- Allstate CHRO Carrie Blair believes technology innovation in HR is a crucial preventative measure.
- Blair told Insider it’s important to design tech for employees from a human-centered perspective.
- This article is part of the “Innovation C-Suite” series about business growth and technology shifts.
Insurance leader Allstate has a tradition of technology innovation, implementing everything from usage-based insurance to telematics and quick mobile payments. Recently, the company has turned to focus on its entire approach to technology in HR, Carrie Blair, Allstate’s chief human resources officer, said.
“We’d had some really good innovation on the consumer side over the past few years,” Blair added. “On the employee side, the challenge has always been how to prioritize consumer-grade experiences for people inside the company.”
Now, she said, Allstate is working to deploy a variety of digital solutions, including self-service tools for tasks that are repetitive and frequently used; hybrid workspace options such as remote collaboration; a curated learning platform to support employee development; and a tool called MyAnalytics that offers employees insight into their work patterns.
In a post-pandemic world, all HR organizations need to focus on advancing innovation, Blair points out. “I think we will fail our employees if we don’t embrace new technology,” she said. “They really want the experience of interacting with their organization to be like they’re interacting as a consumer.”
Blair suggested three ways HR leaders can advance human-centered technology innovation:
1. Change the HR mindset and skillset around technology.
“You can’t just force technology on employees and tell them to use it,” Blair said. “You have to help them see that new technologies and capabilities can bring new outcomes.” It’s also about shifting the department’s mindset away from the idea that the technology team will always be the one to bring new ideas forward, as well as making sure HR team members develop more tech-related skills. “You have to open your aperture and bring the outside in,” she said.
2. Think about HR technology design.
Consider how technology is designed from a human-centered perspective, Blair said. That means moving beyond the process of implementing a technology solution to thinking about the whole interaction from end-to-end, as an experience. “I really think about the employee experience throughout the entire life cycle, every time they want to interact,” she said.
3. Instill organizational agility.
HR organizations need to be open to testing, learning, and changing over and over again, Blair said. “Traditionally, we have never rewarded failure,” she explained. “We come from areas that are risk-averse, wanting perfection.” Now, however, agility, including a willingness to fail, is essential. “We should reward people for learning lessons and sharing them with others,” she said.
Blair also believes in cross-functional collaboration.
In addition to the three tips, Blair said that HR leaders need to learn as much as they can about technology innovation, whether it is reading reports from Gartner and Accenture or bringing in consulting teams who can advise about what technology would make the organization more efficient and effective. She adds that she is looking at a professional development course in digital disruption.
Blair also gained important knowledge by being part of an advisory board of an AI-driven startup focused on technology to upskill employees. “Being part of that and going to pitch meetings was really helpful because I could hear what their customers were learning,” she said.
Finally, having a great network to share ideas and experiences is crucial. “I have a number of CHROs that have been colleagues for many years, they are at all different stages of the technology innovation journey,” Blair said. “I learn from them, and I can also share ideas so they can continue to deliver amazing employee experiences.”
Embracing tech innovation is an enterprising measure.
HR organizations that don’t embrace and advance technology innovation face significant consequences down the road, Blair said. Companies might not achieve business and growth objectives because falling behind on technology innovation can impact effectiveness, efficiency, or productivity.
In addition, it may exacerbate an employee engagement gap. “If you don’t use technology and leverage it in a way that engages employees and how they interact with the company, I think over time it will really erode the relationship,” she warned. “Then, ultimately, I think you’re going to lose talent.”
That’s why Allstate is working to make its HR technology ecosystem as effective as possible and determining where gaps remain, Blair said. “I’ve always believed in taking care of people, and I think that’s what insurance does,” she added. “I’m excited that HR has a significant role to play both in terms of using technology to help our people grow and develop so they can do higher value-added work for consumers.”