Change Driving Change

HR will have their eyes on tech, talent, and leadership development in the coming year.

By Dave Zielinski

As organizations across industries experience disruptive change, HR executives are being challenged to be increasingly agile and resourceful in their strategic planning in order to meet shifting talent and compliance demands. Because of the accelerating digital revolution, acute talent shortages, and the uncertainties associated with a new U.S. presidential administration, 2017 promises to test the ability of human resource leaders to respond to change on multiple levels.

With the new year coming into view, industry experts and CHROs are predicting that a number of new issues will capture HR’s attention and that there will be continued focus on strategic initiatives that gained traction in 2016. HR will implement more technologies that are cloud-based, mobile-enabled, and analytics-equipped to deliver improved user experiences and make smarter workforce decisions. In fact, according to Sierra Cedar’s 2016-2017 HR Systems Survey, organizations plan a 24 percent increase in SaaS solutions in 2017; organizations will approach 50 percent adoption of mobile-enabled HR processes in 2017 (a significant increase from 13 percent in 2014); and the number of organizations with a HR analytics solution will grow by 52 percent.

CEOs and boards of directors will keep the pressure on CHROs to recruit or develop the key talent needed to support pivots in business strategy and grow market share. The numbers don’t lie: According to PwC’s 2016 Global CEO survey, 72 percent of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills in their organizations, with 48 percent planning to increase headcount in the coming year.

As the workforce changes, performance management will continue to transform from the time-honored, annual appraisal process to systems featuring more frequent, informal feedback—all with innovative new software supporting that migration. Customized leadership development programs and succession planning around their millennial employees will become essential to a sustainable workforce.

High-profile ethical lapses in the last year—think Wells Fargo—will drive a renewed focus on building more ethical work cultures in 2017. HR will undoubtedly be very busy—it’s bound to be an exciting year!

Technology Leads the Way

The continued march of HR technologies in the coming year toward more user-friendly, mobile-enhanced, and integrated solutions promises to deliver several benefits. HR will continue to leverage these technologies to improve process efficiencies, regulatory compliance, and workforce data analysis.

Technology will be an area of emphasis in 2017 at the San Diego Zoo Global, says CHRO Tim Mulligan. The organization is evaluating options for a new cloudbased human resource information system (HRIS) to accompany existing applicant tracking and talent management platforms. Mulligan and his team also will continue to rely heavily on social-media-based recruiting technologies. This emphasis requires the San Diego Zoo to expand its team in order to stay abreast—or better yet, stay ahead—of the tools that can help them be an employer of choice.

“We’ve hired a new HR technology manager to oversee our systems and initiatives—the first time we’ve had that position here,” says Mulligan. “Our goal is no longer to chase technology. We want to be out ahead of it.”

The organization’s strategic plan is to become completely paperless in order to operate as a greener organization and to create new efficiencies. HR is doing its part to carry out that initiative, Mulligan says, by working to make tools more accessible to employees who typically don’t have easy access to computer workstations. “We have implemented kiosks and computer labs and are working to drive everything away from paper to the cloud and computers,” Mulligan says.

Leading HR teams will continue the trend of replacing legacy, on-premise systems with single, integrated cloudbased platforms or suites next year, says Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte. “Almost every part of HR technology is in some state of being replaced or reinvented,” he says.

Bersin points to the current evolution of performance management solutions as an example. “Most companies I talk to are considering either buying or building new software to help manage their performance appraisal systems in a more agile way,” he says. “That’s because existing software is built around the old once-a-year review process, which is going away.”

Learning management systems also will see innovations as service providers upgrade their offerings to keep pace with changes in the way today’s employees learn. “Many of the current systems were architected 15 or more years ago, and today people learn through different means like short videos and curated content,” Bersin says.

The next generation of HR technology also will make inroads next year, Bersin says. “Artificial intelligence and machine learning are coming faster than people realize,” he says. “What it really boils down to is the arrival of smarter software.”

For example, Bersin says a number of large organizations already employ such “perceptive” software through video interviewing systems for job applicants. “Candidates are recorded on video answering interview questions, and the software can score the videos in part based on an individual’s likelihood of telling the truth according to their facial expressions and other factors,” he says.

The use of mobile-enabled HR technologies will also grow next year. Sierra Cedar’s 2016-2017 HR Systems Survey found a 21 percent increase in mobile-technology-related adoption last year, with another 17 percent growth forecasted for 2017.

The report also found that today’s most frequently-used mobile processes are around HR record-keeping, time and labor, payroll, leave management, and talent acquisition. At Vail Resorts, a shared-services technology model is set to be rolled out next year and will feature more mobileenabled functions, says Mark Gasta, the company’s chief people officer. This is mainly driven by the demographics of their workforce. HR must be agile to their needs in order to achieve business goals.

“Many of our employees are out working on the mountains and don’t have time to seek out HR staff to get information or to answer their questions,” Gasta says. “We are meeting them where they live with mobile tools that provide access to easily-searched HR documents and ways to connect with subject-matter experts if they have questions on more complicated issues.”

Talent Acquisition Takes Top Priority

2017 will also be a year of rising expectations from CEOs and boards. Pressure will be on to recruit, develop, and retain talent that can support business strategies being redesigned to meet new competitive expectations.

“CEOs are still very focused on getting the right talent in the right roles throughout organizations, especially with business strategies changing at a more rapid pace than in the past,” says Kari Heerdt, chief people officer at MSC Industrial Direct.

Heerdt and her team face their own talent acquisition challenges in the coming years. As more of the company’s metal workers—a pivotal talent pool in the organization— age, fortifying their already short-handed job category will demand more agile and creative employee development or recruiting approaches.

Heerdt and her team face their own talent acquisition challenges in the coming years. As more of the company’s metal workers—a pivotal talent pool in the organization— age, fortifying their already short-handed job category will demand more agile and creative employee development or recruiting approaches.

“The need is great, but available talent is often in short supply,” Heerdt says. MSC also has a growing digital and e-commerce footprint that requires employees with cutting-edge skills in those areas.

Vail Resorts is also in a unique circumstance: It’s hiring large numbers of seasonal workers in a low-unemployment economy. Gasta leans heavily on social-media-based recruiting and leverages video interviewing technologies to improve time-to-hire and quality-of-hire metrics. Job candidates are recorded answering interview questions with the videos quickly posted online and scored by a centralized team of screeners.

“One of the big challenges of hiring young people for these jobs is interview scheduling,” Gasta says. “If you are not fast with an offer to top candidates, they will take a job elsewhere, so this process has improved both efficiency and quality of hires.”

In addition to social media, Bersin says talent acquisition leaders will continue to use their employment brands as a key way to attract talent next year.

“Because of the growing transparency into companies owing to sites like Glassdoor, employer brands have become a significant recruiting opportunity—and challenge—for organizations,” he says. “Companies are finding success using brand ambassadors and marketing strategies that improve how they’re perceived by potential employees.”

Focus on Culture and Ethics

Issues of culture and ethics also will be at the top of CHROs’ agendas next year. PwC’s 2016 WorkLife 3.0 study found more companies will be focusing on corporate culture, ethics, and values next year in order to retain employees, particularly millennials and Generation Z. ”CEOs are very concerned about culture right now,” Bersin says. “There have been some big ethical lapses in companies over the past year and the penalties for those bad behaviors are high. CEOs are saying to their CHROs, ‘Figure out where our culture is misaligned with our values and objectives and let’s work to get things right.’“

Maintaining a strong organizational culture is a strategic objective for Matthew Owenby, CHRO at global insurance company Aflac. “Our focus is ethics—ethics and ethics into 2017 and beyond, especially in light of problems we’ve seen recently in other companies,” says Owenby. “It’s an area where we feel we’ve always been strong but we don’t take ethics for granted, even with a good ethics training program and values statements in place.”

Owenby says Aflac goes beyond superficial treatment of the topic by building ethics content into leadership development programs and through top executives, encouraging managers to model ethical behaviors in the workplace. “HR will continue to partner with line leaders to help ensure that modeling is always happening,” Owenby says.

Planning For the Future

Identifying, developing, and promoting the next generation of leaders comes in cycles and will have the full attention of many CHROs next year. Millennials will drive customized leadership development programs: Organizations will need to accommodate programs to their unique learning and mobile-enabled preferences.

A robust leadership development program and new executive coaching initiative will help fuel succession planning at the San Diego Zoo next year. “Our goal is to teach executives to be better coaches so they can help develop and mentor the next generation of leaders in the company, with that coaching program cascading down to other leadership levels in the organization,” says CHRO Mulligan.

Owenby says developing millennials for next-level roles will be a focus of leadership training and succession planning at Aflac in 2017.

“About 40 percent of our workforce is now millennials so we’re customizing leadership development programs to the learning preferences and needs of that group,” Owenby says. “As our company continues to grow, we need to ensure the leadership pipeline and bench strength remains strong to guide us into the future.”

Dave Zielinski is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer specializing in talent acquisition and HR technology issues.

 

Posted December 14, 2016 in Enabling Technology

Leave a Reply