Helena Sjöström about HR, coding and the interaction human – technology
The human interaction with technology will only increase. This creates opportunities and challenges in all types of organizations and professional roles. To take advantage of the opportunities we must have an open mind to technology. “An understanding that we constantly need to learn new things is a mindset everyone will need to have. We will no longer be educating ourselves for a job, instead we will have to work on constantly training and developing ourselves. Approaching technology then becomes an area relevant to everyone.” Says Helena Sjöström, one of the initiators of HRgoesTech and GoTech from NOX Consulting. NOX Consulting is a virtual consulting company in the gig economy with a network of over 1500 freelance IT-consultants and through the sister company NOX Academy they create programming camps for children.
Helena is educated within behavioral science, she has extensive experience from the HR area, as a business developer and as CEO. At a time when many people experience the rapid progress of digitization as a threat, she has, together with her colleague Madeleine Harju, started the initiative HRgoesTech, where they teach out coding to increase knowledge about digitization. An initiative that, after the great interest, resulted in GoTech. To HR2 Mentor Helena shares the importance of the HR role in organizations and how HR and digitization are connected.
How started your interest in digitization and coding?
– Almost 10 years ago I started at a small IT consulting company. Back then I didn’t know anything about IT. I didn’t even know what a server or operating system was, so I bought a basic course book in programming. It was my first contact with code. My practical experience of programming grew when I started at NOX, mostly since we have programming camps for children. Through HRgoesTech and GoTech, NOX today makes programming workshops and trainings for entire organizations, and often as a part of the company’s digitalization journey, where our efforts will be made concrete by everyone having to test programming. After a few hours of workshop, most people think that it is pretty cool and the experience always gives good discussions and insights. It is both creative, a form of problem solving and something we actually benefit from in many different contexts.
How did you get into the area of digitization and HR?
– When me and my colleague Madeleine Harju started HRgoesTech, we did it because we both could relate to a knowledge gap that we experienced in the roles we have had within HR. When we then looked at what made us better in our HR roles, we could state that the knowledge of code and digitization had been very helpful. We then created a setup where we taught basic understanding of programming. Because it is not about everyone having to become good developers. Basic technical knowledge is good enough. However, as time went on, we realized that it is not only HR that lack knowledge about programming. It’s all professional roles. It is surprisingly many people who have never seen code even though the world we live in is largely driven by technology and software.
Why do you need this basic understanding? Isn’t it enough that you know how to use the technological systems you work in?
– Most people can agree that IT and technology change our societies, our organizations, but also how we as humans behave. The interaction between humans and technology will only increase. No matter what professional role you will have, no matter what you will work with, in your work life you will meet the increased digitization in some form. Perhaps you will order or demand IT in the future, or you will work with some form of business development that is most likely connected to IT. It is important to remember that the smallest element in all this is code. If you have a basic understanding of how IT is developed and what programming is, it will be easier for you to facilitate.
How will our future organizations look?
– That is a very fun question I thought a lot about. It is my positive belief is that HR will be even more relevant. To digitize HR through good tools and systems I think is a hygiene factor in order to be quick, flexible but also wise in doing the right things. What distinguishes those who succeed well and not is to prioritize doing just the right things. Then you need to ensure that you, as an HR professional, can spend time on leadership, on values and on culture. What is the culture in our organization and how do we work with it continuously? It is my future belief that HR will work much more to ensure that you get the right people in the companies and also help them to exist and develop in the organization. From what I see today, HR often gets stuck in administrative and coordinating work. There is nothing more important for HR than constantly developing leadership, behaviors and how the employees are with each other and around each other. I think there is a risk that if you do not step on the digitalization now, then everything that you will have to deliver as an HR department will require more and more people to get the results you need. Then you end up in the wrong balance.
Is there a concern within the HR profession that digitization will take over the professional role?
– Perhaps a certain concern but also combined with a little bad self-confidence: “here is something that I have no idea about”. The technology redefines the HR area, just as it redefines many other professional roles. Will AI start to recruit instead of me? It will come with software that replaces parts of what we do today as HR professionals. With a wise digitized HR, I hope that HR will be a more important key function for creating innovation and profitability regardless of industry by focusing on culture and leadership. I think it is these areas that determine how you succeed or not as an organization and I hope that the HR profession will do more about those parts.
“Digitizing HR through good tools and systems I think is a hygiene factor in order to be quick, flexible but also wise in doing the right things.”
– The right way to go is to equip yourself with competence and somewhere realize that “I live in a time when I will always have to continue learning”. Approaching technology is something that becomes relevant to virtually everyone.
Do you see any risks in not following the digital development?
– I think it’s crunchy. If you do not make technology your friend and something that can help, then I think you will find it difficult. However, if you follow the development it will be easier to be quick enough, flexible enough and insightful enough. There will always be risks and opportunities in parallel and I believe that knowledge and ability to learn is what gives you space to create the role and future you desire.