Modern HR Or How To Earn Your Employees Every Day
By Mike Vilimek on Feb 21, 2014
By Gretchen Alarcon - Originally posted on Forbes
Many executives define their customer experience strategies as an effort designed to earn their clients over and over again. In today’s talent-centric corporate landscape, it seems to me that modern human resources (HR) could use a similar adage: How can we help our employees choose our company again and again?
After all, the winning products and services that make a company successful in the marketplace are the direct result of employees’ knowledge, skills, and capabilities. To maintain that success, HR should be doing everything possible to ensure that when an employee leaves the office Monday night, they come back Tuesday morning refreshed and excited—rather than looking for work with a competitor.
Working with IT, HR executives have delivered significant advances to standard processes over the years—payroll, time tracking, and mandatory compliance training have all benefited from automation and self-service. However, those processes reflect a baseline of operations that defines an era based on HR transactions. These improvements have addressed the basic needs of the department and the workforce and served the business well.
But to build a rich culture that extends beyond the employee’s basic needs, HR must engage in an ongoing conversation that promotes a vision of the future to employees—rather than simply reinforcing the strategies of the past. What can we offer to employees to give them new ways to engage with the company?
To refocus HR around the employee experience, we need to move beyond transactions to address four important business needs: a talent-centric view of the workforce, tools and policies that encourage collaboration, applications that are engaging and mobile, and the insights that management needs to predict the business impact of HR efforts.
The Talent Conversation
This seems obvious on the face of it—when the success of a company is predicated by what its employees produce, of course you want to build a culture that focuses on making the most of workforce talents. But like many obvious concepts, a talent-centric workplace has not been historically easy to pull off. An end-to-end talent management process is a mix of skills and systems, and the trick is to find the simplest way to help employees direct the conversation.
For example, I believe that social sourcing is an essential requirement for any next-generation recruiting effort. Finding talent used to involve name generation, incentives, and a lot of follow-up. It was time and labor intensive, even when it was effective.
But now, we can identify existing top performers and ask them to curate open positions for their social connections. Because it’s likely that a quality employee knows other quality people, an authentic Facebook post about an open position is likely to yield much better results than a broad referral drive.
But such an effort requires a deep understanding of the referring employee, content and tech support to help with the effort, and the right incentives to reward them for their time and advocacy. This, in turn, requires a high level of employee engagement and a true love for their work and the organization that employs them. Creating a talent-centric organization is not just about how you find and recruit talent—it’s about how you keep your existing talent engaged so they advocate for you in the marketplace.
Collaboration Is Social
Social media was in its infancy when we first started talking about building social capabilities into Oracle HR products—and the business case was still being analyzed. How, after all, would a medium characterized by virtual farms and sheep-throwing wars help us provide collaborative tools with a bottom line benefit?
The key is employee engagement. A 2013 Gallup report entitled “The State of the American Workplace” found that 20 percent of American workers are “actively disengaged” and estimates that the lower productivity of those workers costs the United States economy about US$450 to US$550 billion per year.
When HR provides a way for employees to be social in the context of their everyday work, it paves the way for enhanced collaboration and communication throughout the enterprise—and that encourages productivity, passion, and commitment.
If a new hire is confused about company policy, he can pose a question to his internal social network, and more-experienced employees (or his HR representative) can give him the answer. If a high-potential employee in Vietnam wants to make a big career move within the company, she can be paired with a mentor in Turkey to get advice on her next step. And measuring the performance of remote and virtual teams becomes much easier when they are collaborating on a shared internal social platform.
This all adds up to creating a collaborative work environment that employees want to engage with every day. And with a generation of millennials entering the workforce (who were raised with social media as a fundamental part of their public identity), building an effective and lively platform for collaboration becomes more than a pleasant bonus for young workers. It will be a business necessity.
The User Is Always Right
But too often, new recruits experience a disconnect between the applications they use in their daily lives and the enterprise tools they must use once they are hired. That difference can erode an employee’s experience from day one. Achieving a high level of engagement means giving employees social-ready apps to connect to anyone, anytime, anywhere. It means that we need to give them consumer-grade user interfaces and integrated mobile functionality to get them connected to the tools they need.
If HR leaders want to have a conversation with the workforce, it has to be easy to talk—and that means a mobile-first culture as far as applications go. It also means that we do a lot of thinking about how to take popular features of mobile apps (like games or social sharing) and apply them to HR tools, to engage in a different way.
For example, executives should be looking for IT functionality that helps extend beyond what is typically considered the realm of HR—into areas such as such as wellness, safety, quality improvement, innovation, and team building. By emphasizing competition, media sharing, and the curation of an employee profile, modern applications should help staff connect with HR in a way that’s more rewarding (and fun) than simply responding to alerts about mandatory training.
It’s HR engagement with a social component—and it is easy to accomplish with the tools the employee already has (a smartphone, for example) because the modern HR system they interact with is mobile-enabled and designed with the user in mind.
Analyze the Future
These expanded functions add new content, transactions, interactions, and data generated by HR systems. So it’s essential that modern systems be designed from the ground up to take advantage of the new insights that this new traffic generates.
If HR is committed to delivering on the employee experience, that means identifying and extracting the data points that really influence a person’s decision to stay at a job. What makes them a high performer? What behaviors are more likely to lead to promotion? How big should an employee’s bonus be? Who is at risk of leaving—and what preventive action can managers take to convince them to stay?
These are the kinds of predictive analytics that a modern HR system can deliver. I tend to think of this as an early warning system, where all of this information can come together and be analyzed by HR. Then, it can be shared with managers to help address or offset risk, allowing managers to take actions that will, in the long run, keep high performers happy at their jobs.
And that, I believe, is the point of modern HR: to make a case to the workforce that they should continue to show up and put in their best effort every day. As Larry Ellison said at Oracle CloudWorld in January, “It’s all about people. Taking care of your employees is extremely important, and very, very visible.”
Gretchen Alarcon is Vice President, human capital management strategy at Oracle. Ms. Alarcon leads the strategy team responsible for applications that enable companies to align their workforce goals and business objectives.
Ms. Alarcon brings more than 13 years of industry experience to Oracle's strategy organization. She spent more than four years at PeopleSoft working closely with customers and contributing to the direction of the company's talent management and recruiting applications.
Ms. Alarcon holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BA in American Studies from Stanford University.