For many, the heat of Las Vegas is hot enough, but at our UNLEASH America event we decided to increase the temperature. We have unlocked a fiery debate about the importance of HR technology in driving experiences and productivity in enterprises.
The discussion was chaired by Madeline Laurano, founder and chief analyst at Aptitude Research, and included the insights of, Kamal Ahluwalia, President of Eightfold AI, Yvette Cameron, senior vice president of global HCM product strategy at Oracle, Steve Pemberton, CHRO at Workhuman, Amy Wright, managing partner, talent transformation at IBM, and David Ludlow, group vice president of portfolio strategy at SAP SuccessFactors.
This group debated the value of HR technologies, the most pressing issues that companies are facing, and the best methodologies for effective transformation at work.
Key trends in HR
To begin, each member of the debate highlighted a trend that they believe is prevalent now and will continue to be important in the future.
IBM’s Wright identified that “employability, which means their ability to develop skills for their future”, is an area that “is really hard for us because that means we have to be open to allowing them to have other jobs, where they may learn different things inside our own organizations.”
WorkHuman’s Pemberton noted his focus on “how we’re going to leverage technology to recognize the contributions that people make.” In addition, Pemberton believed that humanity will become a more prominent part of the workplace after the pandemic. Laurano which company added that humanity is a trend she is also seeing become a trend in the workplace.
Looking from the C-level perspective, Eightfold AI’s Ahluwalia commented: “it’s really coming down to CEOs now asking for ‘how do I become a skills-based organization.’ And a lot of the work that we have done with our platform has been around understanding skills, adjacencies, and learnability.
“Really thinking broadly, not just about the digital skills, that I think most of us have. It’s not just solving for each other, but also solving for parts of the workforce that have been underserved in a big way.”
Cameron and Ludlow both agreed that employee experience is a huge trend. Oracle’s Cameron noted: “Employee experience is clearly a top priority, and everybody is approaching it from different perspectives.
“We’re investing in technology to develop skills to connect people to help individuals grow their career aspirations.
“It’s interesting; we did a study at Oracle. And we found that 88% of individuals used the last couple of years during the pandemic, to reassess what’s important to them.
“And flexibility, work-life balance, and being heard and listened to from their organizations became even higher priorities in many cases than traditional compensation and benefits.”
Humanity in business
With these trends in mind, the panelists looked deeper into humanity and employee experience. They offered their perspectives on improving these areas within a business.
Pemberton commented that there’s always a debate about nature vs nurture when it comes to psychology “and similarly in HR, humanity, and technology, are they at odds with one another?”
In the pandemic, it became evident that “we need each other. I think that’s especially true as you’re seeing these broader discussions that are happening in society, in our organizations, whether you saw it unfold in Buffalo or Uvalde, those things are happening.
“Those conversations are happening in our organizations and technology can enable those conversations because they’re no longer happening in vacuums.”
Offering her perspective on employee experience in Oracle, Cameron added: “There are a ton of approaches to employee experience. And again, we can look at it in recruiting, we can look at it in learning, but we really should be doing is looking at it holistically, not across just our HR processes, but across the employees’ experience.”
Cameron points out that employees are not always interacting with HR systems and it’s important to understand how personal lives can impact work.
Making effective HR change
Improving employee experience, and altering how we approach topics in work, requires teamwork and strategy.
Ludlow gave insight into how SAP leverages skills and teams effectively. He commented that people will be aware “that work is getting done much differently in organizations than it used to”.
He continued: “We’re moving from hierarchical models, to where a manager with a team did pretty much all the work in the organization, to an agile environment – where teams are created very quickly and centered on objectives and very specific initiatives.”
While teams are assembled and dismantled frequently, SAP monitors the wellbeing, sentiment, and performance of members through HR technology.
Transforming HR technologies is no simple task, and Wright offered her IBM perspective: “You have got to get going to make some progress, and you’re going to end up iterating. But if you don’t do that, in the context of a broader enterprise-wide transformation, then sometimes those projects aren’t very useful.”
On the topic of skills, she continued: “You could do a project around skills, let’s record our skills, you know, assign teams based on skills. But if you don’t have a skill strategy, around making skills a currency in which you operate across your enterprise” the projects won’t stick.
Oracle’s Cameron added: “There are actually ways to become a skills-driven enterprise and literally days if there are steps and approaches you take.
“I know our approach at Oracle is really about tailoring it and getting you to day one efficiency as quickly as possible.”
Considering transformations, Cameron commented: “We’ve seen a lot of our customers deploying these capabilities of dividing individuals very personalized through all of their activities, whether it’s related to developing skills and learning or closing the books in the finance organization, etc.
“Those journeys, those experiences are transforming the culture in the organization. So they’re getting short-term transformation, as well as long-term cultural transformation.”
Despite being a debate, the panel largely agreed that employee experience is vital alongside utilizing skills within an organization.
The only question is which approach will you take?
If you want more from UNLEASH America 2022 but couldn’t make it to Las Vegas, check out our website and our social media channels.
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