2 big tasks coming to HR in the next decade

HR leaders face a pivotal point in the world of work, HR Tech keynote speaker Ravin Jesusathan said.
By: | September 30, 2021

As organizations move forward from the pandemic and the accelerated digitization that it prompted, they’re facing a “great reset and reinvention,” author and futurist Ravin Jesusathan told the HR Technology Conference audience on Wednesday.

And doing it right, based on one case study Jesusathan shared during his keynote presentation, could mean a boost in productivity of 600%. “Not 60%,” he said. “It’s 600%.” Along with that productivity spike has come a boost in one particular company’s ability to attract talent.

Related: Where Josh Bersin expects the most innovation in HR tech

The company, a very large global insurer that he did not name, has implemented “agile on steroids,” Jesusathan said, by setting up a virtual, skills-based shared services “Center of Excellence” structure for its digital talent. It pulled digital talent out of the company’s functions—marketing, finance, underwriting, for example—and “put all the talent back into that organization” in a marketplace.

Ravin Jesuthasan

HR then taught managers how to design projects, put them into an algorithm and let the technology take over. “The beauty of this and the beauty of all marketplaces is that once you’ve got this data centralized, you have the three benefits of big data, right? You’ve got volume, you’ve got velocity and you’ve got variability,” he said.

That’s because sending all the transactions through the marketplace also allows the technology to nudge an employee about why he should boost his skills, what learning courses to take to do that and then boost his pay because the company now has a skills-based pay structure.

“So, you can see why I call this agile on steroids.”

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It reflects a company already embracing the two things facing HR in the next five to 10 years, Jesusathan said. Those are:

  1. Redesigning work to connect as many people as possible to as much work as possible as seamlessly as possible.
  2. Re-envisioning the talent experience to meet all the talent where they are on their terms.

“I think Satya [Nadella, Microsoft CEO] said it pretty well in June of last year when he said we’ve seen a two-year trend in digitalization getting realized in about two months,” Jesusathan said, explaining those two tasks for HR. “I actually think over the last 18 months that the impact on the future of work, and with it, the future of HR is far, far more profound.”

That’s because it goes beyond the digitalization driving change and includes the “much bigger, maybe more insidious factor called the democratization of work,” which he described as the increasing trend toward detaching work from its “traditional confines of space, time and structure.” That is, from traditional offices, schedules, locations and everything else that pandemic ultimately upended.

That move is leading organizations to pivot from a traditional model aimed at growth, efficiency and returns to focus intently on agility, flexibility and resilience.

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One example is the spike in interest in the gig economy, partly in response to the struggle to fill jobs, he said. “But in other respects for different organizations, it’s a way of hedging their bets: How do we create the agility to actually flow talent to work beyond the traditional notion of the frictional cost of jobs?

That’s driving interest in internal marketplaces, too, but also it’s about shifting decision-making “to the edges of the organization as opposed to the center,” he said.

“Because the thing that we saw with COVID is that organizations that were much more agile, that had distributed decision-making were the ones who responded the fastest and the best.”

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Elizabeth Clarke is executive editor of Human Resource Executive. She earned a journalism degree from the University of Florida and then spent more than 25 years as a reporter and editor in South Florida before joining HRE. Elizabeth lives with her family in Palm Beach County. She can be reached at eclarke@lrp.com.

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