The Modern HR Staff is Seeking a....CIO/CTO?!!

Philip Dana, VP HR Ops, Zovio
Philip Dana, VP HR Ops, Zovio

Philip Dana, VP HR Ops, Zovio

There are several talent trends across the HR industry. We’re seeing the CHRO become the Chief People Officer (CPO), heavy in culture, recruiting, and development. Some organizations are replacing CHROs with former operations leaders to bring the HR team closer to the business.  Some HR departments are combining Total Rewards and Talent Management to focus on up skilling and developing the workforce as a competitive advantage. The trend growing faster than others is perhaps the most important – HR leaders are adding a Chief Technology Officer to their HR staff, minus the “chief.”

This new “HRTO/HRIO” pairs accurate people insights to the business. The use of AI, machine learning, and fully mobile-enabled people tech with advanced analytics and reporting capabilities is driving a new language in HR.  Jargon such as “tech debt, SaaS roadmap, bidirectional integrations, security settings, agile scrum, mobile-enabled, and digitized” is growing.  I have personally sat in recent HR meetings where, if I closed my eyes and didn’t know the context, I might think I was in the CIO/CTO’s staff meeting. 

 To the HR leaders out there, you may want to walk much more in the shoes of the CIO/CTO, and to the CIO’s and CTO’s, you may have a future as a HRIO/TO!​​  

At several recent HR conferences, I found most of the conversations move quickly to what systems your workforce is on, what tech has HR implemented recently, and what’s the new cool platform you plan on plugging in to make life easier, better, or cheaper. But then, outside of the conference space, I rarely hear HR leaders talking about their “HR tech roadmap,” how much of their annualized budget goes to “R&D / tech-debt,” or how HR technology directly affects customers and has a measurable impact on EBIDTA or shareholder value. This is a gap that needs a tech leader within the HR team to bridge.

At Zovio, we are pivoting from being an owner of an online accredited university to becoming a modern and agile deliverer of education technology services. This on-going transformation has included launching our new brand, acquiring two new companies, growing a remote workforce, introducing modern wellness offerings and unlimited PTO, and moving our headquarters from San Diego to an ultra-modern facility in Chandler, Arizona, to name just a few projects. We couldn’t have accomplished all of that within two years if we stayed with our traditional HR Information System, continued to use a bare-bones Applicant Tracking System, and remained anchored in desktop applications. 

In order to create a HR Center of Excellence and introduce a completely new suite of tools for Zovio, we needed to think like a CIO/CTO and lay out a “tech road map,” tie our business case directly to the customer, and deliver clear measurable impact. We needed to think in “crawl, walk, run” phases and use agile methodologies to launch each phase. We also had to blow-up our HR budget and redesign it, with “tech-debt / R&D” in mind for future enhancements to make us faster, cheaper, and better. By no surprise, this meant we had to quickly attract, assess, select, and onboard the expertise that you would normally find in a large IT department. How much easier would all of these processes have been had we been thinking about an HRTO all along?

To the HR leaders out there, you may want to walk much more in the shoes of the CIO/CTO, and to the CIO’s and CTO’s, you may have a future as a HRIO/TO!

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