As a compensation consultant of long standing, I’ve experienced first-hand the evolution of technology in parallel with my career. This progression began with the advent of word processing — a miraculous new and efficient way to produce memos, reports and letters effortlessly and without spelling or grammatical errors. Fast forward to the early days of my own consulting firm, when I acquired my first 20-plus pound computer: an IBM product that was so expensive I had to purchase it on an installment plan like my car. Teaching myself and taking classes in Excel turned out to be a game changer for my business, giving me not only the appearance of being tech savvy, but providing practical applications that became an essential analytics and statistical tool.
Now, of course, as an employee of the company that acquired my firm in 2010, I’m spending much of my time every day (including weekends and holidays) fully engaged with both my company-issued4- pound laptop and my slightly heavier personal laptop,. Using both machines in my home office and at work, at clients’ offices and while making public presentations....it’s impossible to imagine life without laptops!
What supports and enables all of these activities? SOFTWARE! Huge companies — from Microsoft to Amazon to Salesforce — and some smaller companies, too, produce and package the code that runs our lives. We all know this and mostly accept it as the norm.
Here’s what concerns me: software is developed by software engineers. Sure, they consult experts in the fields they are supporting. However, software doesn’t necessarily facilitate best practices in HR or other fields, at least not the most innovative approaches. For example, HR and compensation applications used by mid- to large companies these days are based in large part on traditional, textbook dictums. These apply to the sourcing and application of labor market data, design of salary structures and ranges, job evaluation techniques, performance measurement and even the computation of base pay adjustments. Judgment based on knowledge and experience, consideration of unique situations, and reality checking in support of career and organizational wellbeing are no longer part of the equation for typical software applications.
As a result, what I have most often seen is the tacit acceptance of outdated pay philosophies, strategies and tactics that claim, but fail to result in truly equitable, competitive, cost-effective, legally-compliant and motivational pay. Not only are these software tools expensive, cumbersome and often difficult and time-consuming to learn and apply, but they generally don’t produce the desired results. These shortcomings could be remedied by the simple acknowledgement of techniques that actually work and converting them into software that supports employers in achieving their business goals.
Representatives sell both enterprise and HR-related software products by demonstrating their capabilities using simple examples. The flashy graphical user interfaces lead the prospective customer to think that the product/service is a panacea that will not only enable them to bypass tedious routine tasks, but also make the user to appear to be tech savvy and clever in the process! Great GUI doesn’t necessarily mean great substance, just as pretty wine bottle labels don’t necessarily mean the wine is fine.
My point is that, in my experience, software often dictates our processes to negative effect because it does not take into account best practices or critical judgment. We would be much more effective in our work if software would enable more innovative and effective practices and processes that actually result in the desired outcomes. Maybe someday?