Jason Averbook, a global keynote speaker, industry analyst, co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, has launched his latest book: The Ultimate Guide to a Digital Workforce Experience ~ Leap for a Purpose. Jason looks to broaden executive mindset to rethink how to better design and deliver employee services that exceed the expectations of the workforce and the needs of the business. Leapgen is an emerging growth management consulting firm dedicated to raising the potential of HR and IT leadership as they strive to innovate their organization’s digital workforce experience.
In a conversation with People Matters, Jason Averbook, CEO of Leapgen shares his thoughts on navigating an HR technology transformation journey, emerging technologies and the future of HR.
How do you foresee the future of work and the role of next-generation of technologies?
The future of work is here today. That’s the first and most important realization. It's just not evenly distributed. What’s most important about that statement is the need to think about the role of HR and realize we (HR) are going to have to make decisions: What do we want to be great at? Vs. What is it okay to be just performing at?
The role of next-generation technologies is not to serve the HR function. The role of the next generation of technology is to serve the workforce; if I've served the workforce and the workforce uses my tools, the organization adapts in a way such that the workforce trusts the fact that HR is actually going to make their jobs better versus HR doing things to track them.
That's what's going to drive the future of work and the role of HR.
What are the most critical business challenges that HR & Work technology can help organizations solve today?
It's really the concept of deployment. There's a big difference between the implementation of technology and deployment of capability. So many organizations today implement technology hoping it's a silver bullet versus truly deploying capability. When I deploy capability, it means I'm transforming the organization; true transformation means making changes to how people work. Changing how people work is a huge problem in most organizations. They're just not good at it. So that's the biggest business challenge out there today.
We have to change the concept from counting people to making people count. That's going to drive diversity.
The second business challenge when we think about work technology is what I call the ‘I’ - which is the ‘Impact.’ Am I truly using these tools to create impact? or am I using these tools as a way to track data? These are massively different topics, but if I'm not driving impact with the solutions I'm putting in place, my organization is going to push back on whether that solution is considered a success.
People analytics and employee experience are among the top keywords being used in the context of HR. What's the current state of affairs and what's the way forward for organizations to elevate employee experience?
The way organizations need to think about elevating employee experience is really made up of four key concepts: mindset, people, process and technology.
Mindset means having a shared vision as to what the employee experience is going to be within my specific organization as well as being able to understand the principles and how I'm going to measure success.
People means designing for people, designing for the workforce and trying to create an experience for employees versus designing for HR. We use design thinking to do that.
The process becomes a question of how you’re going to generate data and output from processes. So it's not just getting the process done; it's getting the process done and creating a data trail I can use to generate analytics.
Lastly (yes, lastly), Technology. If I understand what I'm doing, if I understand my people, if I understand what I'm trying to achieve from a process standpoint, then I'm able to pick my technology. Employee experience will change the agenda of HR over the next five years - guaranteed - but most organizations will fail. They’ll fail if they approach employee experience from a technology-only standpoint versus truly approaching it from a transformation perspective around how people work.
To what extent do you think AI will become a regular part of HR in five years?
t already is. Anyone who thinks AI isn’t a regular part of HR today is mistaken. We're already using AI when it comes to algorithms, when it comes to how I search for information in a portal. We're already using AI when I navigate applications. What's going to change massively is how AI becomes embedded into the function, basically shifting the role of the HR business partner from answering questions to solving problems. Is that going to be called AI? No, and that's really, really important. Don't get caught up in the technology; get caught up in what the technology can do for us. It's going to allow us to automate, and not artificially. It's going to allow us to automate the mundane tasks our business partners have been doing in the past and truly focus on the strategic. That's what's so exciting about AI now and into the future.
Will technology eventually help elevate HR's role to HR being a strategic partner for organizations to make a more strategic impact on the organization? Do you see this in large organizations already?
The most important answer to this question is this: if ALL we're doing - which we've been doing for the last 40 years - is transitioning from one technology to another, we will not make HR more strategic. There's a big difference between transition and transformation. We need to think about how to transform the way people work, the role and the responsibility of the employees in the organization when it comes to data, and what I want my HR people doing. If I'm doing a transformation, technology will play a key role and it will make HR more strategic. If all I'm doing is technology and transition, that won't happen.
How should organizations assess HR technology solutions with viability, scale, alignment to business?
Assessing HR technology solutions relies on having a digital HR strategy and roadmap in place, which answers the first question: What is your vision? Having a digital HR strategy also answers a second, critical question: How is the people function aligned to corporate objectives, and what are the things I should be working on and not working on?
Once I've done that, we get to a concept that's so important when it comes to technology - intentional sequencing. I'm sequencing the way I choose and deploy technology in an intentional way. Organizations around the world spend billions of dollars every year - essentially wasted money - because they put modules in place instead of deploying processes. They put technology solutions in place instead of putting in place capabilities to drive the workforce forward.
So I have to align from top to bottom and realize that when I build my roadmap every year - I mean that seriously, every year - I have to look at it all over again and intentionally sequence.
Among the new-gen technologies (AI, ML, RPA, Blockchain), which one are you most excited to use and why? Share examples of use cases too.
I'm excited by all of them because it's really about the combination of all of them leveraged together. That's actually going to change the HR function. The technology alone won't do it. So if I take artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic process automation, blockchain, all of those things together - THAT is going to change the way the function looks at data, the way the function creates employee experience, and the way the function can give back to the business. That's what those technologies do.
Anyone who thinks AI isn’t a regular part of HR today is mistaken. We're already using AI when it comes to algorithms, when it comes to how I search for information in a portal. We're already using AI when I navigate applications.
So what I'm most excited about is seeing how organizations leverage whatever the latest technologies are in the world to actually transform the function. HR will transform from a function designed in the past to be a tactical, reactive function to one that's a proactive, prescriptive function.