ReimagineHR: What Does a People-Centered Future of Work Look Like?

ReimagineHR: What Does a People-Centered Future of Work Look Like?

At the start of his keynote session at Gartner’s ReimagineHR summit in London last week, British organizational theorist, educator, and author Dr. Eddie Obeng offered a glimpse of the fast-arriving virtual workplace. A wearable mouse attached to his wrist, Obeng gave the audience a tour of a 3-D classroom projected on the screen, walking to different chalkboards and interacting with his colleagues present in the virtual room while actually participating from a remote office. In this way, Obeng illustrated the potential of flashy new technologies in shaping the future of work.

In our HR research practice at Gartner, however, we know from hundreds of calls with HR leaders and professionals that when many of them see this flashy technology, they say: “We’re not Google, we’re not Amazon; we simply can’t afford this level of digital enhancement.” They want to know what the future of work means for them: What can they actually do with the resources they have? When Obeng asked the audience to share some of their fears about the digitally-enabled presentation he was showing them, they said it would be “impractical,” “too techy,” and “too expensive” for them to implement.

But Obeng very quickly challenged the audience by telling them to forget about technology, that we’re using it all wrong. New technology, he asserted, is of limited value if we don’t rethink the processes by which people work. Technology may be changing around us, but our habits and behaviors have not. Our habits and practices are deeply ingrained, and as a result it is difficult to imagine what the future should look like; instead, as he put it, we “imagine the present, but shinier.”

Relating his topic back to HR, Obeng noted that everything about our organizational structure and talent processes, from compensation and benefits to learning and development to the hierarchical org chart, is designed for the world as it used to be, when organizations were able to see what was coming. Today, that’s impossible: Change happens faster than we and our processes can adapt. A senior leadership team making all decisions for an organization, Obeng said, can process about the same amount of data in an hour as our mobile phones can in a minute. Rather than trying to simply move faster, we need to reimagine the way we move.

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The Promise and Peril of Customizing Employee Experience

The Promise and Peril of Customizing Employee Experience

At the Harvard Business Review, brand consultant Denise Lee Yohn argues that companies need to design employee experience the same way they do customer experience:

Applying customer experience strategy to employee experience begins with needs-based segmentation, grouping employees into clusters based on their wants and needs. Most companies organize employees in standard groupings like job title, rank, department, business unit, or geography. But just as customer experience design requires a more nuanced understanding of customers than simple demographics or economic value, employee experience design should be based on employees’ drivers and desires. …

Companies can also use a segmentation strategy in times of change. For example, it might be helpful to create groupings of skeptics, observers, participants, and champions. who have distinct needs and can be reached with tailored tactics. Another tool HR can borrow from customer experience is the journey map, which outlines the steps customers go through in engaging with a company. This approach can be applied to employees through the employment life cycle as well.

A very recent and growing trend among the progressive chief human resources officers we talk to is the use of “human-centered” design or design thinking. One company had their HR benefits team go out on one of several “start-up safaris” the company launched to tackle different organizational challenges. They spent a day talking to ordinary people at a subway station about the benefits they want and need from an employer, and used their findings to better think through changes to their benefits from an employee perspective. A related trend is the movement to develop talent solutions using IT’s agile methodology: “beta testing” performance management and launching versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and so on, or in other words, baking iteration and learning into the process from the beginning.

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