Article: For HR professionals, it is time to be true leaders: Josh Bersin

Learning & Development

For HR professionals, it is time to be true leaders: Josh Bersin

A few weeks ahead of Perspectives 2020, thought leader and global industry analyst Josh Bersin, spoke with Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, Chief Marketing Officer at Skillsoft, about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the future of work, HR, and learning.
For HR professionals, it is time to be true leaders: Josh Bersin

While businesses the world over are reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, global industry analyst and Dean of Josh Bersin Academy, Josh Bersin, believes there is a small silver lining to this global crisis — learning.

Josh stated, “The learning industry is poised for a renaissance and this is a launch point for a whole new era of corporate learning and development. Learning is sort of on the sidelines of HR and a lot of people think it goes way during downturns. But actually it doesn’t. It is needed more than ever. Companies are finding enormous demand for learning, and learning in the flow of work has been accelerated because of the crisis.”

With this in mind, learning and talent professionals, business leaders, and learners from across the globe will get an interesting chance to explore critical issues, immerse in best practices, and stream live with the world’s brightest at Perspectives 2020 on 13 May 2020. This one-of-a-kind digital experience has an awesome line-up of speakers including some of the world’s most influential technology leaders, thought leaders, and CEOs from all over the world – including Mr. Bersin. 

To get you prepared for the event, we’ve highlighted some key takeaways from Josh’s podcast conversation with Michelle Boockoff-Badjeck:

The Big Reset: Digital transformation is suddenly more than just a good idea, it is mandatory

As global organizations find themselves in an unfamiliar environment, they are beset with many challenges and changes. Josh revealed that there is a whole series of things companies are doing to address them, which he calls ‘the big reset.’ In his perspective, society was at the very peak of an economic cycle, and - frankly speaking - companies were suffering on account of that. Companies were overwhelmed with activity, bureaucracy, and trying to make the employee experience more productive. Internal mobility was becoming more common, as employers found it increasingly difficult to find people in the job market. And all of a sudden this crisis hit. So digital transformation became more than just a good idea, it became mandatory. Digital learning is mandatory, work from home is mandatory, conducting people analytics is mandatory. So all of these things which companies have been working on in the last decade have now become critical to managing through this crisis. 

To add to that, companies have received a dose of resilience and agility. CHROs are doing daily meetings, partnering with IT to identify patterns of infections, starting to plan the process of people coming back to work. They are doing extensive reviews of data and providing transparency so that people know what to do. In addition, they are doing more to empower local business partners in HR to consider that every country and city is different in this crisis and tailor actions to suit specific needs. A lot of decisions have to be made locally and coordinated centrally. Also, there is a much healthier focus on employee care, trust, honesty, and transparency. Now organizations are realizing they have to take care of employees, and if they don’t, it will immediately blow up in their face. So that’s become a sort of healthy refresh.

In this crisis, it is the HR department that is leading the recovery, because most of the issues have to do with people - from safety to remote management to making tough decisions like giving furlough to some workers and growing the roles of others. 

Josh aptly stated, “For us in HR, it is really time to be the heroic leaders of the response.”

Adapting to WFH - The de rigueur way to work

There are many organizations that have had to implement a remote work policy for the first time and there are some best practices that HR departments can implement to help people adapt to the new way of work. Josh reveals there are five aspects to this. 

Tools – employees need to have great technology at home that’s integrated to save time and effort. 

Rules - managers need to know what technology for employees the company will pay for, if the staff has to dress up for conference calls, what needs to be done about compliance and personally identifiable data, and the like. 

Norms - managers need to make these clear to the staff. For instance, are we going to always have video conference calls, which are mandatory, how often do you have to check-in with your boss? 

Culture - employees need to know they are still part of a team and managers need to be able to trust that even remote teams will be efficient, which is a big issue for remote work.

Resilience- employees need to understand how they can maintain a sense of productive and positive contribution when they are at home all day. Different practices will need to be tailored to be effective online, which is really new to many companies. 

Josh revealed that roughly half of the companies his firm surveyed did not have a remote work policy or program. While this has made the transition a big effort for them, Josh believes that eventually, WFH will be successful.

The changing role of HR - From specialists to multi-domain consultants

This crisis is calling for a shift in roles, particularly for HR and talent professionals. Josh explained that he believes HR people can no longer be specialists in one area- they have to be full-stack HR professionals. They have to know how the piece of HR they are responsible for dovetails with other aspects of the HR strategy of the company. The D&I expert has to understand the impact on recruiting which has an impact on pay which has an impact on leadership and management development. So, all these things are connected. Thus, HR professionals are being asked to become more multi-domain consultants. This is the kind of a big acceleration of the transformation of HR that was going on already to help them become a much more highly skilled multi-domain profession.

Another fact the crisis brings to the forefront is that black swan events in business are going to happen regularly. What this crisis is proving is that the operating model of HR needs to be patterned around the operating model similar to that of the military – there needs to be distributed intelligence with central coordination, as opposed to centralized service delivery. The old model of HR encouraged centralized functions with highly efficient low-cost delivery. That’s ok, but it does not give you immediate responsiveness in a crisis. Also, one of the other things that come out of military research is that to win a war you need to have a socio-technological system. What that means is you need data, information, and tools, but also human beings that know each other. 

Josh pointed out that when it comes to regional trends specifically, MNCs are in a better position than the regional companies because they have offices in China or South Korea or Singapore, nations that have been managing the crisis longer and have a more advanced understanding of what to do. In South Korea or Singapore, it’s very common to wear masks, practice social distancing, having your temperature taken, and standing in line 5-6 feet away from the person ahead of you. Companies that are global are realizing this faster because they have groups over there and they can learn from the more mature parts of the world.

“The crisis is thus forcing companies to localize their intelligence in their HR function. You can’t sit down in California and design what’s going to work even in Atlanta,” adds Josh. 

The silver linings to the crisis: A changing work order

While COVID-19 will irrevocably change our way of life — how we work, go to school, travel, and more; there are some silver linings. And there are many things that even HR and talent professionals will have to forego or start in order to emerge from this crisis.

One of the things HR needs to retain is this ability to respond in real-time and solve problems quickly. It doesn’t take a year to build an onboarding program. People have built new remote working onboarding programs over the weekend. As HR, you can respond quickly if you get people together, put urgency behind it, and have a cross-functional team.

The second thing is that non-HR people are learning that taking care of the human stuff allows you to then push on the business stuff. People are more worried about losing their jobs or being laid off-so those are human issues people are bringing to work, which need to be taken care of.

The third thing Josh points out is that we have clearly learned that digital transformation is no joke- if you haven’t done it, you better do it. And that includes learning. 

“Every decade or so there is a crisis that pushes learning on to the next level- this is one of those. It is going to advance online learning by another order of magnitude,” he adds.

When it comes to human connection, there is a vastly different way people are interacting with each other because we are all sensitive to the fact that we are all in this together and we care about each other a lot more than people realize. Josh explained his hopes that the world feels a little more interconnected and a little more socially responsible after this crisis tides over.

Agility is in, bureaucracy is out

One point Josh highlighted is that existing systems have had too much bureaucracy-and it’s time to get rid of it. The crisis will also disrupt budgets a little bit - it will be far more agile now in a world where job roles have changed dramatically depending on how the organization has reorganized. Issues such as income equality may rise to a heated level, as will conflicts around CEO pay, and these will need to be addressed. 

Leadership development will also continue to be a focus. Most HR functions take leadership development and succession very seriously and spend a lot of time on it. Supporting leaders, teaching them to manage remote people, teaching them resilience, giving them time to focus is important. 

Ultimately, it is time to recalibrate and focus on growth. Companies at the very end of an economic cycle were too focused on hyper-growth when actually sustainable growth and sustainable business practices are the better long term strategies for companies. So we will go back to growth in a way so as to do it in a reasonable way while taking care of the people, the customers, and financial growth at the same time.

Josh will speak in-depth on what’s going to happen in learning and learning in the flow of work that has been accelerated because of the crisis at Perspectives 2020. In addition, Josh will also talk about capability academies, and how you can prioritize and rationalize L&D investments in a time when you won’t have a big budget increase.

Click here to register and to learn more from him and other industry stalwarts and leading experts in order to be future-ready.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #Perspectives2020

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