In 2020 organizations will see an acceleration of trends that have defined the world of HR not just 2019 but over the last few years. The growing influence of technology, use of big data, coupled with Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Machine Learning, will reshape the world of work, worker and industry. According to a report, the technology market that caters to HR function is expected to be worth $34 billion by the year 2021. Almost $3.6 billion worth of that business is expected to come from Asia including India. A sizable chunk of almost $20 billion will be commanded by existing solutions largely in Human Capital Management. The HCM software providers continue to expand and acquire new capability, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and HR chatbot solutions are flourishing, and new automation is being used to improve operational efficiency and employee experience.
Technology will enable hyper personalization and therefore employee experience. While this used to be a mass commoditized approach earlier, it will now become personalized, hi-tech and high touch. While fundamentally that primary responsibility of an HR manager pertaining to hiring talent, retaining it and making a company the best place to work hasn’t changed, the way this is now done has become far more complex and nuanced. And it will continue to be so, throwing up opportunities and challenges in equal measure, in the year ahead.
If technology is going to be the fulcrum of change, how do we see this impacting human resource in 2020.
Employee experience has been defined by McKinsey as – “Companies and their people working together to create personalized, authentic experiences that ignite passion and tap into purpose to strengthen individual, team, and company performance”. Therefore, organizations will have to focus on personalization which is linked to purpose driven passion of employees. According to an MIT study, organizations with top-quartile employee experience achieve higher customer satisfaction and 25 percent higher profits than ones whose employee experience ranked in the bottom quartile. There is a misnomer that Employee Experience is a new form of employee engagement which is a rather short-sighted way of looking at workplace. Organizations that deliver hyper-personalized experiences with the rational function and emotional aspects integrated seamlessly at workplace, combined with hi tech and high touch engagement will provide noteworthy employee experience. Employee Experience therefore is crucial to employee engagement which is nothing but employee being emotionally connected to organisation to create outperformance.
The employee touchpoints across the HR lifecycle and across HR processes generates millions of data which then becomes Big Data. The insights into this Big data with usage of analytics and interplay of AI and Machine Learning along with Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality will play a very crucial role in hyper-personalizing the experience employees look for. The decoding of what experience means, would require both logical and intuitive insighting. Therefore, be it intervention or be it insight to create hyper-personalized employee experience, would require prudent interplay of data and technology. Increasingly companies have realized the importance of building environments in the workplace that make people happy to work, employees feel valued, wanted and recognized which could be possible with hyper-segmented interventions.
I expect this trend to accelerate in 2020 and beyond, as more and more companies work to create and refine their employee experience.
One of the benefits or downsides of rapidly advancing technology, depending on which way you look at it, is the increasing amount of automation of work functions. Automation is helping companies save a lot of money simply through the sheer efficiency it brings in processes. But at the same time, it is replacing / taking over jobs done by actual human beings, making what they do redundant.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Work report published in 2018, 60 percent of the jobs currently in existence have the potential of making 30 percent or more of their activities automated. Naturally, the jobs at the bottom of the pyramid will be the first to be impacted. For example, assembly line jobs in factories, which are already being lost to robots. But no tier of job, even upper management roles, will be immune to the effects of automation.
Demographically, by 2025, millennials will constitute 75% of global workforce. Their work preferences will largely encompass – autonomy and flexibility at work. We need to reflect if, the work and workplace are they geared to these dominant preferences? This needs to be reflected and debated so that the millennials are aligned through appropriate mindset training, skilling to live up to the expectations that arise out of the way work, worker and workplace will evolve in the fast-changing world of tomorrow.
Putting the aforesaid together into a big picture perspective, we will be faced with a multigenerational workforce with predominance of millennials with differential skill sets and hence the biggest challenge, in the area of work, worker and employment, will be skilling, reskilling without losing focus on the so-called personalization of experience the employees look for.
Recognitions that combine high-tech and high-touch
While digital recognition is a high-tech way of reaching out to employees, if it is not balanced with high-touch then the employee experience will be lost as recognition which is the purpose of rewards may get submerged in sea of thoughts. Thus, effectiveness is all about how one manages high-tech solutions with high-touch experience.
Rewards and recognition (R&R) have always been leveraged as a process a tool for behavior modification. If an employee sees value in the reward, employers will see a behavior modification. The ‘what’ and ‘how’ of reward is significant as it is dependent upon the interplay of effort and results. The Vrooms Valence theory of motivation articulates this precisely. When efforts are high and results are significant, the reward with just technology application may not be highly valued by the employee as it would be a pure high-tech approach without any emotional connect. For example, for a superlative performer who has performed beyond expectations in a tough year, would not see value in receiving a cheque emailed or posted to employee’s mailbox and money credited to his account. Opportunities like these can be great examples of employee experience if the high tech is preceded by high touch, wherein if the manager concerned, personally met him/her either in a face-to-face conversation or in team meeting and appreciated his/her hard work. Hence, balancing the use of technology, digital recognition and virtual medals with high-tech and high touch approach would be the order of the day and in this manner, the space of R&R would emerge.
Data or gut-feel?
In today’s world where it is possible to collect and analyze big data relatively easily, it can be very tempting to base company-shaping HR decisions on data points. But it’s important not to sacrifice your gut feel. Big data is not only continuing to grow more prominent within the HR function, but also it is important to use it as a complement to your gut feel, something that informs your gut feel rather than displaces it altogether. Ultimately, your gut feel is also data that you have built up through years of experience.
In conclusion, there’s no escaping it. Technology is marching into our workplaces and there’s no halting it. Eventually the office will transform into a space where humans, robots and Cobots coexist. Granted that’s still some way away. But in 2020 the office will move one step further in this direction.