3 Ways That SMEs Can Get the Most from HR Technology in 2023

Published on
09/02/2023 11:37 AM
Photo by Martin Shreder on Unsplash

Having lived through our lowest interest rates in some 700 years (ed - one to tell the grandkids), big Tech sneezed and the SME world is desperately trying not to catch a cold. Unpredictable market conditions, after the pandemic buffering, strike again and we’re at the PR level of damage control as the annual pay awards come looming over the horizon. Reward teams look nervously at the outworkings of their REMCO’s decision on CEO pay, before carving out a revamped compensation philosophy.  As for the Recruiters, they’ve either been sacrificed at the alter of long-term ‘hire to grow’ campaigns or have been looking inwardly to search for value in the desire of long-term employees to learn new tricks as our digital nation remains under-resourced.

One other thing is for sure and that is the budget for HR Technology spend this year will be harder to find than an honest politician at Westminster!

So, given the business case for automation, decision support and employee experience has been generally accepted now, what can we do this year?

Here are 3 ideas to keep you on track in 2023:

1. Focus on value creation & problem-solving

I’m still amazed at the erratic nature of HR Technology usage in our SMEs. During the growth years, for many, it’s because we started with the technology and tried to fit it to our problems, rather than the other way around. In many cases, we selected ‘shiny new’ technology without having a clear enough understanding of the problems that really exist in our business or worse still, trying to do efficiently something that should not have been done at all (Thanks Mr Drucker!).

Whilst context is important, in 2023, I’d expect all our SMEs to be dealing with slow growth talent strategies, ramping up retention through learning and well-designed employee experiences, fixing skill gaps and redesigning new organisational systems as strategies change. Have we got technology enablers leaning into these problems and aligned with wider cultural strategies?

2. Your basic HR Tech stack in 2023

As a minimum, I’d propose the following be in place, or on your near-term roadmap:

Human Resource Information System (HRIS) 

The tech backbone holds all the core people data and sized to fit the appropriate size of the business – stay clear of the big vendors and go for a smaller vendor (I’m agnostic but here’s a comparison site to assess a longlist) and ensure it’s scalable to fit future requirements too. These future requirements are always beyond the table stakes of control, reporting and compliance. If in review mode or looking to optimise the old core system, don’t forget adoption rates across the business are an indicator of its true value.


Who’d have thought that boring old Payroll would become , but it has. It’s a core element of the employee experience and with inputs from HRIS and attendance, the outputs are now growing in important features, especially since the pandemic. The benefits administration, rewards and recognition, wellbeing, discounts, and other parts of the comp strategy will grow in importance this year in the face of mounting external CoL pressures on our people.

Talent Management system

Gone are the days of ATS, LMS and silos. This system should support recruitment, performance and learning and it’s a market that has developed enormously in the last few years. You’re now in the retention game, so systems should drive a culture of continuous performance discussions, and learning systems are now moving to ‘in the flow’ interventions and away from large content libraries of the old LMS. With the skills deficit a real issue now, there are  some great tools out there such as Udemy and Modal, that can help you boost your learning offering, help with upskilling of your workforce and build skills-based career pathways. 

Data Analytics

Long gone are the utilities above sitting in splendid isolation. Now we demand to know as much as we can about our people today and to help inform tomorrow’s predictions. No great surprise that one of the most in-demand roles in the US employment market today is the People Analytics one, a skillset that requires a real degree of mastery to create value for the organisation. This is more than dashboards, although failing to get that right with the board has seen many HR teams fall on their sword, and it’s a market that has exploded recently (OrgVue, Visier and Qualtrics to name just three!), as HR has cast off its ‘soft skills’ over-dependency. Keep it simple, focus on the problems you are solving and build that analytics muscle.

Engagement Tech

Within this growing category is a listening capability way beyond the redundant, ritualistic annual survey (tech will show how people are feeling, their drivers and motivations, what they want from their employer) ; network analysis to help understand your value-creating dynamics away from the hierarchy and putting science into any remedial action. I’d also include an expansion into problems around DEI, Wellbeing, CSR and belonging. Old rules still apply – always use the data you collect.

3. Enhance your skill set & knowledge

Finally, whilst there has been a growth of excellent advisory bodies (Lace Partners, Udder and others) it’s way past the time to invest your time and energy into understanding this market. The best HR Tech solutions come from companies who study the market, engage with experts, and ask others what advanced systems are working. Consider 2 excellent learning resources in AIHR and the JBA to help you begin that journey into HR Tech, if that’s where you are.

There has never been a more optimum time to reflect on your current HR Technology stack, challenge long-held beliefs in the business and develop both new & relevant skills and ways of working, to allow your business to be able to remain capable of withstanding 2023 and future external buffering from an unpredictable world. 

Don’t let the moment pass.

Why not consider a 4th idea -  hiring me on a fractional basis, gaining the unique advantage of a seasoned HR & HR Tech practitioner on a part-time or ad hoc basis, to help you develop an effective principle-led HR Tech strategy & roadmap in 2023.

Find out more at www.barryflack.co.uk or get in touch via me@barryflack.co.uk for an initial conversation.

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