Tom Haak recently spoke at the HR Innovation Summit 2019. As a warming-up, Robert Singer of the HR Innovation summit interviewed Tom Haak. The full interview can be read on the website of the HR Innovation Summit.
What is your focus?
“Tom – you will be again giving a keynote at HR Innovation SUMMIT
about the trends that you are seeing in HR. What are the three
hashtags that we can mark your talk with?”
#hrtrends #personalization #highimpacthr #fun
Life in and around organisations can be a lot more fun, a lot more rewarding and a lot more effective. My mission is to inspire people, leaders and HR professionals, with my views, insights and by sharing nice examples. By using the current trends and by using HR technology, HR can increase its impact enormously.
How do you judge the overall efforts to become more digital in HR
“For HR Innovation SUMMIT we are discussing the overall experiences
on the way to a digital HR management. How do you judge the overall
efforts to become more digital in HR?”
On the positive side: we have seen a lot of change in the last years. More negative: the transformation is going rather slow. In my view, many organisations still take very much a traditional top-down approach. The focus is on the organisational needs, less on the needs and wishes of the employees. Organisations are often still viewed as rather stable pyramids. A clear structure, clear reporting lines and fixed job descriptions.
There is a tendency to focus on “getting the basics right”. First, we have to get the basics right, then …… Getting the basics right can take a very long time, and while you are doing this, the organisations and the market moves on. Installing a big HRIS is often part of “getting the basics right”. The expectations of these big systems are often high. “Once we have implemented system X, then we can do almost everything!”.
In the meantime, managers and employees are becoming less happy with HR. While working on the basics, there is less focus on the business priorities and less focus on the employees. My advice: start with focusing on the big business issues and determine how HR can contribute. Focus on high impact – low effort interventions. HR tech can help to design creative and innovative high-impact interventions.
What is the relation between becoming more digital and becoming more employee centric?
“While becoming digital is the one underlying idea of all HR trends
these days – becoming employee centric & first is the second. What is
your opinion on the relation of these two?”
Becoming more digital and becoming more employee centric can go hand in hand. If organisations investigate the employee experience, they often find certain elements employees (and managers) like to see improved. For example: employees want quick and easy access to relevant HR information. They lose a lot of time searching the intranet and then finally they find a lot of text that is not totally up-to-date. If employees have an HR related question, they want to be able to get a quick answer, 24/7. Applicants are very keen to hear as quick as possible whether they have gone to the next round. If they are hired, they do not want to wait days for their contract. Ease-of-use, speed and transparency are vital.
Technology can help a lot to deal with these issues. A real user-friendly employee portal, chatbots that are available 24/7 and service-oriented HR professionals in the call center as a last resort. By becoming more digital, HR can become more human. I talked to someone of Unilever the other day, she was the “People Experience Lead” for a location. At Unilever HR is going through an interesting transformation. For years the focus has been on HR efficiency, now it seems to be more on the people. I like it that they call it “people experience” and not “employee experience”.
What innovative approaches do you see?
“What innovative approaches do you see that combine these two aspects?”
There are many examples. I would like to mention two. One is a big American retailer, that annually hires thousands of new people. The have implemented the “virtual job try out”. With people analytics, they have determined the differentiating characteristics of successful employees. Through the online virtual job try out the applicants get a good idea of the employer and of the main elements of the job they are applying for. In the simulation they have to complete some tasks (relevant for the job), and in this way they are tested against the main criteria. When the pass the threshold, they are invited for the next round.
This is a good example of using technology (people analytics, a virtual experience and advanced gamified testing) to give the candidates a positive experience (fast, fun, relevant) and with a lot of benefits for the employer (speed, more diverse pool of candidates, lower costs of recruitment).
The second example comes from a pharmaceutical company. Here they use technology to crowdsource ideas from the employees. A question or challenge is put to the employees. They can submit their ideas in a free format. They can submit their ideas in a free format. The software redistributes via an algorithm all contributions into small groups of twenty and in the second round the employees can review, vote and motivate on the set of twenty contributions they receive. Each contribution is reviewed and stands an equal chance to win support of others.
The result: a great list of ideas that can be used to tackle the issue. Not super high tech (although AI is used to make sense of all the submissions and make clever iterations), but very powerful. The employees like it, because, contrary to normal employee surveys, they can really contribute.
How can HR find time to implement new stuff?
“In many companies HR is struggling with the administrative role –
and not finding time to get the new stuff. What is your
Often the administrative role is mentioned in a way as if it is not very important, and a kind of low-grade work. Strategic is good and administrative is bad! The operational role of HR is very important, and most of the work of HR is in the operational domain. A lot of innovations are possible in this domain. Once upon a time Ulrich and Brockbank wrote about the four roles for HR: strategic partner, change agent, administrative expert and employee champion. For decades most HR professionals wanted to be strategic partners and change agents.
Now, finally, we see more attention to the other two roles. My recommendation: kind of split HR in two pieces. HR operations and HR advice or HR strategic advice. Most activities, and people, will be in operations. In HR operations it is about customer focus, hospitality and efficiency. Make sure that the way HR operations work results in a great candidate, employee and manager experience (or, in fact, a great people experience). Embrace the ”new stuff”, and experiment with new innovative solutions.
Unfortunately, HR is always very busy. I think this is often a kind of excuse, like “getting the basics right”. “If we were not so busy, if we would have our basics right, then ….”. By more focus, by cleverly using technology, by being less management-oriented HR can release a lot of time and potential.
Updated May 11, 2019