HR may not think 2023 is the best year to convince the C-suite to make new technology investments as corporate funds become more constrained in the face of economic uncertainty. However, according to industry analysts and many HR leaders, these ideas still stand a good chance of being approved this year if they are linked to issues that C-level executives are worried about, such as hiring during severe labour shortages and retaining top talent.
For instance, a recent study by WorkTech, a company that provides HR technology advice and research, found that businesses will increase their spending on conversational artificial intelligence (AI) technology in 2023. Nearly 75% of 1,000 HR and talent executives polled for the report said their hiring technology budgets would increase or remain the same, despite worries about the recession.
The WorkTech study also discovered that new internal investments in conversational interfaces and chatbots will be used to encourage mobility for current workers.
According to HR analysts, seeking fewer but more significant technology investments due to smaller budgets in 2023 may have a benefit.
A report by Mark Stelzner, founder and managing principal of IA, an Atlanta-based HR advisory company, “HR leaders can only afford to make a few big bets this year, meaning they don’t have to navigate and manage dozens of initiatives or programmes.” “That brings a new simplicity and will prompt organisations to seriously consider where they can maximise the [return] on their technology investments this year.”.
When requesting new or replacement platforms, Stelzner urged HR functions to avoid a basic mistake that he still sees many HR functions make.
The planned investments, he claimed, “[are] not linked to a strategic business imperative.” “Those making the pitch are too focused on the value the technology will generate only for HR as a function without tying it to the front lines of the business or to objectives C-level leaders see as essential to the bottom line,” said one participant in the discussion.
Stelzner added that in order to gain support for technology investments, HR leaders must be “interested and interesting.” The “interested” part, according to him, entails being keenly aware of both the positive and negative business factors as well as the imperatives and problems that demand the majority of your organisation’s capital and running budget. The “interesting” part is suggesting technological solutions that support and expedite those business objectives, not ones that detract from them.
Inari, a seed technology company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, led by Mark Berry, senior vice president of people, recently received clearance for a number of specialised “point” technologies, including systems for employee surveys, workforce analytics, conversational AI, and benefits advisory services. According to Berry, performing thorough due diligence and “discovery” with all the senior leaders who could affect a purchasing decision was one of the keys to that success.
Before a pitch is ever made, he said, “I take a lot of time identifying the stakeholders who will have the power to say yes or no, as well as those who will influence a decision, even though they may not have a vote.” “These stakeholders frequently have varying preferences for how information is presented to them or different value propositions related to technology investments. I speak with each of them to learn about their viewpoints and emotions.”
One of Inari’s greatest challenges as a late-stage startup is retaining the talent it has worked so hard to cultivate. In order to ensure that top talent stays engaged, satisfied, and fruitful, he gave priority to persuading his C-suite of the need for next-generation technologies that can assist HR in staying abreast of employee sentiment.
Berry wanted to make an investment in a voice-of-employee platform that, among other things, would survey recently hired workers after their first 14 and 60 days on the job to determine how well they were assimilating and advancing, assisting in the decrease of attrition.
Due to our executive team’s limited exposure to the technology, he claimed that this pitch required the most education on his side. But the technology’s main selling point was that it would deliver the kind of real-time intelligence required to answer questions like why some job candidates decline offers or why some employees might leave a company shortly after starting work.
The fundamental platforms for human capital management (HCM) are rarely updated, and new apps and specialised solutions are occasionally introduced. Asking peers for examples of prior technology investment pitches—both those that were accepted and those that were rejected—is a good first move for HR leaders who have been out of the sales game for some time, according to Stelzner.
You’d be amazed at how small details in a presentation, such as the choice of layout, graphics, and font, can affect its outcome, he said. “You shouldn’t aim to cause a diversion. Furthermore, you want to make your argument quickly. Senior executives or boards of directors don’t want to have to wait around or look for information that they need to make a decision.
Before delivering a formal presentation, Stelzner said it’s essential to “pre-socialize” a proposal with stakeholders. This will give you time to conduct any necessary negotiations in advance, increasing your chances of success.
Stelzner advised that if funding for your plan might entail taking something away from another stakeholder, you should be aware of this possibility. Will another CEO lose out on capital or operating expenses as a result of your actions? If so, you might need to make a concession before making your formal proposal in order to increase your chances of success.
Berry concurred that preparation work completed before a final show is crucial. You don’t want any drama when you go to inquire for the order, he said. By that time, you ought to have already put together a group of supporters who will support the technology expenditure you’re suggesting, whether they come from the CFO, IT, or legal departments. You don’t want someone to play a surprise card as their final card at the conclusion of a protracted selling cycle.
Given the economic environment in 2023, experts agree that some kinds of technology investments will prove to be easier to pitch than others. The C-suite will probably be less resistant to platforms and apps that can help recruit candidates for open positions in markets where there is a labour shortage as well as specialised solutions like internal talent marketplaces, analytics software, and platforms for learning and employee recognition that can help retain employees.
The three areas where HR departments plan to spend the most on technology this year are recruiting, people analytics, and learning, indicating a continued emphasis on recruiting and retention, according to Sapient Insights Group’s 2022-2023 HR Systems Survey.
Suneet Dua, chief revenue and growth officer for products and technology at professional services firm PwC, stated that companies in many industries can no longer simply hire their way out of problems; they must be able to keep their best employees.
According to Cliff Stevenson, director of research and principal analyst with the Sapient Insights Group, one strategy getting popularity with the C-suite is HR technology, which can make an organisation more adaptable and agile.
“Senior executives are becoming more interested in how HR tools relate to adaptability, according to Stevenson. “Anyone in the C-suite for the past three years has acclimated well to the quickly shifting business environment, or they’d probably not be there. Many people are curious about how new technologies will enable them to respond to volatile markets or novel situations more quickly.
Being adaptable for HR technology ecosystems includes the capacity to plug-and-play apps and point solutions from various suppliers to address changing hiring and skills development requirements. It also entails having the ability to adapt current systems to shifting circumstances, as demonstrated by the technological platforms that changed course to monitor COVID-19 infections and vaccination rates in the workplace during the pandemic.
Consulting company Gartner found that business “composability” will play a bigger role in predicting future success in its 2023 HCM Technology Imperatives study. That entails developing systems and strategies that maximise an organisation’s resilience, adaptability, and flexibility, according to John Kostoulas, a vice president researcher at Gartner who specialises in HR technologies.
The use of HR technology should, in his words, “help all roles, including executives, managers, workers, and HR specialists, make good decisions quickly, not just enable a series of HR process steps.”