Whether we like it or not, technology is rapidly changing the way companies are organized, and how human resources are managed (from talent acquisition to performance optimization and employee engagement). Some still use buzz words such as “the future of work”, without realizing that the future is already here. The changes HR managers dreamt of to help them do their job more efficiently, and have a measurable impact on overall company performance, are real.
These technological evolutions create a major challenge for HR, which now needs to review processes, tools, and organizations. A 2016 Bersin by Deloitte study on Human Capital Trends shows that 92% of companies are trying to reorganize in a way that allows them to build this new digital culture, yet only 14% are sure they know how. It is obviously key for these companies to realize that if they don’t transform fast enough, and benefit from these fast growing technologies, their survival will be at stake regardless of their size. We have only to remind ourselves of how Kodak disappeared from the screens by not embracing digital photography.
We looked at the new tech trends and HR tools that influence the way you already work today - or will soon - and share some insights below:
1. Mobile first
Over 97% of millennials own a smartphone according to a Nielsen 2016 study. With the explosion of smartphone ownership and high adoption level of other connected devices, an increasing amount of companies are developing mobile optimized tools to help them better communicate with their workforce, empower both individuals and teams, and improve overall company performance through better talent management. But these are not the only reasons mobile is becoming critical for HR people. Mobile devices also allow companies to gather real-time insights from employees and have therefore become efficient listening tools. Through dedicated company apps, organizations can collect feedback about the way employees perceive the company and their work environment, as well as to better understand business topics that matter to them. By showing that they listen to their employees, company executives can create a higher level of engagement.
Another good reason for HR to consider mobile is that the ubiquity of always-connected devices makes learning potentially available everywhere, and accessible to everyone at any time. This evolution puts the employee in control, rather than HR. At the same time, by providing employees with “company-controlled” learning and knowledge-sharing apps, HR departments can show employees what to learn, and take some of that lost control back into their own hands.
2. Cloud-based applications
Software companies and global ERP solutions dominated the HR tools landscape until recently. Smaller players are shaking that status quo by offering user-friendly, cloud-based, flexible, and cheaper solutions that allow HR executives to manage almost any aspect of their job from recruitment to talent development. Most advanced corporations even tend to partner with startups to develop dedicated HRM solutions. Cloud-based solutions offer many benefits to HR departments, especially for Recruitment and Learning and Development teams, where there is a large volume of data to be handled. One of the key benefits is certainly the possibility of combining security and accessibility.
With a high level of data encryption, documents and data can be accessed securely from any location, which allows employees to work from a distance. Next are the savings companies can make. Compared to software and ERP solutions, cloud-based apps don’t require a significant maintenance cost. Over the long term, such solutions deliver a much higher net ROI.
Although gamification is already used a lot by marketing departments to stimulate clients to become and stay active for quite some time now, it hasn’t made a complete breakthrough in all companies yet. Slowly but surely, this is changing. Over the past years, many studies have shown how effective games are at building engagement and improving retention of learning material. An increasing amount of companies, like PwC, Google, L’Oréal, Booking.com, AB Inbev, or Domino’s Pizza, have successfully integrated gamification into their recruitment and talent management processes.
This trend is largely influenced by the broader trend of Design Thinking that puts the employee experience at the center rather than the processes. Knowing that people are flooded with information, it is becoming very difficult for HR people to communicate effectively with their colleagues, or to even get noticed. So how do you create a best-in-class employee experience at all levels? Looking at L&D, gamification based on superior scenario design - including job-relevant problems to solve - is a key element in the creation of a higher level of engagement and can ultimately contribute to sustained employee motivation and improved performance.
4. Big Data, AI and machine learning
Data-driven HR has become a priority for 77% of executives, as mentioned in the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016 study. Through the use of advanced algorithms and automated data analysis, Machine Learning technology allows companies to handle large data sets, identify areas of improvement much faster than before, and benefit from real-time dashboarding solutions. Efficient data measurement and analysis allows for improved performance in multiple areas: recruiting, sales performance, compliance, productivity, and retention. Some examples show how this applies in the field:
Measuring and analyzing the complex interactions of sales behaviors by using a systematic approach allowed a company like HP to create top-performing sales teams.
Today, most companies evaluate HR processes - like annual appraisals - poorly, since they cost too much and are not efficient enough in delivering the needed incremental performance. Accenture is one company that has already replaced its annual review process by a process including machine learning assessment. That approach helps eliminate emotional biases from managers reviews and helps employees to focus on objectives rather than fearing their boss's mood of the day.
Looking at top performing employees and benchmarking their ‘meta data’ (which is the volume of emails, time spent in meetings, time on the phone, etc.) with the data from poor performing colleagues and identifying patterns helped companies to improve performance.
Companies like Google and Facebook already have an in-house personnel analytics team in charge of analyzing the flow of data and providing strategic input. If your company has no in-house capabilities, consulting companies like McKinsey are ready to help.
What would you analyze first if you had internal tools to help you better understand what’s happening in your company?
5. VR and augmented reality
Virtual reality is becoming mainstream in gaming, but it also is starting to have an impact in the workplace with VR training apps. Imagine that you could simulate customers’ behaviour and train your sales force or customer support team for any type of situation they might encounter, all while having fun. That would be great, wouldn’t it? And it shouldn’t be limited to customer contact. You can also develop new products like Ford did in recent years, and have your customers test your company’s products before even building them, or allow your team from around the world to collaborate and solve problems better without having to travel. On the HR side, it will offer new possibilities for recruitment by measuring candidates reactions under specific circumstances, and accelerate the process of new employees coming onboard by having them visit your facilities from a distance or receive training from virtual colleagues.
Most of these technologies already exist and show clear performance improvements in companies adopting them. If your competitors are not yet using them, it is just a matter of time before they are. In the L&D area, you still have the opportunity to implement new tools that can improve employee motivation and engagement.