The theme for 2016’s HRO Today Forums is “Talent Cloud.” We are using that phrase to symbolize the fact that technology is now integral to HR and to the relationship between employee and employer. The world is not “changing.” It’s changed. And while we still sometimes think of HR as being all about the people, the bits and bytes are just as important as the heart and the brain. However, we all know what we want to fall out of the talent cloud is the best possible workforce with the highest possible productivity.
We are awash in technology for HR. So much so that it is becoming a jungle out there. At our last event in Amsterdam this past November, we had 10 HRDs for major global companies share their stories of challenges and innovation, and in each case, technology was critical to success and measurement. In fact, the overhaul of infrastructure was core to several of their successes. Many of these HRDs were also struggling to interact effectively with their workforce, and one had implemented a mobile app for almost all HR services.
What does this all mean for the future? Frankly, I do not know.
What does it mean for now? It means that running HR is about recognizing fundamental truths and building an infrastructure based on the workforce you will get. It also means that the overused word “innovation” is not just about technology, but also about practices and how software may or may not be used.
The first thing to consider is the workforce. Welcome to the gig economy. We left the gig economy about 150 years ago during the Age of Industrialization, but guess what, it’s back. Workers will learn about, interact with, interview through, and engage for brief periods of time over web-based tools. Work Market, a growth phenom in the US (based in New York) that links independent contractors with employers, has a ticketing system for hiring contractors for “gigs” not unlike the Uber app for hiring drivers. Only, their contractors are highly educated consultants doing high-tech work for varying durations of time. You need something done (insert the word “talent”), just click “here.”
But this imposes new responsibilities and challenges on employers trying to interact with FTEs, PTEs or ICs, or other categories. Talent is now highly portable and very global as well. Take Uber, for example. Uber argues, and is doing so in the U.S. courts, that its drivers are not employees. I hope that this is true. I use Uber often in my home city of downtown Philadelphia and all over theworld. Uber treats their drivers miserably. If someone else comes along with a competing app and a deal with Google Location Services, all the Uber drivers will just log into that app and ditch Uber. Then watch, Uber will probably argue the converse that there is some contractual or employment relationship involved rather than just people picking up rides through their app.
The increasingly free-agent workforce still needs to understand corporate mission, align to organizational goals, and feel important in their relationship to the employer. Most companies fear this dialogue and fear tripping over one of the “coemployment” wires. However, I continue to criticize contingent labor providers: they must partner with their clients to provide motivation to long term contractors, some of whom will work on a job longer than a newly hired millennial (good luck if you get 14 months). Yet, that new millennial direct hire will get all kinds of orientation and motivation and the long term contractor will get time cards and a hot desk-access card.
Our conference is going to cover these important concepts of innovation of thought and practice, the reality of the technology that makes HR better, and the best ways to use technology to manage the acquisition and relationship to talent. We are in Chicago May 2-4 at the Drake Hotel (www.hrotodayforum.com). We are going to debate these hard issues, network with friends, and have some fun. When you seed the clouds, who knows what will fall out?
Elliot H. Clark, CEO