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A 'bold new world' for HR in 2016?

Janine Milne Profile picture for user jmilne January 25, 2016
HR guru Josh Bersin discusses some of the technology-led changes in HR expected in 2016 in part two of Janine Milne's look at the report from Bersin by Deloitte.

Now, more than ever before, it feels as though everything in the world of talent is changing – from the way we recruit and attract people, as well as how we manage and reward them, to the way we learn, and how we curate and manage our entire work-life experience.

So says Bersin by Deloitte’s principal, Josh Bersin, in the report Predictions for 2016: A Bold New World of Talent, Learning, Leadership and HR Technology.

In my last post, I looked at how digital technologies are helping turn HR professionals into 'Chief Employee Experience Officer' – pushing to improve employees’ work lives. In this deeper dive into the report, Bersin discusses some of the other technology-led changes.

One of the key trends is the stampede to replace on-premise HR systems with cloud-based applications. The main draw for customers is the ease of use, coupled with access to analytics that come with the new breed of integrated HR and talent tools  being delivered in the cloud.

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Bersin explains:

There’s a massive replacement of old HR technology going on. Billions of dollars are being spent on them and the primary reason is that the old stuff is just too hard to use.

Cloud-based talent systems offer an opportunity for companies to access the latest technology far more easily. Bersin notes:

The average large company has seven HR systems of record, because every time they buy another company or do a merger they add another system. So cloud systems are an opportunity to start all over and clean up the data.

This is all part of what Bersin refers to as a shift from systems or record to systems of engagement:

The reason we need to think about these things as systems of engagement is that most employees behave like volunteers. They don’t do everything they do just because we tell them to do it. Human beings have always been like that.

If you have to fill in a form to get paid you’ll fill it out, but most other stuff you’ll do when you have time. And if it isn’t good for you and it’s only good for HR, you’re going to put it at the bottom of the to-do list. So you get crummy data, poor adoption and not a really good experience for the employee.

Instead, Bersin believes we need to rethink our systems as systems of productivity and engagement:

That’s a philosophical change and the companies that get that – and more get it every day – are realizing they can really dramatically improve their employees’ commitment to the company by making these things enjoyable and fun.

Performance talent

This is all part and parcel of the new breed of talent management systems taking advantage of the cloud. Performance management, in particular, is undergoing many changes.

The report notes that 60% of companies are redesigning or have already redesigned their performance management process, replacing their ratings-based systems with a more feedback-centric approach.

Bersin observes that feedback is moving from once a year to continuous and going both directions:

In many companies, employees are able to rate their managers and executives and their programs. Their HR department can immediately get feedback on things that are going well and things that aren’t going well, instead of waiting for the once-a-year engagement survey, which usually didn’t have enough data anyway.

These feedback tools include Pulse survey tools, designed for managers and HR leaders to quickly take a snapshot of employee opinions or feelings. Social recognition tools, where employees can give thanks or points to other staff members, also fall into this category. Both these and other feedback tools help promote another enduring focus for HR: engagement and retention.

The report highlights the case of a company using an agile feedback tool for employees to give candid feedback on the day of a massive company staff lay-off.

Within four hours of launching the tool, 5,000 suggestions were posted (which other employees could also vote up and down, depending on how far they agreed with the comment). Four or five significant issues the team had missed were highlighted in that first day and the company was able to address those issues – and communicate those changes – the very next day. Such a quick response helped minimize the damage in morale and engagement inevitably caused by mass lay-offs.

Bersin warns, however, that not all executives are ready to hear what their employees really think:

It’s a cultural shift and a lot of companies and executives are not ready to see what people say, but on the other hand they’re saying it on Glassdoor they’re saying it on linked in they’re saying it on Twitter.

Alongside performance management, organizations are keen to replace their applicant tracking systems with integrated recruitment platforms that include things such as analytics, interview management and candidate relationship management.

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are also being refreshed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that on-premise systems are all being ripped out . Instead, traditional LMSs are becoming like mainframes – squirreled away in a back room out of sight of users. Companies are then seeking more mobile, interactive and peer-lead approaches to learning that sit on top of the back-room LMS.

These new tools are part of a trend towards seeing learning in a different light, notes Bersin:

We always thought about training to increase productivity, reduce errors or to learn their job, but it’s also an engagement tool and a very big driver of why people come to work now. We’re all worried about our careers and our professional skills, so companies are now looking to buy new learning platforms.

Whatever the technology choice companies make, increasingly it’s going to be up to HR to decide and to innovate in the technology choices and programs they support.

As Bersin notes in the report:

The world’s best talent and HR solutions are no longer available off the shelf – you need to invent them. Every company’s culture is slightly different, so it is now up to you to design, test, and iterate on your own industry-leading talent and HR programs.

My take

The report describes 2016 as a “bold new world” for HR and it certainly seems to be some significant changes in technology helping change what HR does.

That means there’s a hell of a lot of new investment going on, as companies rush to the cloud and start to incorporate more and more digital technologies into their arsenal.

Successful HR heads will be the ones who can recognize which of the new technologies can help drive through the changes they need to make to support the business.

Bersin by Deloitte top 10 predictions for 2016

  • Digital HR arrives. HR focuses on providing digital applications that help employees as much as serve the needs of HR.
  • Replacement of outdated HR systems is accelerating. There’s a shift to the cloud and to comprehensive systems that are more than just “systems of record”, but ones that build engagement.
  • A new breed of talent management systems is here. Performance management, applicant tracking systems and learning management systems are changing rapidly.
  • Re-engineering of performance management to be based on continuous feedback rather than a top-down rating systems.
  • Engagement, retention and culture are top priorities and the trend towards continuous feedback will help identify the areas where improvements can be made.
  • Mentoring and coaching are the most effective way of developing staff, and companies will look for new technology to help bring in more external coaches.
  • A new model of continuous learning will continue to evolve, which looks beyond the formal training to include further projects, take account of the work culture and environment and connections to others.
  • Diversity and inclusion will become a strategic part of business and talent management, rather than just a tick-in-the-box compliance issue.
  • People analytics will become a mainstream part of the HR function.
  • A new breed of HR leaders will emerge as HR’s alignment with business improves dramatically.

[Source: Predictions for 2016: A Bold New World of Talent, Learning, Leadership and HR Technology]

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