The Human Resources (HR) function is spellbound by the times in which we live, ones of digital turmoil and societal change. Once any of these factors reaches critical mass, businesses are bound to pledge adherence —there isn’t another option anyway — and so must everything HR. The, “It’s just a matter of time” justification is more and more common in conversations and believing in fate seems to become a thing these days.
Personalisation and automation have reached that critical mass we just referred to, and most businesses are trying to catch up to them. Those who still go against the tide argue that they fundamentally answer humans’ hedonistic nature. It could be, given that the former makes us feel unique, and the robots—powered by software and machines—can perform the boring tasks we have always wanted to get rid of, making more space for creative and cognitive work. But, is it the right time to go anti-establishment?
The HR function is at a crossroads. It could simply continue in its needed supporting role as a people policy administrator, guarantor of workforce and functional excellence, or it could become a true enabler of business outcomes. HR professionals know what the best option is. And if they don’t, well they will. It’s just a matter of time, you know?
Whichever the choice, whatever the trend and wherever the wind blows, the history of business success has a cornerstone, the employees, even if one day the child-like dream of a world with friendly robots becomes reality. Even then.
Personalisation has the potential to fight talent scarcity and the so-called skills gap, the critical side effects that technological developments are bringing. It could also become central to employee engagement, one of the most cited HR challenges when one is reading nowadays. The bet on personalising HR is, however, far from being a department-level decision. It’s a reflection of a business culture that evolves with the time, and whose values should embed what the social changes and employees expectations ask for. Personalising HR is, ultimately, a mindful decision the company makes.
Accepting that employment, in the broadest sense, is no longer a one-way street is a fact that businesses have understood quite well. They know they need to demonstrate why employees should choose them (attraction and acquisition or “the candidate experience”) and why they should stick with them (retention).
How do they move from here? By cascading and automating where and when it is needed.
A dynamic business culture influences, in turn, how leadership is understood and applied, how hierarchy is conceived and deployed, how the inclusion of diversity is embedded in the organisations’ values and processes, how career development follows a streamlined process that’s fair and consistent and how change is embraced and operationalised in the day-to-day business.
And all of them, because they allow for a psychologically-healthy business environment, have the power to positively influence employee engagement. The list of options to boost the commitment of employees ranges from offering different and creative savings opportunities, to organising health days, offering loan aids for studies, housing or any other options, implementing flexible work and offering advantageous health insurance plans, among others.
Automating when needed results in better people experiences, at all touch points a professional can have with a business. Some companies, for instance, are adding tools to their interview process for a more frequent and personalised contact with the candidate. That makes the process more approachable and the experience more enriching and potentially unforgettable, no matter the outcome.
Others are using automation tools to reduce bias from cv screenings as much as possible. This positively affects the number of matching candidates to any open position, broadening the possibilities of closing the skills gap.
Equally, the automation of the recruitment process can free HR teams from administrative tasks, improving the experience and hiring better-match employees faster. The list of advantages linked to automation can go on and on.
This article summarises the warm and brainy conversations we held with a handful of HR professionals during an industry event some weeks ago. To make their answers comparable and have the possibility to outline some tendencies, we asked all of them the same eight questions. This is what they consider as their priorities.
The five things buzzing around the minds of HR professionals
The financial services industry is undergoing a transformation, brought by the constant technological developments and changes in the work market and workforce. The lack of talent is a growing challenge of industries like banking and insurance. HR professionals must consider changing up the game in both recruitment and talent management and find ways to adapt to new employee demands. Covering more ground and making sure that workforce strategies are fit for the future is now part of their “due diligence”.
During warm conversations we had with several HR experts, we found out they have priorities in common, which we summarise and discuss below:
Think of recruitment 360°
Challenges over the lack of people with key skills and the right combination of capabilities is, arguably, the top concern among the HR professionals we spoke to. And it isn’t going away any time soon.
One of the reasons is that the young generations lean towards working for socially-conscious organisations that are better aligned to their personal values. In the same line, they are looking for meaningfulness at work, being less and less hesitant to switch organisations when there is a mismatch between what it was promised and their actual working experience in the organisation.
To make things more complicated for businesses, younger generations are increasingly using social media and job-rating sites to research prospective employers, which influences the decision on whether to apply for and take up roles.
There’s a growing demand for transparency and information sharing throughout the recruitment process. Transparency benefits both employers and employees in the selection process, and fosters a closer cultural fit. Recruiters want to provide candidates with greater access to information about the business and its aims.
On the more practical aspect, the HR professionals we chatted with acknowledge the importance of having a competitive salary, along with an attractive package. Top talents are very aware of their value in the market. Unmet demands will surely lead them to search for a new work destination. As the workforce grows more versatile and adaptable, and goes mobile and digital, business strategies will shift to take advantage of changing market dynamics.
Employers must be smart with their recruiting strategies, focusing their efforts around the business’ strong recruiting brand that adheres to the organisation’s vision and goals, but also all the advantages that come with working for the company.
This is what HR pros suggest for a fit for digital recruitment practice:
- Adapt global human capital strategies to regional and local realities.
- Rebuild trust and redefine employer brand to attract and retain tomorrow’s workforce.
- Align employer and employee values, promoting integration between HR and other areas of the business, such as Communications and Finance.
- Focus on building ‘multi-hatted’ talent that combine business, technical and regulatory acumen. This will enhance cross-functional execution capability and credibility.
- Redesign the job framework— roles, responsibilities and salary, based on the organisations’ business models and disruptive automation technology, and implement compensation models to reward contribution to business value.
- Implement strategic workforce planning to better anticipate and plan for a variety of scenarios and changes to strategy.
- Reach out to non-traditional sources of talent such as people taking vocational courses rather than full degrees.
- Implement a campus manager in the HR team, responsible for the relations between the company and universities, organising recruitment campaigns on campus.
- Develop talent communities, such as IT, crisis management and marketing, to connect with candidates and keep them up-to-date with company news, events and opportunities.
- Focus on increasing diversity and managing its inclusion – gender and sexual diversity, generational, ethnicity and diversity of experience and industry.
- Consider taking advantage of other pools of talent, such as women recently out of maternity leave or the spouses of foreign workers that have joined a local organisation. Their skill sets, international background and motivation can make the difference your business needs.
- Provide meaningful and immersive pre-employment visualisation and experience through gamification, virtual reality, shadowing, and short-term trials (i.e. ‘day in the life’ preview)
Free the tension around talent retention
If the first priority seems challenging, this one could be a goliath task. HR pros are aware of the need to match the business realm with the new workforce demands, but it’s easier said than done.
Employee engagement and brand loyalty are issues plaguing HR pros’ minds. They know job satisfaction and productivity depend on an equitable workplace where there is honest communication and as-healthy-as-possible relationships between the employer and the employees. Businesses are poised to be people-centric, more and more.
However, engaged employees don’t turn like Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It takes more than a potion to gain employee engagement. It needs a solid strategy, persistence and calculated effort. HR professionals know they have to get creative to make sure their employees remain engaged in their work and loyal to the company.
See what HR pros tell you to consider to level up talent retention and engagement:
- Implement programmes and embed behaviours that reinforce the redefined culture, employer brand, sense of purpose and reestablish trust with talent.
- Provide a clear view of all the Learning and Development (L&D) initiatives and how they can contribute to employees’ career development.
- Revitalise organisational purpose and employer brand to align with evolving business’ stakeholder expectations in key areas including career paths, diversity, flexibility and delivering value to society.
Make careers unforgettable
It’s now crucial to develop dynamic workforce supply/demand models to prepare for the workforce of the future. The ROI (Return on Investment) from university education is being challenged because it doesn’t necessarily fill in the workforce skills gap. And, let’s be honest on this one, it will take quite a good time for academic institutions to transform their learning curricula.
Then, it falls in the hands of HR departments to adapt to the needs of the present and those of the future. There is no other way to go about this.
Given the growing importance of L&D initiatives long-term, one of the challenges of HR departments is to focus resources on these programmes that are so important to employees’ growth and productivity. A review and rethink of traditional L&D models is needed to create a more immersive learning environment, and drive employee skills development through the course of their careers.
The aim is to help people to gain new skills, provide opportunities for them to get out of their own professional role and explore others. At the same time, it’s about adding a “refresh” button to the daily work life, effectively breaking the routine. Not only does it stimulate the full potential of employees, it also keeps the younger generations invested in the company, building brand loyalty.
Additionally, an internal mobility strategy enables companies to combine several practices and skill sets to rethink old products, create new services and develop new ways and more flexible ways of working.
Here is what HR pros can consider when thinking about career management:
- Develop and implement flexible work options such as home-base working and/or working at borders, giving employees the choice to manage their own workload and time according to their needs and personal responsibilities.
- Propose job rotations and secondments to broaden employees’ skill set, making them more resilient to future change.
- Deliver training programmes that leverage the reach and convenience of technology to be more cost and time efficient for employees, such as MOOCs and other online courses.
- Apprenticeships within companies for students.
- Coaching between teams, allowing them to explore other roles, responsibilities and projects.
- Influence curriculum design via partnerships with universities, including the development of customised programming to match company needs.
- Promote lifelong learning and adaptability through regular re-skilling to meet changes in market events or business model.
HR mingles with technology
The HR professionals we spoke to, explained that for them the use of technology in HR would be, firstly, destined to facilitate internal processes, followed by its use in recruitment. As technology is meant to push time-consuming tasks into the hands of softwares and bots, this particular priority doesn’t come as a surprise.
Assessment and organisational tools, for example, could facilitate tasks such as follow-ups between HR professionals and team managers and ensure another level of internal data security and filtering. Other tools like learning platforms, could just be what businesses need to transform and develop their L&D strategies, making two-way feedback more effective.
Here are advices for when considering the use of technology in HR:
- Ensure investments in HR technology include robust data analytics and visualisation capabilities (either acquired externally or developed internally).
- Automate processes to reduce the time spent on repetitive tasks and boost employees’ experience.
- Recruit and develop HR talent with quantitative data modelling skill set, as well as the ability to interpret data and understand its business implications.
- Provide employees with transparency and assurance over how their data is being used, explaining the added-value of that information.
Digital transformation is both a process and an outcome. It’s a revolutionary change that is pushing technology to the centre stage of businesses mindset and culture. Technology is the tool to facilitate the lives of employers and employees alike. It’s also unavoidable for businesses that want to remain competitive in the market, as you’re probably very much aware.
Automation of work is commonplace; business- process management solutions and cloud-based HR technologies are automating formerly manual tasks – such as on-boarding, recruitment, workload management, performance reviews), allowing HR professionals to dedicate their time to more strategic and high value tasks and activities. By doing so, it boosts workforce productivity and engagement.
Here are some of the things digitalisation can bring to HR departments:
- Analyse impact of new technologies, such as robotic process automation for repeatable tasks on job roles, accountabilities, skills and mindset
- Make use of efficiency gains from increased HR self-service to refocus HR on strategic projects that have direct impact on business strategy (e.g. talent strategy development, workforce planning and employer brand promotion)
- Develop programmes that enable workers displaced by technology to be upskilled and redeployed internally.
You can learn quite a bit from meaningful conversations with people. This article is proof of that.
The conversations we had with HR experts showed us that technology is a priority mainly to facilitate internal HR processes. Despite the growing fear of job digitalisation, HR professionals remain unconcerned about work automation. On the contrary, they’re more concerned with the human side of the workforce, mostly related to the lack of talent and specific skills sets.
But like Pythagoras wisely said “Concern should drive us into action and not into a depression”. No matter the challenges HR professionals face, the only path available is forward.
What we think
If we want to understand in which direction the HR function should evolve, then let’s refocus on the human expectations and behaviours.
The collaborators of tomorrow are eager to build professional experiences that impact themselves and the world they live in. However, for organisations to become true active drivers of that development, the one-size-fit-all approach isn’t longer valid!
The work of tomorrow doesn’t match the old standards: one type of working contract, an established working time, a unique location, or traditionally linear career paths which don’t answer the current workers’ reality. Emotional intelligence, soft skills and behavioural competencies will be in high demand, and an organisation’s learning curriculum should contribute to grow or augment these human capabilities.
The HR function needs to articulate a valid answer to the increasingly common question workers pose: “why do we do what we do ” because it brings purpose to the day-to-day work. Equally, it should cherish values such as solidarity, respect and honesty. Both, working environment and purpose should align with a sustainability agenda and reflect a culture of inclusion.
Among the numerous challenges for the HR function, there is one that’s urgent: set a frame where people evolve more freely, are accountable for their professional choices and are guided by a clear business and sustainable-related vision…and time management might be the next remuneration model!