Consumerization of HR

Posted by Venkataraman A r
October 26th, 2015

This is a Guest post by Venkataraman A R.

It would be an understatement to say HR Technology is in a state of transformation. It is here and it is a reality. However, what is important is not the technology per se. It is the consumerization of HR that is to be embraced and taken advantage of.

What is Consumerization?

Consumerization is the specific impact consumer originated technologies can have on enterprises. It reflects how enterprises will be affected by, and take advantage of, the new technologies and models, that originate and develop in the consumer space, rather than in the enterprise IT sector” – Gartner

Consumerization is the reorientation of product and service designs to focus on (and market to) end user as an individual consumer, in contrast with an earlier era of only organization-oriented offerings” – Wikipedia

Characteristics of Consumerization

There are two few distinct characteristics of Consumerization:

  • Democratization of Technology
  • Componentization of Technology

If we look at these two main characteristics, we can understand how consumerization is happening in the field of HR.

Democratization of Technology –

HR systems and applications, historically were meant to be used by HR community, which meant that employees were dependent on HR department for their regular processes. However, with the new wave of consumerization, the latest SAAS based HCM products are being built with employee as the main consumer of technology and data thus severing the dependence on HR department.

Componentization of Technology – instead of spending on huge monolithic suites, organizations can take a closer look at what is important for them and buy only those components of the technology, which helps them focus on and tackle strategic priorities. And each of these components are loosely coupled, so that there is enough integration amongst the components for a seamless exchange of info but with enough flexibility to replace one component at a time without disrupting the flow.

Role of HR

A HR function’s primary role is employee engagement. And to reduce the friction, negativity in their day-to-day organizational activities / life and enable employees to function to their full potential, so that organizations achieve excellence in their chosen business.

To that end, HR function’s  responsibility is to create an  enabling and facilitating eco-system conducive to employees’ productivity.

HR Applications – limitations

Till now, the enterprise IT applications for HR were created with a view to enable the HR function. As a result, the applications were designed, built and deployed to enable the HR function.

The focus of all these applications were towards reducing the cost of HR function, cost of HR service delivery. The applications helped HR function to collect, collate data and help in managing HR function, but from HR point of view.

The main actor, Employee User is a passive bystander . It was forgotten that the product HR departments were using was actually the data of the employees and processes  by the employees.

Even in Talent Management, which are the most employee-centric of all HR systems, , the systems primarily pushed some of the data entry activities to the employees, which was designed to reduce the load on the HR function under the guise of Self-Services. In Talent acquisition, the focus is on getting candidates to input their details (which was earlier done by HR department or by search agencies who used to receive hard copy CVs or CVs through e-mail).

In Learning, the focus went to Learning Management and compliance and not to promote, enable and facilitate peer learning.

As a result, HR is still looked upon and functions as a compliance function rather than an enabling function.

Consumerization in HR – the Beginning

The current crop of HR Technology products coming in the SaaS mode, to an extent are changing the HR Technology landscape. Atleast some components of the HR technology products are changing. For example, informal learning and social collaboration is changing the way Learning is looked at inside an organization.

However, to a large extent, the applications are still looking at the HR function and automating the HR function. The rethinking of HR or reimagining of HR is sporadic and at best limited as yet.

Consumerization in HR is not about designing a look & feel. It is not about automating workflows. It is about providing a user experience, that compels the employee users to want more and increase usage and at the same time providing the required data to the HR function.

When an employee user uses a consumer app like “Whats app”, the user is not bothered about the underlying technology. Similarly when a user creates an account in Udemy or CoursEra, the user is not troubled with technology. Users just experience learning. They have a learning goal and they achieve the goal.

Consumerization in HR – Future

When we consumerize HR and HR technology, the need is to consider the employee user as the centre of the universe. Not the HR function or the HR technology. Enabling the employee user to Consumerization in HR is about reimagining HR in such a way that employees have a seamless interaction and go about fulfilling the demands of their organizational activities with the help of various applications.

In the future state, the HR technology will start considering employee users as “consumers” or “customers”. And this will be the underlying concept for the way in which entire HR function will be reoriented.

An employee may apply for leave of absence through a text message and cancel it through a voice call to an IVR number or text message.

A Manager can record an appreciation or a negative feedback on his/her team member through a text message.

A customer may send a text message about the positivity or negativity of his/her interaction with one of the employees.

Facilities management may be used in new ways and may well become part of HR technology landscape.

Learning taken by employees from MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) providers may be integrated into the organizational LMS / into the employee profile. And employees will be able to join any course they like through their LMS irrespective of whether that course fits their role, present or future.

When a candidate declines an offer, the Manager is automatically presented with the alternate options available and a prediction on who is the next best and likely chances of accepting the offer.

A candidate who is joining in the near future knows his/her IT Assets are ready and where to collect them on date of joining.

These are just some of the examples of consumerization in HR that is on the way.


The future state HR technology will not be about HR function. It will be about the “consumers”. The focus of any transaction will not be about whether it is strictly a HR function or an associated function. As a result of this, the organizational realignment will happen. Till now what were separate departments or functions will start merging. Or have a singular governance structure.

The impact Digital & Consumerization has in the service provider community is actually negligible compared to the impact it will have on customer organizations.

And the benefits are too high to ignore the consumerization.

About Author:-

Venkataraman A R, is passionate about HR Technology. He is currently the Assistant Vice President of HCM Technology Practice at Hexaware Technologies. He has a combined experience of 25+ years in HR & HR Technology, in various roles. Prior to Hexaware, he dabbled at being an Entrepreneur, running a start-up. In his current role as Offerings Lead at Hexaware, he works with HCM Practice in providing Future State HR Technology solutions to customers.

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