Why Oracle believes transactional post-pandemic employee relations needs more people-centric HR

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan March 20, 2024
Summary:
Part two of a conversation with Oracle's SVP SVP Global Cloud HCM Product Strategy, Yvette Cameron, tackles the changing role of HR in the Vaccine Economy.  

HCM
(pixabay)

In my three decades plus covering the enterprise tech sector, there have been some recurring themes and topics, not least the plea from HR execs that they should have more presence in the board room alongside the C-suite in order to contribute more to the wider corporate strategic direction. 

That claim persists today and generative AI and classic AI may provide the enabler to get that seat at the table, suggests Yvette Cameron, SVP Global Cloud HCM Product Strategy at Oracle: 

AI is augmenting and providing visibility, quickly, easily, and analysis that is giving tremendous insight.  Some of our announcements [have] talked about understanding and detecting bias in compensation and hiring practices or some diversity clusters and going beyond the traditional, ‘Oh, here's your percentage for diversity', really helping you pinpoint where the issues are. Is it in a certain ethnicity? In a certain region? 

[It shows] amongst a certain range of job titles, your hiring is showing an anomaly. We expect from standard behavior analysis and your hiring patterns that we would have seen this many hires in this segment, but we actually saw only 25%. Surfacing that as a an anomaly for understanding, that's the kind of tool that with analytics augmented with AI, depending on the question you asked, you can just very quickly get down into those views.

That understanding of your data, the storytelling that we help you tell, is what gets you that seat and keep that seat most importantly, because gosh, it can be awful to get the seat and then lose it because you can't tell a story.  I think that a big part of what gen AI is going to help us do overall is understand how to be better data literate and tell stories better about what what's happening in organizations.

Post-pandemic

HR’s role in the post-pandemic world has changed. During the COVID crisis, organizations moved to a remote operating model that commentators confidently predicted would be the so-called ‘new normal’ and the way we worked would be changed forever. In reality, the demand from employers to get workforces back in the office has grown increasingly loud. It’s a shifting dynamic in which HR has a clear role to play. 

But while the ‘new normal’ increasingly seems to have a lot in common with the ‘old normal’, Cameron posits: 

I think the pandemic changed everything and it made it really clear that the way we used to work doesn't work anymore. It's really highlighted that the processes that we put in place to manage our workforce, the support we give our managers and ensuring that managers give to their employees, has to be people-centric. We have to put people at the center and our technologies have to be designed around a people-centric approach. Technologies designed 20 years ago, even if in the cloud, were very much objective-oriented and various things and not designed around the people. 

The role of of managers first and foremost has shifted. HR is an architect for how solutions will be supported and processes will be supported. Leaders and managers have a much stronger requirement to be empowered and be leaders, be the ones who are champions of culture, who are driving skills, growth and development. It's not enough anymore for HR to say, 'Here's a training course that your workforce has to do’.

She adds: 

Nobody knows what my team needs to be successful better than me. Just because a role has a similar name in another organization doesn't mean the skills needs are the same. I see this in my own team - my product strategists actually have different requirements than other strategy teams because of the maturity of our product, because of the way we're organized across some development compared to others. I want control of how I guide my team. One of the new investments we're making is empowering leaders to better control skills and we're doing this because the requirements on leadership have shifted because of the pandemic. HR starts to become more consultative, and an enabling architect of technology architecture and framework decision support, etc. But leaders need to be more empowered.

How that works out on corporate front line will vary from organization to organization, she argues: 

Within a company, two leaders of the same type of team can have very different demands. Ultimately HR is best supported when they've got flexibility and can target communications to different parts of the business with the right message that sticks and make sure it's being acted on. They can have flexibility in the way they're organizing the structure of the business and the various variations within.

The best thing we can do is ensure that they've got highly-flexible, easily-configurable tools and capabilities that empower managers to do what they need to do and empower individual employees to do what they need to do, and drive ultimately a culture that is cohesive for whatever their culture needs to be. Maybe their culture is more flexible. I think culture fundamentally comes back to how is HR enabled to support the culture and we'll help other managers deliver that culture. 

Skills

The rise of gen AI has also reinforced another recurring organizational meme - the ongoing and seeming never-ending skills crisis. Cameron affirms: 

Skills is one of the top conversations we have with with people. I mean, they're excited about gen AI, but they're asking, 'How does it help me develop and identify skills gaps, etc?'. We launched Oracle Grow last year, which brings together our AI-driven dynamic skills ontology that brings together learning and development and career pathing and career ambassadors, essentially mentors, and other components all together into a single unified experience. We like to call it our AI-driven professional coach, our hyper-personalized career coach.

Part of the reason we brought this forward was to combat that concern that individuals didn't feel that they were getting the training and the skills development they needed. It is able to take recommendations and directives from management and HR that these are the skills you need and the courses you need to take, and at the same time empowers the individuals to see what will be the benefit to them to develop these skills and to explore other career opportunities and say, 'I want to go in that direction'.

Still resigning

While AI dominates the hype cycle today, a year or so ago the main topic of discussion in HR circles would have been the so-called ‘Great Resignation’. That’s still in play today, confirms Cameron: 

I do think it's still an issue. A good number of our customers, the majority, are still talking about retention and talent attraction as top priorities along with skills development. People are still leaving and they're more often going to do their own thing and become contractors and consultants.

There are a number of factors in play here, she suggests: 

I was looking at a survey recently that talked about how, in general, the relationship between employees and managers or employees in the organization has become more transactional. They're here for a paycheck, they check out at the end of their shift. That would support the fact that having had enough, they're leaving and going to do their own thing. 

That signals and reinforces what we're what we're hearing - that the relationship between employees and managers and employees in the business is broken, it's undecided, it's declining, all of the above. It's more important than ever that organizations focus on empowering their leaders to make sure that they are feeling supported, understood and heard, that there's an empathetic understanding, that there's trust that comes through transparent communications. All the opportunities are made available to everybody, not just a certain sort of people who are always called on the same project.

This declining employer/employee relationship needs to empower the business line and leaders so that they know in their business what's needed and can provide appropriately directed support, but in a in a way that helps employees feel a sense of control over their shifts and schedules, etc. So yes, [the Great Resignation] is still happening, but it just means that people-centric technology is more important than ever before.

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