In this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast, Anna Carlsson dives into the topic of technology’s role in HR. She believes there is a lack of maturity in the HR world when it comes to digitalization and is passionate about helping organizations become future-focused by incorporating new technology practices. Along with host Rhonda Taylor, they discuss HR’s challenges in the new world of work and how those issues can be better addressed.
As a Senior Management Consultant, Anna Carlsson has been in the HR space for over 20+ years and stands at the intersection of business, people, and technology. She hosts a Swedish Podcast called HR Digitaliseringspodden where she further discusses the many benefits of technology in HR and how AI can put your organization a step ahead in the war for talent. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn and check out her Podcast.
For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentexperiencepodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast!
Rhonda Taylor 00:24
Welcome to another episode of the Talent Experience Podcast. I'm your host Rhonda Taylor, and today we have a guest from Sweden, Anna Carlsson. Anna is an active international influencer, who helps HR departments improve business results, often by applying HR technology. She has a strong advocate of HR having a seat at the board level, believing that HR activities carry tremendous impact on business results, therefore, the bottom line. She is the queen of HR digitalization in the Nordics. Anna, first of all, let me say welcome. And is there anything else I failed to share with the audience that you care to? Let them know!
Anna Carlsson 01:20
Thank you so much for having me, and I would for sure put the queen of HR digitalization on my LinkedIn profile now, so I don't have that, haha! But just to say something more about me, I've been working my whole life with linking businesses and technology in different ways. And now with HR, it's been more than 10 years focusing on this area.
Rhonda Taylor 01:49
Right, right. And before we jump into the topic, and I love our topic, let's talk about your podcast. Why don't you share with us the information about your podcast tell us the name? And when and where, why you started it, and how we find it?
Anna Carlsson 02:10
Yes, so it's in Swedish, so let's see who can listen to it. I think I have one episode in English, which is where the Fuel50 some two years ago. But anyway, it's called HR Digitaliseringspodden, that's Swedish for the HR digitalization podcast. And it's available on all devices, I would say. So, Apple, Spotify, (inaudible) which is used in Sweden and so on. And so, the background of my podcast was that I was quite frustrated back in 2019, working independently with trying to talk to HR about the value of digitalization and also about analytics, which was kind of a bit separate at that time. And realizing that the people who work in HR quite scared of talking about technology, and they don't want to expose themselves in their inability to talk about this that they don't know about it, and so on. So, I tried to work directly with HR, but I couldn't get their ear. So, I decided to find a way to reach out with all the knowledge that I've gathered over the years, and all the people I meet and decided that I'm not a writer, so I had to use speaking spoken word. And at that time, podcasts were not the most active thing. But I decided to go ahead. So, I released the first one in end of, in September 2019.
Rhonda Taylor 04:00
Wow. Well, and I know that you have a very strong following across the Nordics. Last time we spoke you, Anne Fulton and I, we discussed and we focused on the lack of maturity, towards technology in the HR community. You are truly concerned about the immaturity of HR when it comes to using technology. What is your perspective on this?
Anna Carlsson 04:35
Yes, so we first have to think about the type of companies that we have in the Nordics. We do have the big ones that people know about, like the Spotify, and the Ericsson, and IKEAs. And those are not the ones I talk about it but it's all of the others that when you look at the community of HR people, I mean they haven't chosen to go into HR to work in technology, at least not here, it's they have their people focus. They have studied behavioural science or leadership or organization. And when it comes to technology, as mentioned, when talking about my podcast, I can see that there is really not the biggest interest, but it's turning around a bit right now. But they don't believe really in it, I see sometimes. But mostly, it's because they don't exactly know how to utilize technology. So even when you start to work with them in different engagements, they realize that they use technology for their everyday life, but they cannot really get that to, you know, when you start to focus on work and people that they work with, and to understand how technology can help. So, the only area they start to understand where technology can assist is more or less the HR system, the base solutions, core HR, and really only taking the way they work today and move that into a system. So, it's a lot of things here, but I'm concerned that there is no innovation in the HR community around utilizing technology.
Rhonda Taylor 06:33
And in the past, there was always the old HR function, payroll, benefits, IT. And now, IT is no longer siloed, it's right across all the various functionalities of HR. And there's a real education process that's being required wouldn't you say so?
Anna Carlsson 07:02
Yes and I believe that, again, with the way that HR people are working together in their own teams, they have a bit of a hard time to expose their lack of knowledge and working together with others with both IT and like finance and data scientist and all of these functions aware where they don't really want to expose that inability.
Rhonda Taylor 07:37
Right, right. What impact does this maturity level have on the HR business community and its people?
Anna Carlsson 07:48
So, right now, we can see that here in the Nordics that what HR is focusing on and what their concerns are, are different. So, we can see that the concern right now is the new coming back to the office, and the hybrid offices. They don't know how to manage that they have issues with hiring, so attraction and hiring and finding competences. And the third one is that they are raising the fact that digitalization is an issue. But these are issues, and they don't fully know how to address them. So, they're still focusing on the things that they can work on. So, the direct relationship with people focusing on health, focusing on work environment, and also, so they continue doing things. So, the tactical activities that they have to complete every day, but they don't get to these challenging topics, and don't get to kind of raising their eyes and looking at looking out on what's really needed for the business. So, what this impacts is really the growth of the organizations. And at the same time during the pandemic, everyone in HR has been able to get a better seat at the table to discuss topics about people. But at the same time, we can see here that they haven't been able to get the resources to move ahead with different strategic initiatives and they haven't gained the resources, that means both people and money, so we are kind of at a standstill and nobody's really able to articulate why they should do it. And I mean, it's a big topic to talk, why should you use technology, but you and I know what digitalization can do for the business is to really find and understand where you need to focus on your people. If you don't start to digitize and digitalize, you can't get data. And if you don't have data, you can't analyse your business. So, it's like a catch 22, you'll never get anywhere. And there are so many benefits if you could use technology in different areas. So, for the hiring and for all the technology we have to support as finding and hiring resources, for example.
Rhonda Taylor 10:57
Would you say that with COVID, and the explosion of the remote workforce going to their homes, HR digitalization just blew up. And I really think we're all running to catch up with it.
Anna Carlsson 11:20
Yeah, and it's two parts of it, because it blew up in the way that you had to think about the people were at home, and you realize that you didn't have systems for doing the basic work. So here at least, we have an explosion of projects, focusing, but it's still focusing only on moving what we already do as HR and move that to two different HR solution, it's not like we are using the technology to innovate. So yes, it was pushed, and you had to find ways, but I think also it was not HR who found and supported the teams with technology, was IT creating the digital environment. And we're still behind, at least here on the other parts.
Rhonda Taylor 12:19
I agree with you. I believe, you know, it's pretty global. So, what is your recommendation?
Anna Carlsson 12:29
Yeah, you have to start to release time to look strategically on what you need to accomplish. And if you don't know about technology, and what it really is to do digitalization projects, and what's there for you, because there are so many different solutions nowadays, you need to find time to educate yourself. So that's one thing, you know, read books, listen to podcasts, attend seminars, we meet with different suppliers. And then my suggestion that I raise is that you should have a digitalization mentor. So, someone that can be there for you. So, you don't have, you know, to bring you from where you are as an organization and move you ahead. And if you're too small to have that in house, you can have someone supporting you from externally because I also believe that it must be HR who owns this topic. Because if you only continue to bring in someone from the outside to do your project for you, then they leave. And then the projects kind of they stay as where they are, they don't develop, and you don't get to that strategic business value. So, educate, learn, and make sure you get time for this important strategic work and don't continue just doing things.
Rhonda Taylor 14:07
Yeah, and we're witnessing that I think in the business world where many salespeople are part of their sales process is first to educate, educate the technology's impact to the business. And then the second part of the sales process is the start educating how this technology can play a role in your in results. And as a result, there's a lot of companies that their sales processes a long time, which it shouldn't be, you know, I spoke with William Tincup a while back and he says, Rhonda, you know, people should understand technology now. It's part of the everyday world. But we're not seeing it are we?
Anna Carlsson 15:07
No, but I see a glimpse of a change, because just now after our summer, which just, you know, it's been a couple of months after that. I've seen that it has shifted a bit in who talks about digitalization. I mean, I've been working on this, as I mentioned, 10 years with HR. And only now I can see that it's not only the suppliers and us who work in it as influences who talks about this. It started to come from the HR organization, and HR people themselves. So, I'm very happy to see this shift, but it's still just talking. So, it's still not acting.
Rhonda Taylor 15:56
Right. Right. And I love that you're talking about the summer. For our listeners, as in Sweden, they are basically checked out of their office for at least a month. And you know, that's a little bit of heaven for a lot of us here in North America. So finally, at the Talent Experience, we wholeheartedly believe that everyone should be passionate about their career journey. Anna, as someone who has obviously on top of her A-Game, please share with all of us how you keep the positive energy flowing.
Anna Carlsson 16:38
I do focus on meeting a lot of people. I know it's been hard during COVID than I am to schedule time with people I don't know. So, focusing on meeting and from different generations in different places. I also spend a lot of my time in the ski slopes and in that you can also meet other people and talk about what they do because inspiration and innovation comes from different people in different places.
Rhonda Taylor 17:12
I love that. That is so much part of the well-being side of your business.
Anna Carlsson 17:17
Rhonda Taylor 17:20
Anna Carlsson from Sweden. I wholeheartedly want to thank you for being a guest today.
Anna Carlsson 17:27
Thank you so much for inviting me.
Rhonda Taylor 17:30
Right, and thank you all for listening to the Talent Experience Podcast.