Kristy McCann Flynn delivering her presentation in Atlanta (Photo by Dustin Chambers for From Day One)

Eighty-three percent of HR leaders say that lacking the right tech tools makes their job challenging, according to the Society of Human Resource Management. Many HR professionals are looking for quality over quantity in their tech stacks, but they’re getting only the latter.

At From Day One’s conference in Atlanta, Kristy McCann Flynn, the CEO and co-founder of SkillCycle, an employee-development platform, gave a presentation in which she urged employers to take inventory of their HR tech tools and identify what’s helpful and what’s not, and with that newly freed budget, reinvest it into the workforce. 

The systems we have in place today to manage our people were built the wrong way, slowly over time, and have become unmanageable, she asserted. Flynn, who has spent two decades working in HR, sympathized with professionals who feel overwhelmed by the tools they’re expected to use, often a clumsy mix of applicant tracking systems, survey tools, learning and development platforms, benefits engines, and engagement software. In fact, HR can find a tool for just about anything it needs to get done, but those tools don’t always connect, and switching channels constantly is draining.

Flynn believes corporate priorities need an adjustment. “We’ve been incentivizing work-life success backward for decades, leading with the end goal of performance management and not with data and development to drive performance outcomes. To fix this mess, we must address the root cause and develop talent before managing it. We must prioritize human capital development to truly manage human capital,” she said.

Information Overload

Kristy McCann Flynn, CEO and co-founder of SkillCycle (Company photo)

Every HR tool is designed to collect information about a company’s workforce, or even its potential workforce, but much of it goes unused. Employees may participate in engagement surveys or give feedback when asked, but then they never see anything change, or they don’t get the help they need. “Why would you give somebody feedback and collect all this data and then essentially do nothing with that?” said Flynn.

HR and people operations have the information they need, according to Flynn, they just lack the capability to reinvest in their workers and “[bring] it to our people to give them the skills and the ability to do their jobs.”

She advised putting the data to good use for employee enrichment in the form of personalized development programs “to solve the skill issues so HR and organizations are playing offense instead of defense.”

By cleaning house and consolidating tools, Flynn said, money that was previously tied up in unhelpful HR tools can then be reinvested into developing the workforce. She recommended “[putting] all the talent and development and learning together in one epicenter to be able to drive the outcomes that you need for your organization.”

And with fewer tools, HR can spend more time on the human-centric work of the job. “Tech is not a replacement. Tech is an enablement,” said Flynn. “We need to keep that human-centric component because our entire job revolves around people, and unless we all get botted-up, there’s always going to be people. It’s about playing offense and being proactive and taking data and development and bringing it together in a core for people to get the outcomes that they need.”

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, SkillCycle, who sponsored this thought leadership spotlight.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a From Day One contributing editor and freelance reporter who covers the future of work, HR, recruiting, DEI, and women's experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Fast Company, Quartz at Work, and Digiday’s Worklife, among others.