Jason Averbook: Your top 10 HR priorities for 2020

We’re closing in fast on the end of a year and a decade–hurtling toward a new decade, Workforce 2020, the “decade of data” and a leap year. Whatever milestones help you frame the period of time we’re entering, one thing is clear: If you don’t set priorities that are strategic and proactive, you will spend the year ahead reacting and chasing. Your organization will not get ahead in 2020 if you follow. You must lead.

Here is a countdown of the top 10 themes that will help you lead in 2020. Each of these needs to be considered and prioritized for your organization if you are to move ahead.

10. Acknowledge the end of “HR tech” as we know it–as nothing more than technology for HR. We must shift to the concept of digital, which does not equal technology. Digital is the combination of mindset (which asks why), people (who they are and how they work, which impacts how you design, deploy and communicate), process (how will people work, and to what end?) and technology (which can only be successful when it succeeds the previous three points). If all four of these components do not produce actionable workforce insights, start all over again.

When that happens:

  • the CHRO owns a digital HR strategy that causes you to adapt your organizational structure to support it;
  • you eliminate silo work;
  • you redefine HR skill sets to support a digital HR model; and
  • your technology- and system-governance model changes.

9. Reset expectations for your core HR system and what it means in the industry. Core HR is not the spine of your entire HR-technology ecosystem. It’s a hub to your point-solution spokes–perhaps even one of the point solutions, but it’s not the entire wheel. It should be antifragile and structural enough to produce analytics.

When that happens:

  • you build an antigrafile core HR foundation;
  • you identify what you need to be great at versus what it’s OK to be just OK at;
  • you likely use best-of-breed point solutions that are tip of the spear for those things you need to be great at; and
  • you understand the difference between employee experience and user interface.

8. You plan for and execute deployment, not implementation. So many refer to implementation kickoff and go-live dates, implementation progress and overall status, and implementation goals. Those are fine, but “implementation” refers to the technology alone. If it’s not tied to an overall deployment plan, you’re doing nothing but a lift and shift, a technology transition from one thing to another thing. Transitions do not drive transformation, and they will never change how work gets done.

When that happens:

  • it’s possible for the same piece of software to drive drastically different outcomes from one enterprise to another. Your results are the direct result of your digital strategy, not the result of the technology you used as a vehicle; and
  • you utilize sequencing in your transformation plan.

7. Workforce experience becomes non-negotiable and your foremost priority. This is not a trend. (Repeat until tired.) When I say “workforce experience,” I’m talking about life as we know it finally applied to life at work.

We make decisions dozens of times a day based on experience: how something feels when we interact with it. This is how we live outside of work every single day–how we decide what hotels we stay in, where we get our food, what we buy. But somehow when we enter the workforce, we find processes over here, tools over there, knowledge documents scattered about over here. We need work to be as easy as life. And today, that is frictionless. Connected. Seamless. Digital.

See also: How to give employees the experience they want

More importantly, in the decade of data, experience is the means by which you get data. You get data, which lead to workforce insights when people use the tools you give them. People use the tools you give them when they make life simple, they help get something done, and it feels good. Data beget experience; experience begets data. This is about getting the right product to the right people through the right channel at the right time. You cannot get to people Analytics, a true competitive differentiator, without fostering workforce experience.

When that happens:

  • interactions replace transactions and
  • doing work feels as fluid, seamless, frictionless and easy as doing everything else.

6. Service delivery is redesigned in 2020. This has everything to do with what we use to get work done: hands versus heads versus hearts. Machines augment hands, so automate that which is repetitious, manual and mundane. Machines are starting to be good at the things we do with our heads (critical thinking, problem solving, computing, intelligence and analysis, and so on), so continue to put them to work where they can augment what human heads do today. Machines cannot and may never replace what human hearts can do; putting them to work on some of what hands and heads can do frees up humans to do what only humans can do: show empathy, communicate with compassion, create and innovate, devise strategy, and demonstrate love and care.

This is the opportunity of service delivery in the coming decade: the blend of humans and non-humans to deliver a better experience to the workforce and make it easier for them to work.

When that happens:

  • you have a catalog of services you deliver to the workforce. That alone is a big win;
  • the role of HRBPs is redesigned, and they are reskilled to fill those roles properly; and
  • the 80% of your organizational data that is currently unstructured becomes addressed.

5. Design thinking is imperative to design processes that will generate data and journeys that will emote experience and an overall feeling. You have to design for the workforce and shift processes from B2B to B2C

When that happens:

  • people take center stage and processes are designed for the workforce;
  • you measure what people are thinking and how they’re feeling; and
  • experience data and insights are leveraged to build experience from the start and to optimize for continuous improvement.

4. Organizations must adapt before people will adopt. Stop making system adoption the goal. Leveraging analytics, completing talent profiles and utilizing your ATS (adoption behaviors) will never happen if your organization hasn’t adapted first.

When that happens:

  • you call systems by their capabilities and tools, not by their module names. Use plain speak when you talk about how people will get things done; and
  • you provide change management to the organization, not system or process training, and it starts at the strategy phase of deployment, not upon system go-live.

3. The time is now for workforce insights, or what should be your most important priority of 2020. The upcoming year will launch the decade of data. Analytics isn’t something you do once you’re done with the rest. We’re finally to the point–with our migration to the cloud, direct access, experience and service delivery–where people actually use all of the workforce solutions we provide them, and they use them to show how people impact the business. Data should be the first thing you think about when you invest in a new technology.

When that happens:

  • you start with workforce insights as your strategy before you deploy anything;
  • you don’t separate workforce insights from service delivery;
  • you measure effectiveness, not efficiency; and
  • your data strategy isn’t built on your core HCM. You have recognized and realized many, many sources of data inputs that became possible when you created a sticky experience of your workforce solutions.

2. Next-gen talent management goes beyond technology. These were always HR tools, not business tools. And these days, employees own talent management–what they learn, how they drive and shape their career, and how they engage in their own development. We can put the right information and tools in front of them, but HR doesn’t own the experience of talent management. HR shepherds; talent owns.

When that happens:

  • you give your workforce attention, not feedback;
  • your learning programs are delivered in an always-on, on-demand manner and in bite-sized format so they can learn when they need it;
  • you have a more complete and comprehensive view of the talent in your organization because you need to know this in order to keep them engaged, and you also recognize the value and potential of the broadest slate of talent. This view includes contingent and non-contingent labor, employees, alumni, our complete applicant roster and our entire internal roster. With unemployment at an all-time low and job openings at an all-time high, your ability to compete depends on having a comprehensive view of your complete talent roster; and
  • you never stop recruiting your people.

1. Roadmap and sequencing are mandatory to your deployment planning. This goes beyond a technology-project plan. This requires the development of a digital roadmap, which is a deployment of strategy, not the implementation of technology.

When that happens:

  • one action leads to and supports the next, intentionally sequenced to work toward the ultimate goal of achieving a digital function that provides data and meaningful workforce insights; and
  • your technology stands a chance of being successful because it was deployed against a holistic digital strategy.

Nothing will change unless you change. These priorities must be hinged upon a mindset for digital success. Listen to the complete Top 10 List of 2020 Priorities and share with your teams, engage in strategic planning around a shared vision and digital HR strategy for 2020, and check out a few resources in our Transformation Toolkit for 2020. See you in the decade of work!


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Jason Averbook
Jason Averbook is HRE’s People Side of Digital columnist. Averbook is a leading analyst, thought leader and consultant in the area of HR, the future of work and the impact technology has on that future. He is the co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, a global consultancy helping organizations shape their future workplace by broadening executive mindset to rethink how to better design and deliver employee services that meet the expectations of the workforce and the needs of the business. He can be emailed at hreletters@lrp.com.