2018 is the year of the Employee, Oracle says

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Earlier this year, Oracle issued a report on HR Trends, concluding that 2018 will be the year of the employee. We’ve been hearing for such a long time that HR are going to weight more on the organization, that people will be put at the center of the organization…that such a claim can look laughable, like most of marketing claims. So instead of judging the claim, let’s have a look at what’s inside the report.

HR Trend #1 : the post engagement era

It’s not that employee engagement is less important than before but what used to be dealt with through and individual approach should now be seen as a collective dynamic issue. This approach is a magic trick to bring employee experience in the reflexion. According to the report while there’s a lot of talks about employee experience, very little is done. It mentions a KennedyFitch survey that shows that while 84% of HR directors surveyed say that employees experience will matter a lot, only 6% say they’re currently working on it. That’s very usual when the direct impact on profitability is either unknown or secondary. But this impact is proven.

Talking about employee experience, Oracle avoids the too often seen “experience washing”. They’re honest enough to say that HR systems have no impact on employee experience : in the best case they provide managers with data that help them build an emotionally engaging environment. That inspires me some thoughts.

First if we consider that employee experience is not bigger that the scope of HR there is very little room for improvement. I consider that employee experience is mostly a matter of tools and business processes (if not it would mean that it’s for employees when they don’t work) and outside of making HR processes more employee-centric and tools more easy to use, HR cannot do a lot if business departments don’t follow them. So Oracle is right but they don’t look far enough. Saying that employee experience is restricted to the emotional and collective dimension and not talking about business proposes is not very ambitious and separates employee experience from real work to turn it into something that superimposes but does not relates to work.

In my opinion, organization, business processes and tools must be “experiential by design” if we really want to root employee experience in the business engine and achieve concrete, perennial and nearly automatic results.

HR Trends #2 : Skills, not trust

It’s about recruitment and an approach consisting in a series of tests and interviews that’s showing its limits. Businesses define a standard profiles for the employee they need and hire those who are the closest. The alternative proposed in the report is to rely on diverse data to validate the candidate matches not with the profile but with the job. In other words, rely on what shows the real skills of the candidate, not his ability to sell himself.

Reading that, I wondered what the report meant by “trust”. I don’t know what the authors had in mind but let me share with you 3 areas where trust shows its limits when it come to recruiting.

1°) Blind trust in a standard profile. That prevents from hiring atypical profiles or even people who do not exactly match with the profile.

2°) Trust in the recruiter’s own evaluation skills. When recruiters base the final decision on their instinct, on what they feel about someone.

3°) Trust in the candidate. Despite all the interviews, we know that there must be a wide gap between how seducing a candidate can be in the interviews and his ability to deliver on the job. On the contrary, some candidates who do no “sell” themselves very well can be very good employees.

HR Trend #3 : The people-machine balance

I totally agree with the report when it says that technology mostly set people free.

That’s true that many jobs were designed for robots, with the endless repetition of the same task. This legacy from Ford and Taylor had devastating effects in the service industry. Jobs were designed for robots but since there was no robot, these jobs where given to humans. Now that robots are here, we should be happy to give them their jobs back and make humans to what they are good at, what makes them blossom and use their full potential, what makes them different from machines.

The more we’ll use machines to automate processes, the more human time we’ll have to do what machines can’t and for what we had very little time before.

But, as the report says, a balance must be found and instead of setting people and machines against each other we should focus on making them work together. It’s a matter of learning programs but also arbitrations between what should be automated or not and where humans have value.

That’s right but maybe too consensual since we know that most business focus on short term and will think about replacing people in the first place instead making making them collaborate with machines.

 

HR Trend #4 : The collaborative economy

It’s about the rise of alternatives to the usual wage-earning models. It’s about freelancing and what we usually call the on demand economy made popular by Uber and similar platforms.

Since a growing number of people will be contractors and not employed, it raises legitimate questions about how to consider them. Should they be seen as providers ? As partners businesses should help to increase their skills ? That will be a key questions for HR in the future.

From my standpoint it’s paradoxical to rely more and more on contractors for, let’s be honest, mostly financial reasons and, at the same time, acknowledge that to drive sustainable performance they’d better invest in these people.

It’s clear of tomorow’s CHRO will have to deal with the extended enterprise.

HR Trend #5 : Recognition

Starting assumption : money matters but less for today’s that it did for their parents. I don’t fully agree but…

But I agree with the report when it says that “businesses want to deliver a fulfilling employee experience that mixes mental satisfaction and fair wages”. I would have said “should want” instead of “want” because very few are mature enough to realize what really matters. It’s also about understanding what kind of recognition people expect.

Some examples are given like wellness programs or parental leaves….that are not seen lije benefits anymore but like something normal when people give 70% if their time to their employer.

The importance of non-financial recognition is a real matter but the report does not say much about what paths to explore.

So, is 2018 the year of the employee ?

After all that, I really don’t know if 2018 is the year of the employee or not. The trends showed in the report are undisputable and deserve all our attentions. But will it be enough to name 2018 the year of the employee ? I rather think that’s it’s the start of something aiming at bridging the gap between the state of the art and what the evolution of technology and society has made possible and necessary.

Photo : Happy Employee by  Minerva Studi via Shutterstock