Top HR Transformation Articles from October 2012

The HR Transformer Blog is back – we have been trawling the web to pull out the best HR Transformation related articles from October 2012.
 
There have been two big HR Technology Conferences either side of the Atlantic this month, filled with talk of ‘big mobile gamification in the data cloud’, or something similar.  After being initially dazzled for a moment, I rubbed my eyes and remembered, “It’s all about the People” and found some great articles on managing change.  I’ve taken a brief look at HR’s past and it’s future, finishing with some useful tips from HR Metrics to running your HR Shared Service centre like a Gordon Ramsay restaurant (but obviously without the expletives!).
 
Big mobile gamification in the data cloud  – and other disruptions at the HR Technology Conferences
The HR Technology Conferences in Chicago and Amsterdam made a big splash online. The jargon can get a bit confusing, so XpertHR have provided a very helpful guide for those who only dabble in HR Technology. The industry is buoyant after record conference turnouts, the successful Workday IPO and a flurry of takeovers including; SuccessFactors, Taleo and Kenexa. According to the press releases, new services in SaaS, mobile and big data will transform the way we manage people in organisations. The fact is many large scale HR Technology programmes do not always deliver intended goals. At a Technology Conference, funded by the technology companies – this is unlikely to be a theme with the speakers and bloggers.
 
Which begs the question, where are the unbiased, independent voices to support HR buyers of technology and services?
 
It is well known, that some analysts work for both the buyers and the vendors. According to an article by analyst, Mark Smith, Industry Exposé: Technology Vendors Skew Analysts and Influencers
“The dirty secret is that some of the largest technology vendors have forced industry analyst firms to contractually agree to the right to review, edit and approve any written research that references their name or products before it is published.”
 
With nearly two out of every three IT projects failing, I think there should be more focus on good governance, solid requirements and the people elements involved in change. See our article on How to avoid HR Technology Bogeys, inspired by the Ryder Cup.
 
“Nice interface, it even looks a bit like Facebook! Great, I can view on my phone. But how will this really help my organisation achieve its goals?”
 
Charlie Judy reminds us that “it ain’t a HR Strategy without technology” in a good post with some useful tips. HR Strategy should determine your HR Tech requirements, not the other way round, so don’t let the Tail wag the Dog.
 
A development I think will make a big impact is Salesforce’s entry into the market, with Work.com. If this sounds strange, read this excellent article by Appirio The Future of Work : Employees as Customers showing the parallels between HR and Marketing. I will be watching this develop with interest over the coming months.
 
For the visual thinkers, this caught my eye, HR technology on Pinterest from Deb Maher, spotted on #HRTech hashtag on Twitter.
 
Talking of Twitter, we have recently updated our lists of HR Transformers on Twitter for you to use, so let us know if we have missed anyone, and connect with me @AndySpence
 
People first
One of my mantras is that for technology investment to be worthwhile, we need to focus more on the people who will use it, these two articles on Change Management were clear and insightful.  Ten Reasons People Resist Change from a true teacher, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, and a golden oldie with some useful lessons, from Harvard Business Review – The Hard Side of Change Management.
 
HR Operating Models – Ulrich Model 2012
The evolution of HR operating models over the past two decades has been slow in some areas.  In the article, HR's Future Looks Strategic—or Does It?  University of Southern California professor Edward Lawler has tracked the amount of time HR managers spent on working as a strategic partner since 1995. He recently released the results of his latest research, from 2010, and found nothing has changed.

"When we ask them: 'What is their role in developing business strategy for their companies?' we're getting the same answers as we've always gotten," Lawler says.

Why is HR no less strategic than in 1995?

My view is the move to a simpler Ulrich model has generally aligned HR better to organisational goals, focused more on the customer, enabling economies of scale and economies of skill.  However the transition to this model has not always been successful and the interpretation of HR roles such as the Business Partner have not been wholly successful. 

Which leads me to an interesting article Has the Ulrich model narrowed HR career paths?   
 
My observation is that we have some great HR Specialists in Reward, Pensions, OD, Learning – however we are slowly losing those who have the big picture of the HR Strategy.  This is retained with those with more of a generalist background – currently in leadership positions, but I have concerns about succession when they retire. 
 
Another question for HR Operating models related to demographics,   in 2020, one third of workers will be over 50, so how will this impact HR?  We ask the question of the Impact of the Ageing Workforce on HR.
 
Ulrich’s original work on HR Operating Models was influenced by what was going on in other functions such as Finance and IT.  I was interested to read that there are similarities between HR and IT in the challenges the leaders face. (e.g. struggles for the CIO to become a true partner to their business  –  sound familiar?).  Time for the CIO to jump on the wave of change from Outsourcing Magazine.
 
Some other useful articles for HR Transformers
HR Shared Services: What works well for a restaurant could help HR Shared Services function. Simon Brown, writing in SSON, suggests Restaurant-style Service (Tier-0 and Tier-1) “Tier 0 – to ensure your menu is well laid out, easy to search, navigate and read.” Great article, but be careful with following Gordon Ramsay’s style too closely!
 
HR Metrics of Note: Revenue Per Employee VS. Profit Per Employee  A good example of using HR Metrics that matter, in this case to the investor community, who use Revenue per Employee to analyse retail giant Amazon. Who else could this come from but the HR Capitalist?
 
Powerpoint use and abuse – Few pieces of office software have simultaneously been so used and abused even causing ‘death by PowerPoint’. Find out about Cognitive Dissonance, Noise & Overload from Donald Clark.
 
The Top Social Tools For 21st-Century HR Humans, communication, work etc, makes HR the ideal spot from which to harness changes in work habits for the benefit of the company – good read from FastCompany.
 
And finally, Live language translation. Now this is a disruptive technology! Remember Babel Fish from Hitch hickers Guide the Galaxy.  I did a Masters in Cognitive Science in the mid-90s and some of these technologies are starting to emerge – very exciting developments indeed! Hat-tip to Graeme Codrington for this link on Twitter.
 
We hope you enjoy our latest HR Transformation articles, a big thank you to those who contribute with fresh ideas and suggestions to share with the HR community. Do keep in touch with any of your future articles and suggestions @AndySpence on Twitter.

 
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Impact of an Ageing Workforce on HR

In our article on Working Late – The Impact of an Ageing Workforce we highlighted some research initiatives in this area.

A key question for us is:

“What is the future impact of an ageing workforce on HR?”

For HR departments, the ageing workforce is a very current topic with a focus on developing retirement policy in line with regulations, pay and pension reviews and recruitment policy to avoid complex age discrimination cases. This research on the ageing workforce also raises longer-term questions for future HR Operating Models.  In HR, how do we ensure structures, services and tools are reasonably future proof to deliver organisational goals today and in the future?

An ageing workforce will impact current Talent Strategy, for example attracting applications from older workers and supporting recruiters to change their perception of older workers.  A clear theme from the Working Late interviews was “homeostasis of career” – workers happy to do their role with no prospect of promotion.  It is a challenge for organisations to manage the uncertainty around the end of employees working lives.  What will be the impact on the Talent pool?  Line Managers need support in managing performance and improving productivity of older workers to build diverse inter-generational teams.

Our view is we need to rethink our change management approach when dealing with different generations of workers. Even though the change management principles may remain the same, it is clear that different tactics are required with older workers than when dealing with Generation Y.

Some challenging questions for HR professionals are “How do we ensure we have a good understanding of our own workforce, so we can anticipate changes?”, “How robust is your HR data, are you able to conduct analysis on your workforce, including age and skills profiling?”  For some, this puts an uncomfortable spotlight on current HR Systems.

We encourage the periodic review of HR tools and technology to support a productive workforce, but before we “bet the farm” on our new HR Technology Mobile strategy, we need to assess whether this will be successful for all our categories of workers or is a different approach needed.

There is evidence that there is discrimination against both younger and older workers, for example research by the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Attitudes to Age in Britain 2010.

One issue for HR is how to best fight discrimination and negative attitudes to older workers. Any attempt to change attitudes is complex and part of the solution should be to highlight the benefits of employing older workers.  These include retention of key organisational knowledge and skills, and opportunities for coaching and mentoring.

In summary, the ageing workforce is one factor of many influencing future HR Operating Models, however we do need to think about:

1.    Clarity in roles around what we expect HR and Line Managers to do around key organisational activities such as improving performance and productivity.

2.    Choosing the right tools and technology to enable us to manage our workforce, from excellent analytics, to skills tracking and performance management.

3.    Deciding as an organisation, how you will deliver excellent change management.

We would be very interested to hear examples of how your organisation is dealing with some of these challenges? 


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Working Late – The Impact of an Ageing Workforce

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a payslip,
Performance review and benefits plan?

*Loosely based on the work of Sir Paul McCartney

In 2020, nearly a third of the UK workforce will be over 50.

The idea of working into our later years is not a new one, but it has significant knock on effects for the future of work.

The UK is not alone – this pattern also continues across much of Europe.  This means that HR Directors and other leaders must recognise the need to explore the challenge of the ageing workforce.

Sir Paul McCartney celebrated his 64th birthday 8 years ago and shows no signs of slowing down.  For every millionaire, there will be millions of workers who are eligible to retire but will not necessarily be financially able to do so.  The number of older workers will only increase as time goes on as retirement age steadily creeps up.

To this end a research project has been created at Loughborough University called simply
Working Late. It aims to explore the various issues and concerns around older workers and develop strategies to ensure we have productive and healthy environments for the older workforce, and is funded by the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme.  The research project is led by Professor Cheryl Haslam, Director of the Work and Health Research Centre.

Since the number of older workers above the age of 50 is more than double the number of younger workers under the age of 25, it’s clear that this research has come at an opportune time.

Aunty Doris attends “Back to Work Training”
Aunty Doris attends “Back to Work Training”

Working Late takes a pro-active view to establishing connections with workers and various other agencies including The Age and Employment Network. Working Late held a series of expert panels involving a range of experts from HR management, employment law, occupational health, transport and academia.  Glass Bead Consulting was invited to provide a perspective on the impact of demographic changes on the design of future HR organisations.

Working Late’s research ranges from influencing government policies to more practical solutions.  For example, one study highlighted that UK workers spend an average of five hours and 41 minutes at their desk in a work day. Dr Myanna Duncan, from Loughborough University, warned that office workers literally “forget to stand” spending nearly as long at their desks as they were sleeping in bed!  Given the musculo-skeletal problems in the workforce, this is a clear warning that we need to get out of our chairs more and talk face-to-face instead of using email.

The researchers from the Working Late Research Group looked into some of the challenges of later life working, and conducted 108 semi-structured interviews with employers, employees, job seekers and recently retired.  Here is a copy of the presentation which formed the basis of discussion at the expert panels, Working Late – Dynamics of Later-Life Working. The quotes from participants make for interesting reading:

“..It’s kind of awful to think that people are going to end their careers going down a capability route of disciplinary because they are no longer capable of doing the role that’s required of them because they are older. No one wants to performance manage out an older worker as they’re reaching the end of their career […] regardless of legislation everyone wants careers to end with dignity.
(Employer, 42)

“They [older workers] tend to stay with us for a longer period of time. So they’ve got to a stage often in their career where the content of their role is just as important as actually being promoted.”
(Employer, 48)

The themes emerging from the interviews included career development, homeostasis of career, new identities of ageing in relation to retirement, pensions, job-seeking and economic outlook.  All of which will eventually have a profound impact on us all.

What does this mean for HR?

For HR, the ageing workforce is a current issue with much on-going work on developing retirement policy in line with regulations, pay and pension reviews and recruitment policy.  In addition, many HR departments are dealing with complex age discrimination cases, see for example this article in Personnel Today, “Cases in point: guidance on retiring employees”.

Managing an ageing workforce is one factor of many influencing future HR Operating Models. It is important to understand your workforce profile now and against where it will be in 5 years’ time against your organisation needs, and also reviewing HR Strategy through the lens of each customer group; from Generation Y to older workers.

Also, read our follow-up article The Impact of an Ageing Workforce on HR.

What you can do

– Follow Working Late on Twitter @workhealth
– Visit www.workinglate.org for more detailed updates
– Get Aunty Doris to update her profile on LinkedIn…?
– Subscribe by email to the HR Transformer Blog
to ensure you read future articles which will look at the changing workforce on HR

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