No longer relegated to administrative oblivion, the Human Resources function at high-performing companies has evolved.
Many organizations are increasingly relying on sophisticated HR technology, especially cloud-based computing solutions, to deliver benefits across the business. The prize is attracting and keeping the kind of top talent necessary for growth during a time of accelerated change.
At the SAPInsider HR 2015 conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, Steve Hunt, vice president of Customer Value at SAP/SuccessFactors, discussed seven key points that leaders in the HR field need to understand in order to successfully attract and keep a talented workforce.
Change is nothing to be afraid of
According to Hunt, the commonly-held belief that “people fear change” is a myth. What they actually fear is bad change. Hunt’s words caused everyone in the audience to listen a little more closely.
“People don’t fear change. They fear the punishing aspects of poorly managed change – the loss of control or the uncertainty. But change itself is actually something people are wired to be good at,” said Hunt. “Evolutionary psychology suggests that the competitive nature of humans as a species is our ability to adapt to change, and the ability to change the environment to adapt to us.”
As an industrial and organizational psychologist, Hunt has been focused on increasing employee productivity throughout his career. His session at the SAPInsider HR 2015 event defined the role of HR leadership in a world of constant change.
Technology increases jobs
Another myth Hunt tackled was the misperception that technology eliminates good jobs. “Technology eliminated semi-skilled routine occupations,” he said. “Now there are two distinct markets of skilled and unskilled jobs. Technology, economic growth and globalization actually create more opportunities for skilled people.”
Despite economic uncertainty, Hunt said companies actually face a chronic skill shortage because of changing demographics including a decrease in the amount of people born in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Companies must aggressively hire, develop and engage skilled employees at all ages to meet talent needs.”
People still want the same things
Contrary to some assumptions, digitization hasn’t change what people basically want. Nor has the entry of millennials into the workforce. Hunt said research from SIOP (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology) reveals that what people want from work has not changed much in the past 100 years or so. “People still want respect and fair treatment, challenging and meaningful work, a sense of financial stability, growth, long-term employment security and a reasonable level of work/life balance.”
However, what has changed are people’s expectations. There’s less tolerance for outdated policies, hiring practices and corporate cultures unaligned with modern norms around issues like social media and mobile device usage to women in the workplace.
Rethink what’s possible
Hunt said top-performing companies set themselves up for successful transformation by being open to new processes. “Don’t start with your existing processes. What’s possible now is radically different from what was possible even four years ago,” he said.
Connect HR to the business
Everyone may now be talking about cloud-based HR software, but the technology is beside the point. What matters is connecting HR processes to business priorities, namely profit and growth. “Most people outside of HR don’t care about HR itself. They care about what HR creates,” said Hunt. “Make sure your HR people can articulate the change so business people understand the benefits to them.”
Success isn’t about the technology
One of Hunt’s main points was that although every company has access to the same technology some have better outcomes than others. “It’s how companies approach the technology and how they use it that spells the difference between transformational versus minimal impact on a workforce,” he said.
He added that successful companies think through critical questions including:
- How are we going to define performance?
- How are we going to measure performance?
- What are we going to use performance data for?
Make change fun and productive for employees
The lesson for HR is clear. Talent management has to be agile enough to keep up with today’s fast pace of change. Companies have to understand what top talent wants and provide it. And, they have to use technology to effect change that energizes people. HR also has to challenge leaders to think differently in how they manage the workforce. HR organizations that master the art of change can become strategic to the business.
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