Blog post

Where's HR going? And how technology can get you there.

Patrick Aalbers 22 December 2016

By billing it “the greatest HR show on earth”, HRN certainly raised my expectations for its recent Fall edition of HRTechWorld at Paris’ Palais des Congres. With a huge line-up of speakers, topics and sessions I decided to focus my interest on the future of work and how the HR industry is responding to it.

Working for Raet, I naturally also wanted to grab this opportunity to benchmark our vision for HR’s future role against that of others in our industry. I came away with some new perspectives; as well as a reassuring sense that Raet is not only on the right track, but to helping map out the road into the future.

Change? What’s new?

If you’re reading this, you won’t need me to tell you the role of HR is changing. Indeed I think every single supplier I met, thought leader I listened to, delegate I chatted with was acutely aware of this change. And often as HR leaders driving that change within their organization.

As to what’s changing, and what’s driving that change, two key themes seemed to be preoccupying many at HRTechWorld, and confirmed what we’ve found at Raet during both our many client consultations and our extensive annual HR Benchmark research.

It’s all about employee engagement

One area people feel HR should be leading is employee engagement. Most companies accept that when it comes to business success, engaged employees make the difference. I was therefore surprised to hear HR analyst and consultant, Josh Bersin, report that average employee engagement hasn’t increased at all in recent years. What are most companies doing wrong?

The companies that clearly perform better on employee engagement are able to make people tick. 

They have a workforce that’s truly switched on. One place you find a lot of good examples of that is amongst start-ups and Gary Hamel, consultant and visiting professor at London Business School, was very clear why.

It’s because people are working in an environment that’s human, not bureaucratic. In non-bureaucratic environments, process doesn’t get in the way of relationships, hierarchy doesn’t get in the way of people, and there is a high sense of shared values and high levels of autonomy. Having myself worked for both corporates and in a start-up environment, I certainly recognize how these forces either drive or work against engagement.

Hamel was especially passionate about killing bureaucracy as a way to raise engagement. So passionate, in fact, that he created a Bureaucracy Mass Index. Try it: it’s a nice little eye-opener.

Not that you only find highly-engaged workforces at start-ups. Hamel cited some nice examples of large enterprises working to kill bureaucracy and create autonomy, for example by creating smaller business units, decentralizing P&L or empowering self-steering project teams.

Valuing values

A second hot topic was the importance of shared company values. How an explicit company DNA helps build a collaborative team of people who complement one another.

Frédéric Mazella from ride-sharing community, BlaBlaCar, shared his experience of how company values are lived within his organization, and how it drives behavior and decisions. I really liked how they activate the values and have applied them in their processes. If you are currently working on company values project I recommend you also have a look at how Atlassian pulls no punches when communicating their company values and what not to do with a customer. It might totally not be suitable for your company, but I always get inspired by looking at how companies are able to articulate and live their company values.

And technology’s role?

What’s HR technology’s role in all this? I’d flag up three things in particular. First, technology can help drive engagement. By making working life easier and bringing HR into the business. And by helping employees connect with one another and colleagues work better together.

Technology can help drive engagement by making working life easier and bringing HR into the business.

Secondly, cloud-based platforms offer a growing set of applications for employee recognition, talent management, wellness, social intranet, collaboration and more.

And finally, don’t ignore HR Core systems. Technology can help with the current shift taking place from an HR Core that’s highly transaction and task-oriented (requesting leave, documenting illness, administering personnel information) to one that offers far more value to the user and enhances their experience.

My take-away: HR should be driving a digital workforce strategy

So what’s my big take-away from “the greatest HR show on earth”? Well, from a personal view, I guess it’s this: whether it’s your intranet, HR systems or an innovative new app, used the right way technology can facilitate the high employee engagement and vibrant shared values companies are seeking. The people I met and heard at the conference agree: HR has a key leadership role here. And I’d simply add that that includes driving smart technology choices to help achieve those company ambitions.



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Patrick Aalbers

Head of Marketing at Raet

+31 6 46016309

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