HR’s not-so-old ways are dangerously out of date. So what’s next?

It’s easy to forget that this is a historic time for human resource leaders. They have had to institute new guidelines in the early days of the pandemic, keep a remote workforce connected and engaged, and find ways to slow down the Great Resignation.

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Now? “It’s their time to step up,” says Jason Averbook, CEO and co-founder of Leapgen. 

HRE spoke with Averbook ahead of his 2022 HR Tech Virtual keynote address, entitled “Automate to Humanate: Purpose in the Now of Work,” which is set for 3 p.m. ET March 3. He shared his thoughts on the need for better data tools, why HR may have some bad news to deliver to CEOs and why return-to-the-office doesn’t have to mean a return to lazy practices. Register here.

HRE: HR leaders and recruitment specialists are talking a lot about the Great Resignation. Are HR leaders taking it seriously enough? Do CEOs have their head in the sand about what’s going on inside their companies?

Jason Averbook of LeapGen
Jason Averbook

Jason Averbook: Oh, it’s very serious and they’re taking it seriously. The number of data sets of the exit interviews I’ve seen as to why people are leaving [show that] a lot of organizations aren’t aligning their actions with their words.

HRE: Is there an opportunity for tech here?

Averbook: The opportunity for tech is definitely here. Is there a spot for tech? Yes. Is tech the only thing? No. One of the huge areas for HR is that their cyclical processes of doing things once a year no longer work. They have to be real-time and they have to take the data they get today and act on it today or tomorrow. Otherwise, the data’s no longer valid.

Related: Insights into EX, culture and innovation top HR Tech Virtual agenda

The only way to do this is through technology collecting data. But I need to structure my HR organization to leverage that technology today, not a quarter from now, and actually take action on what the data’s saying.

HRE: If companies are really pushing for a return to the office, is there a chance that they might return to older practices? Could HR ignore some of the advancements and realities that were created in the COVID remote work world?

Averbook: Not just a chance, it’s happening. We work with organizations all over the world and we’re being forced to do some of the things in the way we did them before. [Today’s workers are] just not going to do it that way.

It takes 60 days to build a habit. Most people have been away from the office for two years. The new habits and the new way of work are here. If we try to force the old way of work on people who have already created a habit of how they’re going to work today, that’s where the pushback happens.

HRE: This has to be the biggest change to the American workforce since women were working in factories during World War II. 

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Averbook: Yeah, it’s bigger than that. It’s changed how we think of work. The concept that we’re a spoke on a big hub of work is over. We’re dealing with social justice. I’m here in Minneapolis where my kids are going to a protest today and a lot of companies are shutting down to protest about this. We’re dealing with a social transformation. Plus, digital transformation is an opportunity to rethink how we’re dealing with the way of working or what I call “the now of work.”

Related: HR Tech Virtual keynoter Josh Bersin on relieving employee burnout

HRE: HR has a much bigger role than ever before. They’ve been expected to institute new policies, deal with socio-political issues and deal with a workforce that is no longer “company people.”

Averbook: There’s only one function in the organization that has human in the title and that’s human resources. This is HR’s time to step up. If we step back, it might be the end of those companies.

HRE: Is it HR’s job to deliver unpleasant or unwelcome news and views to the CEO and the C-suite that they might not be ready to hear?

Averbook: Yes. What we’re calling it is “kind candor.” And by the way, change is good. Anyone who has an HR strategy dated before 2020 is basically out of date. Whether it’s Cracker Barrel or a fancy resort [or] Honeywell, it doesn’t matter what company I’m working with at the moment. It’s truly across the board: Every company is reshaping the role of HR.

HRE: Jason, what drives your passion for this topic? Why is this so important to you?

Averbook: I’m trying to create a world of work so that when my kids actually enter the world of work, it is adjusted for them. Today the way my kids and your kids live outside of work, when they get inside of work, they think to themselves, “These people are the stupidest people I’ve ever met in my life. Like, why is it taking three weeks to do this? Why can’t they just ask someone and get an answer? Why is this going through nine levels of approval?”

And to be honest with you, our kids won’t deal with that.

Register for HR Tech Virtual here

Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus is the former HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children.