The explosion of technology available to people outside the workplace is forcing employers to keep up with their employees’ digital expectations within it. In our 2018 Digital Employee Experience Survey, CEB, now Gartner, found that 74 percent of employees say they expect more access to state-of-the-art technology at work today than three years ago. However, these technologies can take different forms: Motorola’s modular phones, for instance, offer a multitude of features ranging from camera styles to gaming platforms, while the Light Phone markets itself as a “dumb phone” with features limited to calling and texting.
Both of these phones are at the leading edge of mobile technology, but they offer their users dramatically different experiences and are marketed to different sets of consumers with different preferences. HR leaders face a similar challenge in choosing from the growing range of options available to them how to most effectively deliver technology to their own consumers: employees.
When deploying new digital technologies, most HR functions focus on making as many digital solutions available to employees as possible. Many accomplish this by putting their HR resources into an app, providing “on-demand access” where all information is available anytime and anywhere. Just like we as consumers are used to having access to most types of information on demand outside of work, replicating that experience internally for employees has a certain appeal for organizations.
However, the results of an on-demand approach don’t live up to employers’ expectations: Our latest research on digitalization has found that deploying HR solutions through on-demand access only generates a 4 percent impact on employee performance, at most. This is better than no promotion of digital tools at all, but despite its intuitive appeal, in practice the on-demand approach overwhelms employees, confronting them with too much information and too many choices about how to use HR solutions.
Fortunately, there’s a better way.
The EU’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is scheduled to come into force on May 25, expands the reach of existing privacy regulations, applying not just to European organizations but to all companies processing the personal data of EU residents, no matter where the company is located. It also requires organizations to request users’ consent for data collection and grants EU citizens a number of new rights, including the right to access data collected about them and the “right to be forgotten,” or to have that data erased. Organizations caught violating the regulation risk fines of as much as 4 percent of their annual global turnover or 20 million euros.
The GDPR has sent many companies scrambling to establish new data privacy functions and hire data protection officers to manage what they expect to be a hefty compliance challenge. For any organization that does business in Europe, GDPR compliance will involve ensuring that employee data is managed correctly, meaning the HR function has a large part to play. Talent Economy’s Sarah Fister Gale gives a primer on what the impending regulation means for HR:
The main job for HR on these projects is to make sure EU employees and recruits are given notice describing what personal data the company is collecting, how it is being used and how it will be shared and kept. [Neal Dittersdorf, general counsel and privacy officer for iCIMS,] noted that many companies already provide data notifications to these workers, however HR needs to be certain the language and timing of these notifications is updated to reflect GDPR requirements. …
Data scientists are among the most in-demand professionals in the US right now, as more and more industries look to harness the power of data to drive productivity and innovation to new heights. Demand is high and supply is short, so these experts command remarkably high salaries. However, recent research has suggested that many companies’ data isn’t sufficiently high-quality to produce the kinds of insights managers are expecting. This is particularly true in the emerging field of talent analytics, where companies are making major investments but most aren’t seeing them pay off.
In addition to the data quality challenge, Data Quality Solutions President Thomas C. Redman suggested in a recent Harvard Business Review article that senior managers at many organizations are mismanaging their data scientists: placing them in the wrong part of the organization, not focusing the data science program on business outcomes, and not facilitating a transition to a more data-driven culture. He offers some suggestions for how companies can get more out of their data scientists:
First, think through how you want data scientists to contribute, and put them in spots where they can do so. The worst mistake a company can make is to hire a cadre of smart data scientists, provide them with access to the data, and turn them loose, expecting them to come up with something brilliant. Lacking focus and support, most fail. Instead, clearly define the opportunities you want to address using data science, and put your data scientists in places in the organization where they can best pursue those opportunities. …
Employee monitoring technology is often depicted as “Big Brother” watching over employees to enforce maximum productivity. However, as these technologies become more common, organizations are finding opportunities to use them in ways that benefit employer and employee alike. TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear reports on one London startup, Zego, which has devised a way for delivery workers on gig economy platforms to insure their vehicles at an affordable rate by charging them only for those hours when they are logged into the platforms they use to find work:
The startup has also developed good relationships with the platforms it supports, meaning its insurance app is able to connect to those on-demand food delivery platforms so that Zego-insured drivers don’t need to manually tell Zego when they are and aren’t working. Instead, the cover kicks in as soon as they log on for a delivery shift.
And because Zego knows when a person is or isn’t out driving and where, it is potentially able to use this data to adjust its risk assessment accordingly. The startup is also exploring telematics — the use of tracking hardware and software — as another way of more accurately pricing its pay-as-you-go cover or helping to reduce risk by perhaps warning drivers when they are being unsafe.
Zego’s product responds to a demand for ways to give workers in the UK’s ever-expanding gig economy at least some of the benefits and protections enjoyed by full-time employees, in a flexible, portable form that fits with their work lives. It also collects a lot of data on its users, but Zego is betting that they will be perfectly happy to trade that data for reduced insurance costs. In fact, the pay-as-you-go insurance policy is one of their main branding points on their site. Because Zego is offering a value proposition where workers benefit from the collection of their data, they don’t mind the company knowing when and where they work.
Employers can benefit from a similar approach when implementing employee monitoring technologies or otherwise collecting employee data. Research we at CEB, now Gartner, conducted last year found that most employees don’t consider it unacceptable for their employers to monitor their activity at work. Among millennials, 70 percent don’t mind being monitored as long as the purpose of the monitoring is to help improve their performance. Our findings suggest that employees are less resistant to these new forms of monitoring than employers may think, but also that they are even less likely to object when they see a direct benefit.
High-potential employees, or HIPOs, are supposed to be an organization’s future. However, correctly identifying which employees have the most potential is often a difficult task, due to ambiguity surrounding the term HIPO and the fact that most managers don’t seem to believe their organizations’ criteria for high potential are accurate. Moreover, HIPO selection is easily “politicized”: In a recent Harvard Business Review post, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Abhijit Bhaduri discussed six ways managers often play politics in identifying, promoting, and developing HIPOs, namely the politics of intuition, self-interest, avoidance, favoritism, ageism, and gender:
In short, the politics of potential can prevent organizations from upgrading their leadership talent and make data-driven decisions an anomaly rather than the norm. Too many times we have seen the CEO’s favorite candidate be put through a formal assessment simply as a way of confirming a decision that has already been made in advance, not for merit.
Our research at CEB, now Gartner, has touched on all of these political dynamics, and fortunately we’ve found some straightforward and practical solutions to the problems identified here. Organizations using best practices are ensuring their HIPOs are managed as enterprise assets and not held captive to the whims of a manager. Here are some real-world examples of how organizations are overcoming the six political barriers Chamorro-Premuzic and Bhaduri identify (and CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can click through the below links for more information on our research):
The politics of intuition occurs when managers “follow their gut” when nominating HIPOs based on their own judgement of employee performance and future capability. Instead, all managers within an organization should have standardized, clear, and business-relevant criteria to identify HIPOs. CEB recommends evaluating employees for potential against three key characteristics: Ability, aspiration, and engagement. Critically, managers need to be involved in validating the details of these criteria to ensure that HIPO they are not an abstract HR concept. Our recent study on high-potential employees shared a real-world practice Black Hills Corporation uses to align HIPO identification to changing business needs, in order to identify the best HIPOs to fill emerging leadership opportunities.
Jolt, an Israeli professional-development startup with offices in Tel Aviv, New York, and San Francisco, has been experimenting since last year with an innovative employment model meant to give employees a boost in their career development. Instead of open-ended employment contracts, Jolt began offering two-year “chapterships,” after which employees could move on to another organization or find a new role at Jolt.
The idea behind the chaptership is for the two-year stint to be one “chapter” in an employee’s career that prepares them for the next one, based on the understanding that millennials in particular are looking to cultivate themselves through a broad range of experiences early in their careers. With that in mind, rather than attract employees with perks, Jolt invests heavily in training so that employees can learn the skills they for whatever comes next. In a recent interview with Business Insider’s Matt Weinberger, Jolt CEO Roei Deutsch discussed how the experiment has gone thus far and the lessons the company has learned from it:
It turns out that millennial workers often don’t know where they want to end up, career-wise. “People have no idea what they want to do next,” Deutsch told Business Insider in a recent interview. “Therefore, it’s hard for them to prepare for it.” Jolt hasn’t given up on chapterships. But that realization has prompted the company to modify the program to help employees figure out what they want out of life. …
Erin Griffith at Wired profiles ExecThread, a site where executives can share and find job opportunities within an exclusive network of their peers. The site is the brainchild of entrepreneur Joe Meyer, who realized the potential for disruption in executive recruiting when he sold his startup HopStop to Apple in 2013 and was approached by dozens of recruiters bearing job offers he didn’t want:
He quickly realized that C-level job opportunities weren’t listed on job boards—they came through friends or colleagues. So he decided to share the 99 job opportunities he didn’t take with his network, building an informal online community of high-level professionals. The hope was that his professional contacts would share their unwanted “hidden” job opportunities, too. …
Over the past two years, the site has grown by word-of-mouth to 15,000 self-described “high-caliber” members. Of those members, 80 percent are vice president-level or higher. Cumulatively, they’ve discussed more than 7,000 jobs. Beginning Thursday, anyone can apply—but you may not get in. ExecThread vets applicants based on recommendations from existing members, how networked applicants are, how willing they are to share job postings, where they’ve worked, and what titles they’ve held. Existing members vote on incoming applicants.
Meyer tells Griffith that he hopes for ExecThread to “democratize” high-level job searches by allowing executive candidates to compete for opportunities that are not pitched directly to them by recruiters. He believes the site can do a better job of sourcing talent than executive recruiting firms, but also envisions eventually monetizing ExecThread by selling users’ data profiles to those firms.