HRTech World in Paris was overwhelming. The sheer scale and energy of the event, with more than 3500 delegates, hundreds of sponsors and 200,000m² of exhibition space, meant some strategic cherry picking was needed.
Although I became something of a Josh Bersin stalker, I spent a lot of time in the DisruptHR area, listening to pitches and talking to some of the new entrepreneurs. The whole spectrum of new HR processes will be covered by what Mr. Bersin has identified as his number one trend “the appification of everything.” Whether employee engagement, onboarding and offboarding, payroll, social recruitment, learning and development, we are going to see new dashboards, apps and analytics for every element of the function.
What must have been music to the ears of hopeful start-up entrepreneurs was Trend #2. He believes one sole big ERP vendor is unlikely to cover all elements. There’s your crack in the market!
But one other message came over loud and clear. This was apparent particularly in the keynote panel discussions, but also in side sessions, as well as individual conversations with delegates. Putting the humanity back into Human Resources, which should perhaps more appropriately be called Human Relations, or Human Relationships.
The declining level of employee engagement and productivity was the conference buzz catch phrase. Some estimated this disengagement to be as high as 90%, with Prezi CEO, Peter Arvei calling it an epidemic
Technology is part of the solution, but also part of the problem.
The ultimate irony is that Mr. Bersin maintains that this decline in productivity has been marked since the introduction of the iPhone. So technology is part of the problem. Unless organisations have cultures which are highly compliant, employers can’t make employees become engaged he emphasized. Nearly every company sees increasing individual productivity and overall performance as a challenge, but most struggle to handle it.
We are seeing the emergence of what his company has called the “overwhelmed employee.” So although the processes adopted by HR are changing faster than we could ever imagine, many were suggesting that the future of work and the success of HR and businesses, will be a reconnection with basic old-school traditional values. What we need is to be able to manage the frenetic communications practices that overwhelm all of us, simplify the work environment, create more flexible work standards that allow employees to prioritise.
New processes. Traditional values
Euan Semple told us if we wanted higher engagement we needed to do something different:
Employee engagement “stand still long enough for someone to talk to you” #HRTechWorld
— Dorothy Dalton (@DorothyDalton) October 28, 2015
Sir Richard Branson said leaders need to become good listeners and proposed writing any feedback down. Businesses thrive and survive because of their people, he maintained, and it’s necessary to treat them as adults and not micro-manage.
Not forgetting the famous Virgin parties. It’s necessary to recognise and celebrate individual contributions.
When asked about his legacy, Sir Richard added:
— Dorothy Dalton (@DorothyDalton) October 27, 2015
This was endorsed by Ambrosia Vertesi VP of Talent for Hootsuite. To paraphrase she told us that employers need to do what is necessary to allow people to be fulfilled and healthy human beings, whether as employees, parents, partners or carers, an atypical corporate business model that Virgin have followed for years. Virgin has thrived when its competitors went to the wall because of a strong “people” culture.
— Sophia Boleckis (@Sokkis) October 27, 2015
And all succinctly summed up by award winning sector veteran Naomi Bloom, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing:
Interesting/worthwhile work + great total comp/flexible work conditions + competent/respected mgr + congenial culture/environ = engagement.
— Naomi Bloom (@InFullBloomUS) October 29, 2015