Josh Bersin is a world-known industry analyst, educator, and thought leader in all aspects of HR, leadership, and HR technology. Josh is a global research analyst, public speaker, and writer on the topics of corporate human resources, talent management, recruiting, leadership, technology, and the intersection between work and life. Josh also advises a variety of HR and learning companies to help them align their products and services toward the needs of corporate buyers.
Here are the edited excerpts.
With the pandemic bringing about a drastic change in terms of how organizations leverage technologies, how do you see this overnight digital transformation of businesses globally?
Digital transformation has accelerated at light speed. Not only are digital tools widely used by every employee, but most companies have digitized their sales, service delivery, products, and retail offerings. In the HR domain, HR leaders tell me they have adopted digital tools far faster than they ever thought possible. Instead of waiting for multi-year rollout strategies, companies are creating “mashups” of various systems and rolling them out in an iterative way. Everything -- from recruiting to onboarding to communications and performance management, is now simplified, online, and easier than ever.
How has the HR tech landscape changed over the last few months? What trends have you observed around HR tech adoption amid this COVID-19 crisis?
Many companies that rapidly sent employees home are now realizing that their management practices have to keep up with the work changes. How do we support and communicate better? How do we listen and empathize with people in a digital environment? Face-to-face and one-to-one communications are more important than ever, stepping up the role of leaders as coaches and good listeners. As far as the biggest areas of growth, I’d say employee communications, real-time and online training, surveys and feedback, and the new emergence of “back to workplace” scheduling and safe workplace tools.
The biggest areas of growth amid this pandemic are employee communications, real-time and online training, surveys and feedback, and the new emergence of “back to work” scheduling and safe workplace tools
What does the HR Tech market in the COVID-19 era look like? How are service providers stepping up their games to address the new market needs amid this crisis?
Consulting firms are finding it hard to grow right now because companies are in such a hurry to implement new solutions, but they are now quickly learning about “future of work” needs (flexible work and work at home), contingent hiring, and how to build a safe workplace strategy. The need for well-scheduled “safe workplace” strategy is huge.
Given the budgetary constraints that many organizations are facing and the many challenges amidst the pandemic, how can HR build an effective business case for new technology right now?
Most companies have plenty of budget for digital tools because they’ve stopped spending money on travel, hotels, and events – so there’s no lack of buying – in fact, the tech industry and online learning industry is growing faster than I’ve seen in a decade.
Some of the changes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us are going to be permanent and HR has to demonstrate a whole new kind of agility. What's your advice on how HR can up their game to become mission-critical to business?
I call this The Big Reset. Companies are going through a massive transformation. We aren’t ever going back to “normal” work – the way work was done prior to the pandemic. I am advising that leaders put big focus on employee needs, health, and safety; a far more agile and cross-functional way of working; and a focus on individuals moving into new roles as digital solutions for customers become standard. All this must be coupled with feedback, listening, and lots of transparent communications – and an enormous focus on trust, equity, fairness, and citizenship.
The first is the economic transformation, which I call the emergence of The Pandemic Economy. People still want food, entertainment, healthcare, and connection – so we’re delivering these services in a digital way.
As HR or business people, it means we’ve been busy. We’ve been buying and implementing digital tools (Microsoft, ServiceNow, SAP revenues are growing explosively), we’ve been redeploying people to new roles, and we’ve been developing new safe workplace protocols at light speed. And we’ve really been learning how to improve well-being, psychological safety, and mental health at work.
The second transformation we’re in is the social transformation of our lives. On one hand, we’re all becoming nicer to each other. Every Zoom call starts with people checking in on each other, and we’re all very forgiving when people have kids at home, power outages, or other family issues to deal with. In fact one of the “ten keys to transformation” we discovered in our research is “taking care of employees’ families” – a new part of HR that has now gone mainstream.
And part of being more kind and forgiving is really listening to the issues of racial injustice, income inequality, and diversity.
The third change is the transformation in global culture. In a world where global forces are unstoppable (Coronavirus for example, but also global warming), the theme of collectivism starts to grow. You can argue about masks or the impact of carbon on the environment, but you can’t argue with fire, tornado, hurricane, or pandemic. These problems are what the military calls “violent, asymmetric, unpredictable enemies” – so we need to band together in response.
In business, this has been an amazing thing. Every company I talk with tells me stories of how people are more connected, working in cross-functional teams, and more focused on purpose and mission than ever. If your CEO doesn’t understand this I’d guess your company is not doing well – but if he or she does, there is enormous energy to harness here.
All these transformations are real. We are NOT going back to where we were last year.