HR in 2023 - what CHROs and tech vendors really need to focus on

Brian Sommer Profile picture for user brianssommer January 4, 2023
Workforces continue to change but a lot of tech, processes and leaders in HR don’t. Here’s a discomfiting assessment of HR today and the work that must be done.


What HR, the profession and the technology industry that purports to support it, needs is a sharper, more current/relevant focus. HR needs more discerning, aware leaders within and around it to materially alter the human landscape within their firm. And HR technology vendors could really help with many of these matters, too! Before you get too far into the New Year, you might want to mull the following items and see if you and your firm can benefit from a more enlightened approach to your workforce and leadership. 

Get the employee value prop right


The problem: This was a bad problem pre-pandemic and it’s royally messed up now. Employers want to know what employees want (e.g., work from home options, benefits, etc.) but still see unacceptable employee satisfaction and retention statistics. Why is this? Employers often survey employees about what they want but the surveys are problematic. If you ask people to check off 1-4 items that they would like to see their employer offer, they will choose those tangible items that affect their pocketbook first (e.g., health insurance) while some intangible ‘benefits’ (like working for a respectful, caring boss or having a real shot at a promotion) are not even options on the list. And yet, it’s those ‘soft’ items that make a huge difference in retention and job satisfaction. What employers and HR get so wrong is that a bunch of ‘things’ (i.e., these checklist items), are not always the real drivers of employee satisfaction and retention.

What’s needed: CHROs need to take a more nuanced and likely more time-consuming approach to figuring out what the company’s value proposition to its human capital should be. A survey of things will only answer one part of the value proposition (i.e., the tangible benefits). Determining what management should be and getting people matched with the right (and right kind of) manager helps close some of the intangible value proposition needs. However, the best improvement may be more time spent between employers and workers, especially if the managers are actually empathetic, caring folks and not some narcissist, self-centered, uncaring or pathological problem. You can’t solve people issues with folks that act inhumane, are unsympathetic or just don’t make time to know, really know, their employees.   Managers that are all IQ (intellectual quotient) and no EQ (emotional quotient) should not be in supervisory roles. 

Resource:  Get this month’s Harvard Business Review  and read “Rethink Your Value Proposition”. This piece has some great guidance including a solid 2X2 matrix to help you, your HR team and your executives ensure they are hitting all four value proposition quadrants.  If you think your firm has a handle on the work from home issue, you really need to read this piece. 

This resource also helped me understand why a colleague recently turned down a promotion to CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) to remain in sales. This person’s number one satisfaction/value proposition item comes from closing deals and collecting big commissions. His unique value proposition doesn’t depend on the trappings of higher office or some feel-good tchotchke for years served with the firm. Nope. What he lives for are opportunities to push cool technology that people pay big bucks to get. I’ll bet someone in that firm’s Accounts Payable department has a very different set of value proposition requirements than my colleague.  This uniqueness is why you need to read this resource. 

I’d also recommend you read the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 . While the book is mostly designed to help a reader become more aware of and increase their own EQ, it can provide a lot of insight into the behaviors of others. You can’t survey people effectively if you don’t understand what it’s like to stand in their shoes. The book is a fast read, too.  

Deal with ever more sophisticated fraud in HR


The problem: People can exaggerate, mislead and outright, bald-faced lie about their work history and education. It’s not a new problem but it certainly has picked up some momentum of late. In just the last few days, we’ve learned that:

  • Congressman-elect George Santos has been caught embellishing his resume. There are questions as to his employment history and his education. Investigators are now looking into his finances. 
  • LinkedIn has a growing credibility issue. In one example, some 1,000 Chinese people on that site claimed to be SpaceX engineers. They weren’t. The story is actually stranger than that sentence. Check out this MIT Technology Review piece. 
  • People can/will use AI tools to generate resumes, resume content, essay copy and more. AI tools don’t necessarily know how someone will use their output and whether that use will be ethical. 
  • People can/will use all manner of photo editing and other technologies to create fake identities. Universities have software tools to detect plagiarism shouldn’t HR/Recruiting have tools to see if resumes contain plagiarized content?

Like I said, resume fraud alone isn’t a new problem. I saw a person’s resume in 2007 claiming to have something like 15 years’ experience with Workday’s HRMS. Only problem is that Workday was founded in 2005. I’m not sure how this job seeker managed all of that expertise in such a short time. In the early 1990s, I had to deal with a person who fraudulently claimed a degree from Northwestern University. He only had two course credits to his name. 

The stakes are growing daily for CHROs and their teams. Are the people that are applying on your website even real? And, if so, how much of what they are representing is actually true? How do you find out?  

What’s needed: Clearly, HR needs tools to actually verify who is applying for employment and whether their credentials are legitimate. The starting point is to first determine whether the person that’s applying actually exists. 

Yes, there are tools to verify past employment but only if the person worked for a firm that shared the employee’s pay history with a major payroll provider. That means that many young people, contractors, freelancers and people who’ve worked for small businesses may not be in these databases.  

For companies that hire virtually and allow employees to work remotely, they need tools to ensure that the employee they hired is actually the one doing the work. This has been a problem with contractors when they propose one team of workers but surreptitiously have other, lower cost, personnel do much of the actual work. Should HR insist that employees use tools that capture a person’s visage via facial recognition software a couple of times each day?

Third-parties, like LinkedIn and job aggregator sites, need tools that authenticate and verify which firms a person actually worked at.  I know that some firms have tried to use blockchain technology to help people verify education and employment information about jobseekers but this is not in widespread use today. 

We also don’t have systems that proactively detect fraudulent resume and other data and then flag this on a master verification database. 

I could go on and on but the issue is still this: jobseekers have a growing arsenal of tools at their disposal to lie and cheat their way into job interviews and jobs. The best job seekers and employers will suffer at the hands of these charlatans. It’s time a major HR or identity firm looks at this problem from a more holistic and bigger perspective. Current efforts haven’t worked well and the situation is worsening. Can HR get some help with this?

 Resource: Please check out the MIT Technology Review piece mentioned above. It’s an eye-opener. 

Identify 'Quiet Quitters' and either deal with them or the reasons why


The problem: 2022 was the year that ‘quiet quitting’ became a thing. It’s that phenomena where people have decided they will be leaving their job at some point and, as a result, only do the bare minimum to keep their job until then. 

Understanding this problem requires some investigation. Specifically, are employees being passive-aggressive or passive-resistive? The difference is telling. Passive-aggressive people, according to one source, are: 

People who are passive-aggressive are indirectly aggressive rather than being directly aggressive. For instance, passive-aggressive behavior can appear in the form of resistance to another person's requests by procrastinating, expressing sullenness, or acting stubbornly.”

Passive-resistive people, according to another source, are: 

Passive resistance commonly refers to actions of nonviolent protest or resistance to authority. More active forms of passive resistance include strikes, walkouts, protest marches, theatrical protests, and hunger strikes.”

Employers have a couple of problems:

  • First, they must identify those employees who are no longer doing their best. That takes time and observation. You might not detect an issue with an employee until its too late or much damage has been done.
  • Second, they need to understand why these people are resisting. Passive-aggressive folks may be reacting to a management change or policy that they don’t agree with. This happens often today because of some firm’s decisions regarding mandatory work from office directives. Why people are being passive-aggressive can be difficult to know and may not show up in surveys, exit interviews or mentoring conversations. Passive-resistive people likely are more communicative and vocal about their decision to resist work. 
  • Third, they need to understand why these people have changed. Are they resisting because of:
    • a lack of training
    • poor management or management interaction
    • lack of career mobility
    • compensation below expectations
    • overworked
    • haven’t had a vacation in ages
    • stuck in a dead-end job
    • etc. 

The causal factors could be numerous and deeply personal 

What’s Needed: Performance management software has long been the frontline tool for collecting and documenting employee performance data. With so many firms only conducting performance reviews annually, this mechanism for detecting changed and/or low productivity is not relevant anymore. The annual cycle is too late to catch and possibly head off quiet quitting situations. 

More mentoring might help in some cases especially if managers are actually empathetic and trusted by employees. However, it won’t do much for those employees who are passive-aggressive as they’ll likely keep their reasons for reduced performance to themselves. 

Loading up employees with more performance metrics may not work either. These metrics could actually produce a number of false positive results and actually increase attrition from your best and brightest employees. Technology that feels like micro-managing is never a good thing. 

Resource: Gloat’s CEO is featured in this Fast Company piece. The premise behind quiet-quitting, according to the author, is uninspired employees and a stagnant workforce. I suspect the causal factors may be more numerous but the thinking here appears to founded in some real-world observations. You might want to read this Fast Company piece.

I’d also recommend this HBR article Designing Jobs Right. This piece starts off with a reference to the Kobayashi Maru plot device in Star Trek (a great way to start an article IMHO) and then helps readers reframe the work relationship between boss and employee. The key point is that if both parties get this right, then why would someone want to quit this job (quietly or not!). Check it out. 

In part two, recruitment comes into the spotlight...

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