A lot has happened in recent years to change the shape of HR. People analytics, new digital platforms, flexible work arrangements, and other innovations have made the employee/employer relationship more agile and personal than ever before. And yet we haven’t seen the half of it.
A central tenet of the revolution in human capital management is that anything that distracts employees from their work—especially their productivity—is to be avoided. The old ways, filled with procedures and requirements, are over. In their place is a new, emerging reality where workers are listened to, supported, trained, evaluated, and even compensated continually. Organizations today do not operate in a silo. Employees’ voices are louder than ever, and so too are their expectations. Employers are typically expected to operate as a social enterprise, taking an “outside in” view, and to take a stand on issues that are important to their workforce to attract and retain the best talent.
To support this change, HR can and must become an ongoing, digital endeavor where the needs and wishes of the workforce are voiced, and in turn, acknowledged and implemented by the employer. With digital HR, contact extends to the employee at the point of work, not the other way around. It doesn’t distract; it enables. It is ubiquitous, integrated, and always on.
Here is a partial look at how digital HR in the social enterprise can change the workplace, some of which will arrive in 2019:
Continuous performance management. Many employers are seeing the value in making Performance Management (PM) a continuous process. They’re doing it by embedding it into the natural flow of work. PM is becoming digital, responsive, and real-time. Using design thinking and data to help employees become more productive as they work, companies are embedding goal setting, progress tracking, development and performance indicators, feedback, and performance assessment directly into the productivity and work systems employees use every day. Performance check-ins, through email, collaboration platforms, and sales enablement tools, are becoming more frequent and thereby, more useful.
Invisible learning & development. L&D has taken a huge leap with self-directed digital curricula, gamification, and social learning experiences continuing to proliferate. Yet the process remains stop-and-go. Employees must take themselves away from daily work activities to access learning modules, become proficient with the material, demonstrate their new knowledge—and then return to work. Moreover, L&D is often packaged as corporate learning, making employees forget their identities as workers and become students in a very clear way.
As a spur to innovation and leadership development, L&D performs a valuable function—but it shouldn’t overshadow the urgent need for learning that supports performance improvement. In the social enterprise, learning is invisible; that is, it’s built into work in ways that are embedded into everything employees do, and delivered wherever they are. Invisible L&D requires the creation and implementation of tools, systems, processes, information, platforms, and networks that are all driven by learners’ needs. It also requires the adoption of new goals and metrics for employee development. Instead of focusing on course completions or return on investment, HR will need to start measuring the effectiveness of learning programs by their impact on employee performance, productivity, and satisfaction.
Personalized rewards. Even as the variety of benefits that companies are able to offer employees expands, few employers have cracked the code for delivering the right rewards to individuals (and as appropriate, to teams) in a manner that is efficient, supportive of a productive employee experience, and of meaningful value to the employee. There is also a substantial lost opportunity to use an expanded, customer-centric view of rewards to augment the relationship between the organization and its workforce.
Digital HR that operates effectively in the social enterprise addresses both issues. It can utilize continuous listening to determine which benefits employees truly value; then, with the help of smart, intuitive digital platforms, it can empower employees to personalize and manage the tactical elements of the day-to-day employer/employee relationship. It can also intentionally curate health and well-being offerings into key moments in the employee experience, seeing these offerings as a means to enhance the work itself—not simply as benefits.
Personalized rewards, when combined with continuous performance management, help closes the gap between performance and rewards. It also strengthens the linkage between the two. Employees know where they stand in terms of performance—and since compensation flows directly from performance, workers know what—and why—they are being compensated.
As of yet, no company has all the pieces in place for this new kind of HR. It will be a challenge to execute in full, but its implementation is inevitable—and its benefits will be substantial. As the function of HR becomes more fluid and intrinsic to the nature of work, meeting the workforce where they are will be fundamental to the creating a successful, modern social enterprise.