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HR Professionals could Benefit from Becoming “People Scientists”

HR Professionals could Benefit from Becoming “People Scientists”

Data-driven HR technology is a hot topic right now. With many applications, platforms, and solutions, HR professionals are looking to take advantage of new technologies but struggle with best practices.Dr. Conrad

We recently caught up with Dr. Jarik Conrad, Senior Director of Human Capital Management (HCM) Innovation at Ultimate Software and 2019 HR Tech Connect keynote speaker to see what he had to share on this topic. 

Q: Much of what we hear right now for trends is “big data this” and “data-driven that” – but how should I really be using data? How could real-time and demand-driven tech help HR leaders, their teams, and their companies? 

A: We can’t talk about HR technology trends and new solutions without discussing the enormous strides that have taken place in the field of people analytics. Over the years that we’ve researched this market, organizations have moved from back-office HR data warehouses to advanced analytics and reporting dashboards to predictive models and more. As analytics models become more prevalent, companies are slowly moving away from building their own solutions to buying them from vendors.

Q: What are the best ways to integrate this new data to create the predictive analytics and key intel for business operations from HR?

A: From what I’ve learned and seen over my years of experience, I believe HR professionals could benefit from becoming “people scientists.” A scientist’s currency is data. Before digging into the data, the first thing that HR professionals need to do is ask the BIG questions. Intellectual curiosity has to be the fuel that drives HR departments of the future.

Next, they should explore what data are available to them already within their current systems. There is probably more there than they might think. Technology has opened the door for real-time data, down to the level of individual employees. The ability to draw meaningful insights from that data and transform those insights into activities that drive human performance will separate effective and ineffective HR departments moving forward.

Q: Today, companies are starting to interact with their employees by making use of always-on, pulse-based feedback systems. Some employers now survey workers quarterly, monthly or even weekly, and many modern systems enable event-based feedback that can be gathered whenever there is a major organizational change. How are these solutions best incorporated into the current HR tech systems for feedback and engagement?

A: The technological capabilities available today are incredible. But, we all have to remember that technology is just a tool. It shouldn’t replace people altogether. HR professionals need to lead the charge in helping their organizations look at how they inspire and reward performance in a radically different manner. The shift starts with more deeply understanding their employees’ wants and needs, as well as getting more clarity on what it means to add value to an organization. It’s not just the frequency of discussions that needs to change, but also the quality of those discussions.

Q: In acquiring and implementing new technologies, what’s the one most common mistakes HR organizations can make?

A: I think individuals often want the shiny new object, but they don’t always have a handle on their internal challenges and opportunities. As a result, they are sometimes unable to maximize the features of the products they purchase for the benefit of their organizations. When an organization’s looking to invest in new technology, it’s important to know what you’re actually looking for and how those solutions can best serve the evolving expectations and needs of the people driving your business.


Dr. ConradDr. Conrad is the Senior Director of Human Capital Management (HCM) Innovation at Ultimate Software, where he helps organizations stay abreast of the latest workforce trends and innovative approaches to people management. He is a best-selling author and sought-after keynote speaker; recognized as a thought leader in the areas of emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion, and leadership. Dr. Conrad has held significant roles at several Fortune 500 companies, including McDonnell Douglas (Boeing), Pillsbury (General Mills), Union Carbide (Dow), Citigroup and CSX. 

He has spent 20 years working in some aspect of human resources management across a variety of industries. He has also served as an executive coach specializing in helping people improve their emotional intelligence at work.

Dr. Conrad shared his insights at the 2018 HR Tech Connect Summit in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, and will be the keynote speaker for 2019.