On the consumerization of HR (again)

I’ve already wrote about the consumerization of the workplace and of HR in particular. As I recently said, I’ll remind the latest edition of HRTech (now let’s call it Unleash) as the pivotal moment where what was a background trend and a weak signal became a mainstream concrete matter for HR practitioners.

This post will summarize what I heard about it at the conference and put it the perspective of my own thinking to understand how we got there and what it means.


Hardware eats the world

Even if I’m convinced that technology does not change people nor their behaviors nor their culture, it paves the way for change. There’s always been, in or outside the enterprise, a wide gap between what we wanted to be, what we wanted to do, how we wanted to do it and the reality. It was caused by some constraints, some of them relating to our capacity to process information and communicate and collaborate in real-time or asynchronously, seamlessly, in a structured or unstructured fashion.

Slowly, by removing constraints, technology made it possible for us to get rid of what we implemented to deal with the constraints. But we didn’t. It explains why technology is often disappointing : technology evolves but we still stick to the old forms of organization, management and behaviors that were the result of a situation to which technology put and end. Yesterday’s solutions become today’s problems. So the problem is not technology but the fact we’re too afraid or conservative to make the most of it.

That said, two things are worth our attention regarding the “hardware” side of technology.

The first is nothing new and we’ve been experiencing it since 2004/2005 : people now have at home, for their personal use, technologies that perform much better that what they have at work. Either in terms of computing power,laptop weight,internet connectivity bandwith , we’re better equipped at home that at work, what’s neveer been the case before. Hence BYOD programs and the effort some businesses made to keep up with consumer technologies and update their computer park.

The second started around 2007 and is becoming bigger every day : the smartphone is the new normal, connected objects are proliferating. Hardware is not our computer only anymore  but our watch, our scale, our coffee machine. It’s everywhere, it follows us everywhere and it’s connected.

The first point created bigger employee expectations. The second created the infrastructure that allowed radically new behaviors to emerge.

Software eats the world

If I don’t believe that much that hardware transforms people, I believe that software plays a bigger role in transformation. Hardware is worth nothing without applications and applications make new behaviors possible, no matter the application has been designed to support these behaviors or if the behaviors are the result of users taking ownership of the application in an unexpected way.

In any event, machines are becoming transparent because, contrary to what we experienced in the 90s, computing power is not what limits behavior anymore (except for some very specific industrial or scientific apps). For at least 95% of users, it’s not about waiting for the next processor that will eventually help us to do what we want to but finding applications that improve our experience when we do it.

Through the idea of software and experience, I would even suggest that services are eating the world. One does not use apps anymore but mobilizes services. At least in our personal lives because, once again, enterprise software is still lagging behind and even if things are improving it’s taking too much time.

No matter how similar the use case is, it’s always more difficult to get things done at work than at home and employees don’t understand why. Why something that is seen as a service in a part of their life is an obstacle run in the other ?

New expectations exist and businesses are starting to address them, mostly with simplification approaches, what goes far beyond software because complicatedness is not caused by softwares but by the processes they support.

Experiences are eating the world

I mentioned it above and that’s a key point : when the infrastructure is everywhere and when the software becomes a service, people forget both of them to focus – even unconsciously – on experiences.

The “what it does” being a no brainer, the “how it does it” being a concern only for geeks and engineers, the “what’s my experience with it” trumps everything.

Here again the gap between the enterprise world and what we live as consumers is huge. Here again there are new expectations and here again businesses are jumping on the employee experience bandwagon too much time after they jumped on the customer experience one. But the train is moving because more and more businesses get that beyond comfort and well-being, employee experience is about effectiveness and engagement, what are things they can measure the impact.

What’s does it take ? Redesigning processes into services, turning what is seen as a constraint in what will be seen as a resource.


Personalization is everywhere

While businesses want to excel at customer understanding, they’re late at understanding the employee understanding imperative and its power.

Once again the example comes from outside. We’re living in a world of ultra-personalization and that’s only the beginning. What matters is not to know what products and services are available : the list is endless. The matter is not to know how to search : search engines are more and more powerful but the result list is so large that we can drown in it. What matter is arbitration and decision making. So the only question that’s worth is not to know how to find what we need (with the risk of ignoring things we don’t know they exist) but being suggested what match our needs.

Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Spotify : content, suggestions and experiences are every day more personalized while, at the same time, businesses have a long tradition of “one size fits all'” when it comes to employees, the most obvious example being in the field of learning (which I’ll be discussing in a future post), but it’s far from being the only one.

Towards the consumerization of the enterprise

The unavoidable consumerization of the enterprise is the result of all these forces converging together, raising employee expectations. Some will say that’s all about comfort and well being, others will say that’s it’s about efficiency and engagement, what are key to business success and performance.

The good news is that the target vision is known by everyone : having at work the same level of service, engagement, simplicity and effectiveness we have the as clients, as consumers. Most of uses cases from the consumer world need very little rework to be duplicated in  the workplace and the field of new use cases to invent is nearly unlimited. And the leading principes are well known.

Photo Credit : Fotolia

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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