So I packed my vision and questions about the future of work and flew all the way to Unleash Amsterdam, to learn from the world’s influencers, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs, and to meet again many of my professional community fellows in the field of People Analytics and HR-Tech, who gathered from all over the world, for two days of intellectual adventure, inspiring experience, and entertainment.
There is one thing you can’t do in Unleash as an individual: cover the whole event. Imagine a parallel show in 16 stages, with 250 speakers, 140 industry vendors, and 50 start-ups! Nevertheless, thanks to Unleash app, and my acquaintance with some speakers and presenters, I could plan my visit, and bring my readers comprehensive key takeaways that completely represent my interest at this point. In this blog, I share six key takeaways from the 1st-day sessions, case studies, and demos, in which I attended. My next blog covers the 2nd day, again, in six key takeaways. To recover my horrible FOMO (fear of missing out), I may add to this blog comments section some references for sessions I missed, and so do you.
My Intellectual adventure on the 1st day went from understanding the global trend of the HR-Tech market to more specific applications, from the point of view of organizations that embrace new technologies, and People Analytics practitioners who oversee the organizational adoption of innovation.
#1. A rapid change in HR Tech will bring more disruption in 2019
Josh Bersin, a top influencer in HR globally, opened the event with his perspective about HR-Tech disruption, and highlighted the big trends for the year ahead, in productivity, employee experience, and the potential of AI.
Bersin describes the HR-Tech industry as a wild world: workforce markets are growing; demographics are changing; employees are less connected to their employers; careers are not controlled by organizations but rather by employees themselves; rapid technological changes demand new skill sets; productivity declines despite or due to new digital tools, and at the same time people are exhausted; digital transformation changes the way people work together and in fact reinvents work, while trust decays in general and in regards to technology.
The HR-Tech market is concentrating on how to deal with this state: how to make work better, i.e., more productive and engaging; how to help people and teams work together in networks; and how to transform organizations to be more inclusive. The amount of investments in this market is huge as the size of the market itself, and while all the giant players, e.g., IBM, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, want to be in this market now, most of the investments go to plenty of brand-new companies — so many that it is hard to categorize them.
The battle or competition in this industry is on employees as first users, and respectively is the investment on AI solutions and UX: seeing workforce pipeline as the development of individuals; seeing the long career span of individuals in one hand, and the gig economy on the other hand, as an alternative to recruitment; and seeing organizations as networks.
HR department must have their own internal analysts now, to explore this market and make sense of it, to find the tools that create the right employee experience, to make sure to eliminate bias, and to incorporate all the systems and data from different sources to understand how to make work better, how to help people become more productive, and how to build a successful organization.
As Bersin implies, the rapid changes in HR-Tech, the massive investments and plenty of new players, encourage organizations to embrace innovation from the outside, by specialized new roles within HR which learn how to work with start-ups. It only makes sense that I would look for a case study that demonstrates exactly that.
#2. Working with start-ups on equal footing is the key to success
Jochen Wallisch, Executive Vice President of Human Resources, and Carolin Widenka, Head of Future of Work, both at Siemens, described how they select, prototype and scale external technologies. They worked with start-ups and created a co-learning experience that enabled successful projects in a few months. The company expands now this program, upon the pillars of agility, simplicity, equality, and mutual growth.
“No business is too big to fail, or too small to win!”, But Sharks and sardines need to swim together. The steps Wallisch and Widenka suggest includes the following: Innovate within HR, as change always starts with yourself; Prototype, develop ideas in a protected environment; Get supported, by a broader community through more transparency; Scale-up, or find a second chance for a fit within the company; Grow, by the exchange of great ideas, know-how, skills, and data; Accelerate cooperation processes, by learning from best practices.
Wallisch and Widenka shared two examples of working with start-ups: Everskill – a digital coach for training reinforcement, and VideoMyJob – Videos that change the way of recruiting. In both examples, they emphasized the importance of organizational sponsorship, idea validation, sharing experience, scouting for relevant innovation, and sandbox mindset, before the implementation.
The case studies of Siemens were great examples of an organization that acts today to be prepared for the future. But to do so, the organization certainly needs data and insights, to monitor and control the change. So naturally, it should turn to People Analytics.
#3. People Analytics is the key to navigate in a complex world of work
As already mentioned, work is changing faster than ever before, with the implementation of new technologies. HR departments should be at the heart of this change. Unfortunately, most of them are not ready yet. Learning the practices of People Analytics in leading organizations is valuable for HR professionals who do not want to lag.
Amit Mohindra, who among his variety of analytics roles built the People Analytics team at Apple, presented the People Analytics journey, i.e., preparing the foundational data and technology infrastructure, eliciting actionable insights from curated data, and converting talent insights to advantage in the product and labor market through action. However, he chose to present it originally, using the Buddha’s four noble truths as a metaphor.
Mohindra suggests we ask ourselves three questions: Do we know enough about our people and the external labor market to make the right decisions about individuals, teams, and organizations? Are talent data and insights fully considered in business planning? Do we know what we need to do today to ensure we have the right talent to support the business in the future?
The success, or liberation in Mohindra’s words, is made possible by five actions: communicating a roadmap; establishing standards, data discipline, and accountabilities; democratizing data and insights; shifting the analytics center of gravity outward; move towards “pervasive” analytics.
Mohindra’s ideas indicate a change in the HR role, which becomes more data-driven. This ongoing change is an important subject of the current research and managerial approach. A deeper understanding of the experience of this change was made possible in a roundtable discussion of HR practitioners.
#4. The future HRBPs will be data-enabled
Lexy Martin, Principal, Research and Customer Value at Visier Inc., and Dominic Podmore, Head Information System, HR At Anglo American, presented the barriers and solutions in the journey of HRBPs who support their business leaders in data-driven decisions.
HRBPs are not analytics savvy, but we do have some ways to prepare them. The technology already enables them to integrate data from different sources. Technology also points to the significant patterns in the data, by the touch of a button. However, HR practitioners should be the ones who tie data and patterns to action. To do so, they should suggest well defined and actionable metrics that are connected to actual business issues, and support them by discussing the interventions needed, as metrics suggest.
Aligning HR leadership with the business is crucial. It guarantees the use of technology in HR to support the business goals with decisions related to people. Nevertheless, offering analytics to managers is not sufficient. The conversation between HR leadership with managers must be based on HR leaders’ business understanding.
The change in the HRBPs’ role will not end in becoming more data-oriented. New technologies, namely AI-based solutions, will disrupt much more of their work. My next learning step, then, included some new possibilities that AI offers.
#5. AI will disrupt HR work by redefining career development
Alexander Gibson, Solutions Consultant Leader, Watson Talent Europe, IBM, described how AI creates new possibilities across every profession, including HR. AI improves recruiter efficiency and candidate quality. It encourages inner mobility and improves the employee experience with personalized career guidance.
AI systems are characterized by the following capabilities: they receive and process unstructured information in ways similar to humans; they rapidly analyze information to produce relevant responses; they improve through new data.
AI effectiveness is not derived from replacing human interactions, but rather from augmenting human capability for better decision making. Workforce decisions are complex and require inputs from a variety of data sources. Therefore, AI means at least two new opportunities for HR: developing better candidate profiles and making improved decisions about prospective employees; offering personalized recommendations for learning and career management.
So, how everything is binding together – future of work, collaboration with start-ups, People Analytics, the data-driven role of HR, and implementation of AI? Here is a case study of a company that embraces it all.
#6. Achieve massive learning by AI throughout the entire employee lifecycle
Marcus Millership, Director of HR Global Services at Rolls-Royce, presented how the company uses digital technologies, namely Workday solutions, to shape its future workforce.
Millership described three key trends that define the world’s future power needs, and therefore disrupt this industry: electrification, digitalization, and growing demand for cleaner and safer power. These trends demand new skillsets that the company obligates to build within its future workforce while dealing with new expectations of millennials.
The massive learning processes that the organization is going through mean a cultural change towards a startup-like company, and the establishment of collaboration across the organization. To achieve these massive learning processes and change, the company uses now AI throughout the entire employee lifecycle: talent attraction, onboarding, career development, talent management, and internal movement.