Technology mastery; the next frontier for HR

nex-gen-tech

The last couple of years have seen a constant buzz in HR circles on the impact of technology. Discussions center around ‘will technology take jobs away’, are there ways to reduce unconscious bias’, Is there a better way to get real-time feedback from employees’, can talent analytics bring business value’ and so on. There is a lot of interest in what technology can offer in the near future, so let’s crystal gaze and look at new technology innovations that are going to change the face of HR.

Talent Analytics: It has become a business imperative for C-Suite executives to make continuous efforts to understand the workforce in greater depth. It helps them to recruit, develop and retain the best talent more and more efficiently.

Leveraging talent analytics technologies will help Organizations do much more than tracking fundamental performance indicators. Talent analytics can be leveraged to identify high potential employees, predict employee turnover, support the succession planning, and eliminate unconscious bias while selecting talent.

Artificial Intelligence: A significant number of jobs will be replaced by AI technology.  Studies show that almost every other thing professionals do on an average workday can already be automated by AI. BBC has predicted that nearly half of the most commonly held careers are above a 50 percent risk of automation before 2035! Examples include helpdesks, Personal assistants (schedule appointments, reminders), Resume shortlisting and many more.

Blockchain: Many of you would have heard/read about Bitcoin, the digital currency developed in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. It’s a complex design built on Blockchain. Essentially, Blockchain is a distributed database which facilities the creation and transfer of digital records without third party intervention.

A typical use case in HR is that of a comprehensive ‘employment transcript’. In a world where the average tenure of employees continues to shrink, there is no single source that consolidates information about an employee. Information of an employee’s work history, roles handled, performance, compensation and trajectory, etc. that can be accessed by multiple stakeholders in the employment chain can be very valuable in employee verification, role fitment and succession planning.

Chatbots: Chatbots can perform specific tasks for you based on voice or text-based interaction. The concept is not new, they’ve been around for many years, however, improvements in machine learning and natural language capability have transformed these tools, making interaction with a Chabot seem decisively human-like and capable of performing complex tasks on your behalf.

Chatbots in the HR space have already emerged in the market and some of the current ones perform simple tasks such as helping employees get their leave balance or payslip enquiries via an e-mail request. Employee feedback is another area where Chatbots are being deployed. Imagine a system that can randomly gather feedback from employees on a daily basis without affecting their work schedule and provide you with real-time analytics and insights!

Augmented Reality: The increased use of devices/ wearable will help provide information tailored to the context and space in which an employee works. The information can appear as visual or audio supplements that help an individual more efficiently undertake a task. PCs, mobile phones, and tablets all are active platforms for AR, but smartglasses, and their hands-free use, will drive the next wave for AR.

Examples include mobile phone apps that will track an employee’s training and direct him/her to materials tailored to their style of learning. Imagine a scenario where an employee points his/her phone at a poster (say a new employee policy) and it takes them to a video, an online training course, or a book that could offer more in-depth information on the topic.

Virtual reality: Virtual Reality in HR holds the potential to transform the future of work. Virtual reality is the computer-generated simulation of three-dimensional images, giving users a immersive and realistic experience that connects at a deep sensory and cognitive level.

VR can be a great tool for screening candidates on skills needed for a position because recruiters can use VR to remotely assess a candidate’s set of skills using work simulation tests. It can also be used in Onboarding of employees where candidates can understand the environment, and the types of people they’d be working with. They can see what a typical day would be like and virtually meet potential colleagues.

Why these developments are significant: Preliminary findings from a state-of-the-art study by Patrick Wright and Lee Dyer of Cornell University suggest that the effect of technology on human resources will, like so many other professions, be profound.  The key words to keep in mind are “faster, better, smarter.”  Tomorrow’s technology will require HR professionals to stop thinking in terms of months and years and start thinking in terms of weeks and days.  This will require a change in mindset from being a strategic partner within an organization to being a change agent.

“We can’t do HR the traditional way.  We have to blow it up and entirely reinvent the way we do HR” Scott Pitasky, director of strategic growth for Amazon.com

 

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Technology mastery; the next frontier for HR

The business case for developing frontline managers

Manager challenges

People leave managers, not companies. Numerous studies also validate the premise that managers are critical to keeping employees happy and productive. In my view they are also the most overlooked group in an organization (when it comes to developing talents) – in particular, frontline managers.

Importance of frontline managers

It’s a no brainer that when it comes to translating a company’s strategy into results, there’s no denying the importance of the frontline manager. Studies indicate that close to 65% of an organization’s workforce is managed on a daily basis by frontline managers.

Managers on the front line are critical to sustaining quality, service, innovation, and financial performance” –  Harvard professor Linda Hill

 Bottom-line impact of frontline managers

  • They account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units (Gallup)
  • When companies increase their number of talented managers, they achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition.
  • A survey by DDI concluded that one in four organizations reported a dip in profit due to frontline manager failure.

Key Challenges faced by frontline managers

  • The transition from being an individual contributor where one is responsible for one’s own performance, to managing the performance of others is a huge challenge.
  • A frontline manager is often required to manage the work of his/her erstwhile peers – a shift that is difficult and without preparation, results in costly mistakes for the organization as well as the individual.
  • Most of the time, frontline managers operate as cogs in a system, with limited flexibility in decision making and little room for creativity.
  • In most companies, people who have excelled as individual contributors are straight away moved up and given managerial responsibilities for which they have very little or no training at all (according to a survey, 26% of first-time managers felt they were not ready to lead others to begin with, and almost 60% said they never received any training when they transitioned into their first leadership role).
  • Once the manager settles into the role, the burden of the business-as-usual takes over and there is no time or inclination to focus on identifying and developing necessary managerial skills.

Way forward

The first step in the journey is the assessment of an individual’s capabilities and behavioural dispositions to understand strengths and gaps. This is to be followed by focussed training, development and mentoring. Since development is an iterative process, regular reviews and periodic re-calibration is also required to check for relevance to the current business context.

Good companies understand that assessment, training and development of frontline managers is a sound investment for the future and spend time, energy and resources in ensuring that frontline managers are well equipped to excel in their roles.

The business case for developing frontline managers

The new r(e)volution in assessments

The new r(e)volution in Assessments

Having been in the assessment space for the last decade and a half, I am always looking for new methods and techniques that can offer value in the talent assessment life-cycle. The last couple of years have seen a lot of buzz on Gamification of tests. Can Games or Gamified tests be a game changer in the assessments space? I set out to explore the potential and pitfalls of this new methodology

So what exactly is a ‘Gamified’ test?

A Gamified test uses the interesting medium of games and puzzles to measure cognitive, communication and other skills. The idea of a Gamified test is exciting because of the following reasons:

  • A Gamified test takes away the boredom of a regular Q&A test format and makes it interesting for test takers.
  • Gamified tests are language-independent making them universal.
  • Academic scores and proficiency test scores are not always the best indicators of an individual’s skills. Gamified tests can be a great new method to measure actual abilities rather than stated and observed ability.
  • Since the assessment process is new and innovative, there is a huge opportunity to reach out to skilled people en masse.
  • There is a huge population of talented “self-taught” people who do not go through the formal education system. Following typical screening processes like exam scores, qualifications etc. does not help in reaching out to this population. Gamified tests on the other hand provide the perfect opportunity to reach out to the self-taught geniuses.

Where all can Gamified tests be used?

Gamified tests can be used to measure a variety of employment skills, attributes and abilities. I think the most effective use of a game is for assessment of skills like coding. Games are a great tool for displaying the application of knowledge. Can the person perform the skills they claim to know? This can be coding, operating simulated machinery or even what skills they use to negotiate or close a sale.

But people are also using games to evaluate creativity, problem-solving abilities, ability to multi-task, concentration, attention to detail and other types of skills. Some games can even be used to understand a person’s personality preferences.

The million dollar question however is ‘Can data derived from a test taker’s game score be linked to attributes of success in a given job role?

There is no doubt that Gamified tests need to be designed with specific set of skills in mind. The game must be carefully designed to measure what it purports to measure and that measure must be something valuable in the job..

So are we there yet?…My view is that Gamified tests will very soon become the ‘standard’ to measure a few specific skills, behaviours and for particular populations (students, technical folks).

The concept is still in its infancy and there are still a lot of gaps in establishing the reliability and validity of this methodology. But with the speed at which technology is advancing, we are sure to see a lot more people adopting this as an integral part of their selection strategy in the near future. Me, I am a believer!

The new r(e)volution in assessments