millions of dollars. This torrent of look-a-like solutions further exacerbates the problem and further confuses buyers.  

I do not want to complain about a problem without offering a possible solution to help. We don’t have Glinda’s magic wand, but we do have experts and the ability to distribute information. We are starting a podcast series called “Understand This!” where I will be interviewing tech and solutions providers and asking them to shed the technobabble and give us hard and fast examples of where their software is used in the real world; the problem it is aiming to solve; and the metrics that measured success or failure. Real world, not jargon.  

Some of the best ideas we have had at HRO Today or in the business world in general are borne of frustration. Look at history for examples as well. Ben Franklin invented bifocals because he was tired of carrying multiple pairs of glasses and changing them. We are all literally exhausted by imprecise, jargon-driven descriptions of technology written by communications people who try to make the software sound like it solves all problems and not specific ones.

Our Understand This! podcasts will be released next month, and we are starting the series by looking at a real-world example of the application of predictive analytics and data analytics tools to the massive hiring challenges of one of the US’s largest healthcare organizations. More case studies will follow so you can listen to how technology is used and how you can adapt it to your real-world problems. Let’s get real and all work together to better “Understand This!”

Elliot S. Clark


Tags: CEO's Letter, March 2023

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