CHROs and industry experts share their insight on what 2018 holds for HR.
By Audrey Roth
In the coming year, constantly evolving technology and the growing demands to attract, retain, and engage talent will cause dynamic change in the HR industry. HR leaders must be prepared to face the challenges of a year of transformation.
The last few decades have seen a steady climb of increased use of cloud-based HR systems, but in 2018, expect to see nearing full adoption of this technology. According to PwC’s 2017 Human Resource Technology Survey, 68 percent of organizations had at least one HR process in the cloud two years ago. In 2017, that number has climbed to 73 percent, with nearly 40 percent having their core applications in the cloud.
In 2018, expect a further push toward an employee experience that mirrors consumer experience. “Flexible, easy, personalized, intuitive, slick, and mobile-first,” says Dave Almeda, chief people officer of Kronos Incorporated. “This not only helps employees and managers do their jobs more effectively, but can be a recruiting differentiator for organizations to show candidates that they are progressive and willing to provide the tools to get the job done.”
Director of ISG Stacey Cadigan explains that this user experience is shifting to user “addiction.” Employees’ everyday use of technology in their own lives on their smartphones and tablets can benefit business objectives. “The market is now showing a further evolution from user experience to user ‘addiction,’ with productivity solutions taking center stage,” says Cadigan. “It is about technology that shows up in the flow of day-to-day work and makes an employee’s work life better.”
Recent years have produced a lot of discussion around artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, with implementation in more obvious applications—chat bots for candidate screening and inquiries, and intelligent sourcing and matching—but next year will see wider spread usage of AI technology. “AI and automation solutions are currently most prominent within talent acquisition, but are now expanding into learning and other HR functions with solutions such as personalized coaching and recommendations,” says Cadigan. “We expect a heavy focus on AI and automation in 2018 with no signs of slowing down any time soon.”
It will be important for HR leaders to determine when to use this advanced technology and what to leave to traditional methods. “Using technology to create efficiencies and leave the most interesting work for the humans to do is critical,” says Janet Barnard, chief people officer of Cox Automotive. “Gone are the days when we can simply throw more people at any given problem.”
Olivier Blum, chief human resources officer of Schneider Electric, explains that as the space becomes more and more digitized, even greater value will be placed on in human interactions. “For example, while predictive models may become a commodity, it is very difficult to replicate the unique experience and problem-solving expertise of people. Therefore, despite the technological advancements, organizations need, more than ever, a common meaningful purpose to bring people together.”
Data and analytics are increasingly becoming a crucial component to workforce planning, but the tools and industry applications will continue to mature in the next year. “Data science can be for everyone. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and analytics embedded into HR and workforce management software solutions empower end users to leverage data in ways they never could before without advanced degrees and a team of data scientists,” says Almeda. “This intelligence brings analytics to all while also uncovering hidden engagement clues historically buried in mountains of workforce data—like, is too much overtime causing burnout, or can you make a case for more headcount—to help make smarter HR decisions.”
The challenge will be ensuring organizations access and utilize this data appropriately. “As analytics are increasingly embedded within HR technology through dashboards and metrics, organizations need to find tangible, practical ways to use analytics in the normal flow of day-to-day work,” says Cadigan.
Engaging and Maintaining
A people-first approach, which attracts, engages, and retains employees, is becoming the standard. “We strive for that perfect intersection where the employee experience meets customer experience. That’s the point where engagement truly acts as a strategic weapon and becomes a direct contributor to better business outcomes,” says Almeda.
Organizations have a strong focus on leadership development in 2017, and that will be no different in 2018. Almeda explains that all employees deserve a great manager, and Kronos addresses its goal with their “Manager Effectiveness Index.”
“Kronos employees rate their managers twice a year on what we’ve determined to be the most important characteristics of an effective manager,” he says. “Managers are provided with targeted developmental opportunities and programs specifically designed to help them be a more effective manager, which we know is the biggest driver to overall company success.”
Restructuring to incorporate new technology, recognition, engagement, and management strategies will also be on the 2018 agenda for many organizations. For example, Schneider Electric is implementing a new organizational model so employees can have the same chance of success, regardless of nationality or location. “To deliver on this ambition, we implemented a unique multi-hub model and systematically relocated global jobs to these hubs across the world to have a truly international leadership,” explains Blum. “Instead of having one global headquarters, we now have three hubs located in Paris, Boston, and Hong Kong.”
2018 will also see a continued move away from the longstanding tradition of the annual performance review. Organizations should strive to instill a culture of recognition, carried out with the help of technology. Almeda says that his organization recognizes the power of the performance review, but is planning a process reset in 2018. “That includes stripping out process for process sake, and focusing on value-add, on-going coaching conversations that drive development, high performance, and shared accountability for company and customer success. We also plan to leverage crowdsourced feedback from employees via focus groups, ongoing conversations, and using our internal social collaboration platform [Chatter] to evolve and improve current practices.”
The focus on workplace options, voluntary benefits, and overall flexibility will continue to trend. “Whether it’s healthcare, work hours, work spaces, or career paths, people entering the workforce want choices,” says Janet Barnard.
Schneider Electric understands this and recently instituted a “Global Family Leave Policy.” The policy allows employees to have time-off for key life stages such as welcoming a new baby, taking care of sick or elder relatives, and mourning the loss of a family member, with an inclusive definition of family. “For instance, the policy extends an equal amount of primary parental leave to a parent by natural birth, a single parent by adoption, or same-sex parent by adoption,” explains Blum.
Between providing employees new flexibilities, choosing which data to leverage, and deciding to utilize AI and bots, setting priorities for 2018 can be tricky for HR leaders. “The challenge is where to begin and which major shift will make the biggest impact, because we have to modernize—actually, revolutionize—all the ways in which people get work done,” says Barnard. “That’s expensive and time consuming, so setting the right priorities will be crucial.”
SIDEBAR: Looking Forward
Industry experts share key challenges and solutions for 2018.
- Choose the right digital strategy. “Educate yourself on the various HR technologies available in the market,” says Cadigan. “Create an integrated strategy that provides a holistic approach for how they all work together to create an end-to-end model.”
- Avoid the success trap. Even when experiencing an all-time high success rate, stay ahead. “Our employee engagement has never been higher and the awards continue to roll in. So as a team, we must continue to work hard to pull the right engagement levers and not get complacent with our employee experience as we continue to grow,” says Almeda.
- Emphasize the employee experience. “[Organizations] must set priorities well in advance, align teams behind the common objectives and keep the primary mission of the organization foremost in their mind,” says Blum.
- Plan ahead. “Organizations should develop a three-year strategic roadmap that lays out their strategic priorities and HR transformation plan,” explains Cadigan. “The plan should include development of a business case for key HR initiatives to ensure buy in and secure needed funding to position themselves to execute on key priorities in 2018.”