Why HR Needs to Make ’Experience’ a Priority

Josh Bersin gives HR Tech Conference attendees a preview of new research.
By: | September 13, 2018 • 3 min read

At an opening general session during the HR Tech Conference on Sept. 11, industry analyst Josh Bersin gave attendees a taste of what his latest research project—the HR Technology Market 2019—will entail.

Bersin elaborates further on the report, which is being produced exclusively for HR Tech attendees, in a video shot in HRE’s booth following his talk.

Among the many HR topics covered in the soon-to-be-published report is the employee experience, he said.

Bersin noted that the HR-technology marketplace has turned into a market that consists of three tiers. First, he explained, “We have the core ERP and payroll system; then we have the talent tools; and then we have this new layer in the middle.” That new layer, he said, is the ability to give employees an integrated experience.

“Engagement is an outcome of building a great company with great management and meaningful work and good experiences for employees,” Bersin said. “So, the engagement industry, which used to encompass a small number of companies that did annual surveys with benchmarks maybe five or six years ago, has now turned into a massive industry of survey tools and pulse surveys.”

The next generation, he added, is going to include nudges, suggestions and action plans based on data to your managers so they can manage their employees better.

HR, Bersin added, is moving away from simply being a platform to becoming a means for improving productivity.

“We have more technology, more tools and we’re constantly connected,” Bersin said. “We’re walking around with basically supercomputers attached to our bodies, yet we’re getting less work done per hour over time.”

Why is that? he asked. It’s because “we have created a very difficult work experience,” he responded.

It’s no one’s fault this occurring, he added. “Rather, it’s just the way the world is.

“I had a meeting with the CHRO of a large global company about two weeks ago, and he was going through all the things he was working on,” Bersin said. “One of those was a wellbeing program. When I asked him, just out of curiosity, ‘Why are you doing a wellbeing program?’ he said that it’s very simple: ‘Our employees are exhausted; they cannot keep up; we have global operations; we’re sending emails; we have meetings.

The CHRO told Bersin that his company also had set a policy that prevented meetings from starting before 9 a.m. so employees could get up in the morning, get some exercise in or go for a walk before they started work.

If you walked around the HR Tech Conference’s exhibition, he added, “You’re probably going to find that most of the vendors have slapped the word engagement,’ culture’ or employee experience’ on their products because they’re all trying to figure out how to improve the employee experience. This is the landscape on which vendors are developing their products today.”

Bersin suggested that if the tools you’re purchasing today aren’t improving workforce productivity, you need to ask yourself why you’re doing it. Now, he explained, “I’m not saying everything in HR is going to have a direct impact on revenue per hour or customer satisfaction. But if you don’t get a sense that it’s moving you in that direction, then you’re going to find low levels of adoption. You’re going to find people don’t use the software. You’re not going to gain traction on the technology investments you’re making. You’re not solving the biggest problems you have.”

Over the next year or two, he predicted, HR is going to be viewed as a productivity-enhancing function, not just a function focused on engagement and retention, “which, to me, is more of an outcome than a goal.”

Another challenge Bersin cited is the impact AI is beginning to have on HR and jobs. The research suggests that 40 percent to 50 percent of the jobs that exist today will be different in the future, thanks to robotics and AI.

Bersin noted that it’s about a 12- to 18-month learning path to reskill people into those new jobs. “Not 10 years,” he said, adding that HR needs to find the time to create an environment that enables reskilling to happen.

The research, Bersin said, also shows that the kids coming out of college today are not ready to go to work. “Companies are finding they don’t have enough problem-solving skills or collaboration and business acumen, so we have a lot of interesting challenges there,” he explained.

The HR Technology Market 2019 report will explore a range of HR disciplines, from performance management and learning to talent acquisition and wellness/benefits.

It’s scheduled to be released in November.

 

David Shadovitz is editor of HRE. He is also co-chair of the HR Tech Conference and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. He can be reached at [email protected]

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