Big Ideas About HR Tech: It’s Not (Just) About The Data

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Editor’s Note: You might not expect advice on HR’s future to come from someone with such a lengthy resume. But the unexpected comes naturally to Arte Nathan. In fact, he’s been doing it for 35 years.

As Chief Human Resources Officer for Steve Wynn's gaming companies, his innovative approach to employee relations – which included personally meeting thousands of applicants in order to shake hands and look them in the eyes – is the stuff of hiring legend. 

We asked him for his thoughts on the future of HR, including challenges, necessary skills, and the role of technology.

You’ve seen a lot of change during your HR career. What’s the biggest problem that remains in HR today?

It's not just a problem in the hospitality industry, I think it's true for HR in every business. It’s understanding that the people you hire and manage are people who have the same needs and desires and hopes as you do – or any of us do. You have to treat employees like people, which means being fair and respectful and creating trust and honesty.

"You have to treat employees like people, which means being fair and respectful and creating trust and honesty."


Human resources professionals often cite lack of funds or lack of company support as barriers to their success or development. What advice would you give to someone facing these challenges?

People do complain about a lack of support or a lack of resources. But what’s really is lacking is the creativity to address problems logically and effectively. If human resources professionals learn to better communicate what they're doing and why, then they’ll gain the support they need.

It's rarely just about money. It's about having the organizational support to be able to talk to people in a certain way, to be able to present things in a certain way, and to move the organization towards a certain culture. I don't think that’s wholly dependent on money.



You’ve worked with a lot of HR tech in your career. How important is it to become data driven as an HR professional today?

Data drives everything in our society. We all access Google every day. Look at the data that they collect. When you log on to one website, it seems to know you've been on other websites and serve you ads that are related to your previous searches. That’s all data driven.

You can do the same with understanding people's needs in an organization. You can analyze data from an employee app in your company. Study what people look at, what information they access, what programs they’re excited by. You can do the same thing with a company app that Amazon does on a global basis.

Most big companies use customer relationship management software. I think most companies could use ERM, employee relationship management. If you do that effectively then you start to understand who you have in the company, what they're interested in, and what motivates them. Data is a very important part of our world and our profession going forward.

Are the core competencies for HR are changing or is it just new face, the same game?

The competencies around HR are pretty much the same today as they were 35 years ago when I started. What’s different is the ability to personalize things. When you work in a small organization, you can easily get to know what's important to the people around you. But the larger organizations get, the less personal they tend to get.

The technology  available today allows organizations of any size to personalize the message, to personalize the experience, in ways that wow their employees, in ways that support the culture that HR always thinks is important.

Technology is the biggest tool that we in HR have ever had. We've got to figure out how to maximize its utility and its effectiveness. HR people, whatever competencies they have, better understand technology because that will be the tool that drives their other ideas.



Any additional advice?

If you've got a good idea, don't be afraid to tell somebody. If you think something is smart and your organization ought to try it, then tell someone. If you're right and it's a good thing, then you'll be a hero. If you're wrong and it's not going to work, you'll learn something.

"...keeping it to yourself, not having either the skill or the guts to stand up and raise your hand is not the way you want to be in HR."

In either event, keeping it to yourself, not having either the skill or the guts to stand up and raise your hand, is not the way you want to be in HR. I say go for it. You've got nothing to lose.

Want more HR tech tips? Follow us on Twitter to join the conversation with @goodhiretweets and the HR community.
Arte Nathan

Arte Nathan


Arte Nathan is President & COO at Strategic Development Worldwide, A full-service consulting team with expertise in building high-output organizations. He served as Chief Human Resources Officer for Steve Wynn's gaming companies from 1983–2006.

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Arte Nathan

Arte Nathan

President & COO at Strategic Development Worldwide
Deb McGrath

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Founder and Chief Instigator of
Tony Le

Tony Le

Sr. Director, Global HR Operations & Talent Acquisition at IAC Publishing
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Head of Global Recruitment Branding, Oracle

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