Jason Averbook: Let’s rethink human capital management

The pace of digital change is accelerating. I’ve long been articulating the difference between digital and technology: To be “digital” is not to be electronic or to be tech-forward; a “digital” mindset asks why (purpose), not how (technology). Digital thinking challenges your vision and considers the change required to see the right solution come fully to life. When you embrace digital thinking and adopt a growth mindset, you begin to imagine an experience that is fluid, in the flow of work and intuitive. Digital champions employ human-centered design thinking to deliver the right information to the right people via the right channel in a way that accelerates work. Technology plays a role in delivering that experience, but the technology is a mere vehicle. It isn’t the experience.

Creating a true “experience” (how something makes you feel) requires understanding your people–listening to them. Employee experience starts with the fact that employees expect to be known as people doing work, not users of systems. They expect to be known by their organization, to feel like they made the right choice when they formed a relationship with you, and they get that validation through their daily experience of work life. The “experience” of work doesn’t come by walking through office doors and being physically “at work.” Connection to culture and organizational DNA might happen while sitting in a coffee shop; it can happen through the channels and tools employees use to connect to their work and teams. If you really mean it when you say you want to provide a quality employee experience, you treat your employees as your customers. Everything ties to their satisfaction and the usability of the solutions and services you provide them. Employee experience, or the human experience of work, is using all we can possibly know about people–the way they learn, the way they work, how they feel and what intrinsically motivates them–to empower and support them.

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Human capital management has become human experience management. Your employees are more than a resource, more than capital your company acquires like an asset. They are human. That alone should be designation enough. But when you start making the distinction between capital to be allocated, managed and resourced, and human beings whose DNA drives them to feel connection, to seek knowledge, to inspire change, to innovate through design and experimentation, and to create something special, you begin to change your organization from the inside out. Your company becomes human.

You may marvel at the fact that, soon enough, our companies will be made up of equal numbers of humans and non-humans. Elon Musk has been known to say, “A company is essentially a cybernetic collective of people and machines.” The irony and the opportunity of Human experience management is recognizing and embracing the role of technology in empowering experiences and performing work. Intelligent automation presents an incredible opportunity to relieve humans of drudgery, to perform more efficiently a multitude of mundane processes that require repetition, not strategy. If we can find smart ways to accomplish more work at a faster pace, we free up the human beings who are no longer required to do that work so they can instead do things only people can do. Imagine your human workforce fully empowered to do their life’s best work alongside powerful process automation and data-driven decision-making. Your organization becomes a force to be reckoned with.

You can’t talk experience without talking personalization. Macro personalization is high-level; you can brand almost anything with your company brand, a logo or wrapper on a platform so it looks and feels like you. Micro personalization drives itself off data; this is achieved when a software knows who you are, what you want and when you want it, and it recognizes you. Micro personalization will ultimately win, but it requires data. HR has data in troves, but they are unstructured, siloed and piecemeal. Fix that, and you win the experience game.

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All of this requires a complete transformation of your current workforce experience and the solutions you use to empower and sustain it. We need to transition from human capital management to human experience management, and we need to deploy human capabilities with people solutions instead of driving user adoption of HR technology. Undertaking digital transformation isn’t easy–no one said it was–but it is urgent. People seek experiences that feel human and rewarding, that will accelerate their ability to do meaningful work, that create connection and support purpose. If you don’t provide that, people simply won’t work for you.

I look forward to seeing all of the practitioners, solution providers, analysts, researchers, service providers and everyone else who’s changing the game at the HR Technology Conference & Exposition Oct. 1-4 in Las Vegas. Join the conversation by understanding the difference between digital and technology in my mega session Oct. 3, and visit my team at Booth #2036 to get 20/20 vision on your 2020 business-transformation plans. And contact us for help on your journey; we’re all getting there together. It’s #ourtime.


Jason Averbook, Mercer
Jason Averbook
Jason is a Senior Partner and the Global Leader of Digital HR Strategy at Mercer | Leapgen, with a career that spans over two decades in the HR and technology sectors. From 2018-23, Jason co-founded and served as CEO of Leapgen, a company committed to shaping the future workplace. Now, under the expanded partnership of Mercer | Leapgen, Jason continues to challenge executive mindsets, advocating for a shift from executing technology projects to embodying a digital function. Jason also serves as an adjunct professor at universities worldwide, has held senior roles at industry giants such as PeopleSoft and Ceridian and is frequently quoted by top media outlets.