The Seven Deadly Sins Preventing Meaningful Work

Prof Katie Bailey

People are more likely to view work as meaningful when it mattered to others more than just to themselves.  In our article, “What Makes Work Meaningful?”, we highlighted some research findings on the qualities of meaningful work.

 

Professor Katie Bailey, from the University of Sussex, and her research team interviewed 135 people working in 10 very different occupations (retail assistants, solicitors, nurses, soldiers, stonemasons, street sweepers, entrepreneurs, priests, artists, writers and academics) and explored what makes work meaningful for them and also, what led to a feeling of meaningless.

 

The researchers found that that there were five key qualities of meaningful work and that times when people found their work meaningful were often intensely personal. Meaningfulness is bound up with feeling a sense of accomplishment and doing a good job.

 

For organisation designers, leaders and managers, it is interesting to investigate the question: What are the factors that serve to destroy the meaningfulness that individuals find in their work?

 

We have all worked in work environments that were dysfunctional in some way, I certainly have.  Tolstoy observed that happy families are alike, but unhappy families are unhappy in their own special way.  It’s similar with organisations.

 

 

Working out why an organisation is not a positive environment is a complex task, but employees working in jobs they don’t find meaningful is likely to be a contributing factor.

 

Here are some of the factors that destroy meaningful work, some of which might resonate with you too?  (Listed in order from most to least grievous).

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of Meaningful Work

 

1 Disconnect people from values

Those interviewed often talked about a disconnect between their own values and those of their employer or work group as the major cause of a sense of futility and meaninglessness. This issue was raised most frequently as a source of meaninglessness in work. A recurring theme was the tension between an organisational focus on the bottom line and the individual’s focus on the quality or professionalism of work. One stonemason commented that he found the organisation’s focus on cost “deeply depressing.

 

2 Take people for granted

The lack of recognition for hard work by organisational leaders was frequently cited as invoking a feeling of pointlessness. For example Sales Assistants talked of bosses who did not thank them for taking on additional work.

 

3 Give people pointless work

Individuals had a strong sense of what their job should involve and how they should be spending their time.  A feeling of meaninglessness arose when they were required to perform tasks that did not fit that sense.  Nurses, academics, artists, and clergy all cited bureaucratic tasks and form-filling not directly related to their core purpose as a source of futility and pointlessness.

 

4 Treat people unfairly

If people feel that they can’t trust their leaders to be fair, open and equitable, then they are unlikely to find much meaning in their work.  Forms of unfairness ranged from distributive injustices to freelance musicians being asked to write a film score without payment.

 

5 Disempower people

Quite often a sense of meaninglessness was connected with a feeling of disempowerment, or overriding people’s better judgment over how work was done.  Lawyers talked about being forced to cut corners to finish cases quickly.

 

6 Isolate people

Feelings of isolation or disconnecting people from supportive relationships at work were linked with meaninglessness. This could occur through deliberate ostracism on the part of managers, or just through feeling disconnected from co-workers and teams. Entrepreneurs talked about their sense of loneliness and meaninglessness during the startup phase of their business, and the growing sense of meaningfulness that arose as the business developed and involved more people with whom they could share the successes.

 

7 Put people at risk

Unnecessary exposure to risk of physical or emotional harm was associated with lost meaningfulness. For example, nurses cited feelings of vulnerability when left alone with aggressive patients.

 

These seven destroyers emerged as highly damaging to an individual’s sense of their work as meaningful.  When several of these factors were present, meaningfulness was considerably lower.

 

For those who are involved in managing teams or implementing digital transformation initiatives, then understanding which features  makes work meaningful for people is important.

 

In my article, The Campaign for Meaningful Work, I shared some thoughts on the “why of work” and the flaws with our past initiatives around improving employee engagement.  One impact of this, is that of ‘displacement’.  In HR, we could have spent the effort and energy (read blood, sweat and tears) on finding out what really does drive employee wellbeing and productivity in our organisations.

 

As an optimist, I believe organisations have the opportunity to solve current organisational issues if it brings in evidence-based approaches and capitalises on the employee/organisational data it has.  With well-designed and funded research programmes carried out by academics and practitioners we have a better chance of  creating jobs that provide meaningful work.

Reference

What Makes Work Meaningful — Or Meaningless   Bailey, C. & Madden, A. 2016 ‘What makes Work Meaningful – or Meaningless’.  MIT Sloan Management Review, 57(4): 53-61

(This was a guest post for HRN Blog)

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Visualising Relationships at Work

Owen Analytics ONA

We know that successful team dynamics is critical in building organisations, however many of our HR and people management processes are still designed around the individual.

We have embedded ‘institutionalised silos’ such as performance management, employee engagement, induction and  training, that are all geared up to individual performance, but focus much less so on the impact on their team or organisation.

According to Deloitte, 88% of respondents of a global HR survey, believe building the organisation of the future is an important issue.  This is sweet music to my ears, after years of fumbling around the employee engagement survey wilderness, we can start looking at the bigger picture and organisation structures, and ask questions like:

  • How does team cohesion impact performance?
  • Is there a relationship between team collaboration and attrition?
  • Does increased collaboration impact output?
  • Does a hierarchical structure impact retention?
  • Who are the most influential people in our organisation?
  • Can we see what good leadership looks like?
  • Can we detect bottlenecks in an organisation?
  • Which individual are at risk of leaving the organisation?
  • Can we detect ‘silos’ in our company? (the answer is always yes to that one!)

 

What is very surprising is how little analysis and research is done into how our teams operate.  One way to gain a better understanding on these questions is Organisational Network Analysis (ONA).  One method is for employees to complete quick pulse surveys which combine “ME” questions (My opinions count) and “WE” questions (I would like to appreciate the following individuals for helping me in my day-to-day work).  Open feedback questions are also interspersed to understand sentiment and key issues.

The end result is a visual representation of your team dynamics – the example in the image above, is an ONA diagram from OWEN Analytics and was used to understand team dynamics in a pharmaceutical organisation.

In my article on the use of wearables and emerging technologies in the workplace, I highlighted that The Quantified Workplace will be introduced, but only at the speed of employee trust.  Looking at relationship patterns might also give insights into understanding trust.

This type of approach throws up some interesting insights.

Research by Rob Cross, a leading researcher in ONA, found that highly connected people are among the least engaged in a company. So your most valued staff, those go-to people, are often hidden, underappreciated and sometimes over-worked.

Mark Bolino of the University of Oklahoma points to a hidden cost of collaboration. Some employees are such enthusiastic collaborators that they are asked to weigh in on every issue. But it does not take long for top collaborators to become bottlenecks: nothing happens until they have had their say—and they have their say on lots of subjects that are outside their competence.

In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees according to research by Rob Cross, Reb Rebele and Adam M.Grant, covered in their article in Harvard Business Review, “Collaborative Overload”.

If we go back to the questions on what causes collaboration, effective teams and higher productivity, then ONA can play a big part in helping us understand what is going on in our organisations. 

Our people management practices are rapidly changing as we move to a world with collaborative teams working with different employment terms in different countries. ONA is a technique that people analysts can add to their tool-kit and help us to uncover the hidden dynamics of team effectiveness rather than the obsession with individual achievements. 

By being able to visualise teams relationships we can begin to build a strong foundation for organisations of the future based on a deeper understanding of effective teams. I am looking forward to sharing more case-studies and success stories at PA World over the coming years.  

(This was a guest article on the Tucana Blog)

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How Will Blockchain Impact HR?

Blockchain Glass Bead Consulting

Of all the emerging technologies, blockchain is the least exciting as a technology, but potentially the most impactful on society.  Blockchain doesn’t converse with you, it won’t 3D print your house or cut out your kidney stones with precision while the surgeon has a cup of tea. In terms of technology, it is about as exciting as relational databases.

When you think of blockchain, you might think of Bitcoin.  Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that requires a maths degree to buy and ownership of a laptop that never crashes. Yet Bitcoin is just one of many different cryptocurrencies that uses blockchain as its core technology.  And blockchain technology is also being used outside of financial services.

What Is Blockchain and what is it’s value?

Simply put, a blockchain is a decentralised database shared among a network of computers, all of which must approve an exchange before it can be recorded. Typically if we want to send someone some money, we would need a third party, like a bank to verify the exchange.  The advantage of blockchain is that it stores an indelible ledger of all previous transactions in a string of ‘blocks’, meaning we know who owns what and who can send what to whom.

Individuals and organisations can use blockchain to:

  • Exchange digital assets without friction – a central ledger is no longer required which is why there is so much excitement in financial services. Transactions between people can happen nearly instantly without any third party.
  • Execute smart contracts – documents can be stored electronically, and be verified as authentic. So we have unbreakable contracts.
  • Store digital records – you can have an electronic ID and all sorts of information associated with it, your verified electronic profile.

 

How a blockchain works - FT

How a blockchain works – FT

To understand more about how blockchain works I recommend this great TED talk from Don Tapscott, “How the blockchain is changing money and business.”

What are the real life uses of a blockchain?

In an era where trust has been eroded in our institutions, politicians and even fellow citizens, anything that can strengthen trust should be viewed positively.  In my article, The Quantified Workplace: Technology vs Trust, I commented that potentially intrusive technology will be introduced in the workplace, but only at the speed of employee trust.

Given its practical attributes of storing digital records, executing smart contracts and as an efficient exchange, there are many real-life uses and experiments. This ranges from fixing broken business models e.g. Intellectual property in music to the more personal, recapturing our identities, so the ‘virtual you’ is actually owned by you.

There are also examples of blockchain systems being developed to solve problems such as human trafficking, tracking blood diamonds and as a land register.

“Blockchains automate away at the centre. Instead of putting the taxi driver out of a job, blockchain puts Uber out of a job and lets the taxi drivers work with the customer.” Vitalik Buterin, founder of blockchain platform Ethereum

As Don and Alex Tapscott argue in their book, Blockchain Revolution, blockchain could be the great economic leveller – a tool to strip out the middlemen from our economy and reward the makers and doers who truly create value.    So there is definitely a group of political enthusiasts who see blockchain as transforming society.

What’s the potential impact of blockchain on HR and people management?

Given the practical attributes of blockchain promising to cut out middle-men and provide unbreakable contract, what might be the impact on people management, organisations and work?

In Japan blockchain technology is being developed to create a prototype resume authentication database for job hunters with the aim of increasing transparency and in turn address fraudulent credentials.

With a resume authentication database, the verification of official certificates and contracts, which have until now been typically done on paper, could be carried out using the blockchain database” said Osamu Yonetani, CTO of Recruit Technologies.

Imagine having all your employment related details associated with your electronic signature in one block :- security access, insurance, payroll, expenses, work performance, employment history, psychometrics etc.  The employment contracting process would effectively be redundant.  You could work almost immediately, with quick payment.  The role of the recruiter will not be needed, but that’s the least of the disruption.  This raises questions about the nature of the employment contract and the ‘job’ itself. Most of us will then be in the gig economy, enabled by transparent contract and payment mechanisms.

Chronobank.io, an Australian short-term work platform, is developing a Blockchain-based financial system for freelancers or contractors to obtain work and pay them in their own “labour-hour” token. They aim to disrupt the HR, finance and recruitment industries with their upcoming platform.  I spoke with Sergei Sergienko CEO ChronoBank, who told me “Our goal is to make a difference in the way people find work and get rewarded for their labour, doing it decentralised and without the involvement of traditional financial institutions.”  This is potentially transformative, and Sergei’s message to HR leaders was this change will happen, so find out more and work to develop this next wave for your organisation.

As Gary Hamel has said, “our management structures are not suited for a digital age”   In some cases, blockchain software will eliminate the need for many management functions.

Which brings us back to the original question, what’s the potential impact of blockchain on HR and people management?

Blockchain could fundamentally change how we manage people and HR, then the impact on HR is an irrelevant question if some of these predictions come true as we will have moved to very different economic models.

I am looking forward to seeing how this develops, and in our field, and maybe seeing some #disruptHR start-ups pitching blockchain solutions at future HR Tech World conferences.  Be great to hear from anyone out there developing blockchain models and technology in HR.

(This was a guest post on the HRN Blog)

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Let Them Eat Tech

@AndySpence

The HR Tech Congress, the second held in Paris, was yet again a splendid mix of stimulating speakers, great organisations and brilliant technology.  However, the smell of revolution was in the air…

Professor Gary Hamel made a rallying cry that was so loud it could be heard 17km away in The Palace of Versailles,”Kill bureaucracy and you’ll unclog the arteries of business,” whilst Dr.Daniel Thorniley warned us about the economy, and it was not good news.  Debt, low growth and a rising populist tide in politics means soon we will all be working in the gig economy, whether we like it or not.

How will we survive this extended downturn?

“What will we eat?” they ask.

 “Let them eat cake!” the response of the ancien régime.

(Or as Marie Antoinette did not say “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”. But ‘let them eat brioche’ doesn’t have the same ring to it – anyway I digress)

Gary Hamel told the HR audience to “to stop fiddling at the margins” and take up arms against bureaucracy, the biggest barrier to productivity in business.  Hamel even invented a word for this corporate disease “Bureausclerosis

If you can spell it, surely you can destroy it, right?

The symptoms of bureausclerosis Hamel described were: added management layers, isolation of leaders, longer decision cycles, increase in formalized policies, rule proliferation, increase in power of staff groups, organization becomes primitive, loss of ‘voice’ from staff, increase in legal processes, decrease in risk-taking, and the politicization of it all.

Ready or not, here comes the Gig Economy

If Professor Hamel gave us some examples of what was needed to transform business, Dr. Daniel Thorniley provided us with the big picture on the economy.  We are living in an unprecedented period of low growth where 63% of youths in the Eurozone do not have proper contracted employment.  Many will be forced into the Gig Economy, and this doesn’t just mean a nation of musicians and artisans, but also hosts, drivers, plumbers and (of course) humble HR consultants. Many will struggle to make a living or have the security that the previous generation have taken for granted.  I read Thorniley’s latest 46-page report, Global Business Outlook 2016-2020, with the cheery subtitle, “Why there is no future for your children.”

Now all this makes for gloomy reading and we might expect delegates of HR Tech Congress to dust off their Édith Piaf records and get out the whiskey,

but many could be heard asking, “OK, it all sounds terrible, but does this impact me?”

“Mais oui, bien sur!” (my franglais is improving)

In HR, changing business models and global economic drivers will determine whether we are scrambling for candidates, sweating our employees for discretionary effort, or working on clever algorithms to automate work.  I would guess a larger proportion of the 3,500 delegates will be joining the gig economy over the next few years.

One thing’s for sure, we might not be able to guess where the economy is going, but there are plenty of technology developments to get excited about.

Software is eating HR

So, if our business models and organisations are changing before our eyes, this raises some big questions.

How does this affect the way we think of work, organisations, and society?

Do our old people management practices still work?

How does HR respond to this? “New systems anyone?”

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker

This message seems to resonate with the HR Technology industry and is especially true now.

My concern is whether we have the right set of people management practices for the type of organisations that Hamel says will flourish?  Are we in danger of simply crystallising the processes that served us well in the last century?

These and other questions present the challenge for HR and the technology industry today.

I had the pleasure of introducing some excellent presentations in the well-attended HR Tech stream, so could not attend as many presentations as usual.  However, my fellow blog squad comrades have done a great job of sharing what they saw.

-> Reinventing HR: 12 key takeaways from #HRTechWorld from David Green

-> My top 10 disruptHR’ers at HR Tech World Congress from Faye Holland

-> Accelerating Gender Balance in Tech from Dorothy Dalton

-> And this is a great resource – all the presentations from Paris (and previous conferences) in one place: HR Tech World Congress Presentations

I was also fortunate enough to look under the bonnet of some of the latest tech tools, and I am particularly interested in the use of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence in solving business problems.  I saw some useful tools that work as a stop gap for current recruiting/ATS software, e.g. tools that help prioritise recruiters workload using simple algorithms.

There were some nice looking visualisation tools that sit on top of current HRIS systems showing historic data.  However, I was disappointed that I didn’t find any genuine machine learning or pattern recognition in this space, despite some of the marketing claims.   People Analytics is an exciting area in the early stages of its development.  However we need to overcome some key challenges to be successful, see my recent post, “7 Challenges That People Analytics Must Overcome”

Building the new HR Republic

There were many great stories of companies building the new republic, making progress, solving business problems and embracing technology.   Technology is indeed being used to transform whole industries and the biggest impact on HR will not be on how we operate, but on how we manage work in the future.

For those in HR and leadership roles, there is plenty we can do before we even think of buy new software. We can start by asking, what is the evidence that this practice (e.g. performance, talent, hiring, learning, engagement) works in our organisation now, and will do in the future?

It was a dismal economist who gave our profession the name, Human Resources, rendering people as an asset to manage.

Maybe this term also belongs to the last century along with Bureaucracy?

As with many revolutions, there will be casualties, but change can pave the way for a new order and a better approach to people management.

So when managers in your organisation ask about the conference and the impact on their staff, you might mention defeating bureausclerosis, the challenges of low growth and the gig economy.

If they then ask, “But, what will they eat?”, just simply reply,

“Let them eat tech”.

À bientôt.

(This was a guest post on the HRN Blog)

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Five themes from HR Tech World Spring 2016, London

HR Tech World Spring 2016 London    The 2nd HR Tech World was held in London’s ‘ExCel’ centre – oh the sweet irony, and a pertinent reminder of how far we have come!  Here is my view of some of the themes emerging from the conference.

This was an excellent conference with good speakers, a mix of old and new and enough space for good conversations which is what the event is all about.

But first things first, here are all the presentations from HR Tech Congress in one place which is a fantastic resource to flick through.

Software is Eating HR

John Sumser declared “The end of the HR enterprise software era” at HR Tech in Amsterdam 2013,  we have now automated pretty much all we can.  Software continues to feast on HR, starting with the horrible bits we don’t like and leaving the tasty morsels to our managers and HR people and change superstars – well that’s the theory anyway.

Lots of orgs have moved to the Cloud, so we are accumulating lots of lessons and methods to internalise before embarking on our cloud journey.  There was a whole steam dedicated to user adoption for example with presentations from Rolls Royce and Cushman & Wakefield.  Before moving to the Cloud, give this a read, How to Earn your HR Cloud Tattoo, and maybe share your case-study, and tattoo, at the next HR Tech Congress?

Sierra-Cedar kindly shared their research findings and presentation on their, 2015-2016 HR System Survey.  Some findings caught my eye, including:

 

The ‘Big 2’ tech providers dominate in EMEA with HRMS adoption with 83% of the market. SAP (HCM plus SuccessFactors) make up 52% and Oracle 31%. ADP, Kronos and Workday make up 25%. This might surprise some delegates noting the presence of CoreHR and Workday for example.  The ‘Big 2’ have their legacy customers, the onus is on the challengers to prise them away and build their market share.

The average cost per employee per year for SaaS for large companies (>10,000 employees) is $116 and for smaller companies (<2,500 employees) this cost is $394.

Wearable Technology – 16% of orgs in the survey are using or evaluating. This is an interesting trend to watch which I highlighted in my recent article Quantified Workplace: Trust vs Technology? 55% using wearables believing the benefit to be “increased workforce productivity”.

Rethinking Organisations

Josh Bersin summarised Deloitte’s research “92 percent of companies believe that redesigning the organization is very important or important, making it No. 1 in ranked importance.  Companies are decentralizing authority, moving toward product- and customer-centric organizations, and forming dynamic networks of highly empowered teams that communicate and coordinate activities in unique and powerful ways.”

This is music to my ears! For too long, companies have spent too much time tweaking round the edges of on initiatives such as employee engagement.  This is often a distraction from solving the root cause of business problems and the looking at the big picture.

As we move to new business models and organisational structures, we will need to redesign HR, and the software that supports this.   This will quickly supercede some of the current HR debates around talent, performance management and employee engagement.

The winners will be those that embrace diversity

Diversity was a theme from this conference, including a presentation from Martha Lane Fox, who made a powerful case for UK plc to take a lead on the internet as a cause for good.  But we have some work to do…

Heidi Spirgi from the Marcus Buckingham Company shared research that should tie your stomach in a knot, with her presentation, Women & Technology, the findings speak for themselves :

Currently only 17% of people working in tech in the UK are women

AND

UK is experiencing a digital skills gap that is forecasted to reach 745,000 workers by 2017

60% of college graduates are women in Europe

The first good reason for diversity is fairness, allowing all member of society to flourish.

The second good reason for diversity, is that if your organisation does not pull its ideas from the widest talent pool to solve problems, then you are likely to lose competitively.

The concept of Diversity of Thought and this paper is worth reading.  As Dorothy Dalton has said, “how can we talk about gender as a ‘diversity’ issue when 50% of the population are women, it’s a balance issue.”  Lots more we can do here…

Challenges with People Analytics

There were some presentations showing success in the use of people analytics to solve business challenges such as determining office location, retention, absenteeism and successful recruiting in the Smart Data stream.

This year, the percentage of companies that believe they are fully capable of developing predictive models doubled, from 4 percent in 2015 to 8 percent in 2016.

This is a hot area, but in danger of not fulfilling its massive hype due to structural issues we have in HR such as skills, data, systems and robust frameworks.

Using a house analogy, there is no point investing in smart sensing technology when the plumbing and heating don’t work.  I will be writing more about the barriers to People Analytics in subsequent articles.

Startups disrupting HR?

The start-ups seemed to be even busier than previous conferences with well attended sessions and stands.   The main areas were in employee engagement, recruiting, learning, employee feedback, onboarding & employer branding.

The winner of the competition was Arctic Shores who use science and games to identify high potential millennials.  Here is a useful list of the start-ups from Faye Holland, “#DisruptHR – who will you make a beeline to meet?”

See you in Paris!

This was a guest blog for HRN Blog,"Five themes from HR Tech World Spring 2016, London"

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BPaaS Rising HR Outsourcing in the Cloud

BPaaS Rising HRNWhat is the impact of SaaS on HR Outsourcing?  I have written how BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) might provide a “Silver Lining for HR Outsourcing”.

One of the pioneers of BPaaS is OneSource Virtual, who are well known in the US as one of the largest Workday implementation partners.  They recently opened their Derry European Service Centre in Northern Ireland and plan to create 290 jobs by the end of 2017.  This is great news for Derry and also for prospective and current Workday customers in the UK and Europe.    I am delighted to share a conversation I had with Wesley Bryan, President, COO and Co-Founder of OneSource Virtual, who will be at HR Tech World in London next week. 

Thursday_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wesley Bryan, President, COO and Co-Founder of OneSource Virtual

Tell me a little bit about how One Source Virtual came about and what you do?

OneSource Virtual supports the automated delivery of Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) and supports the delivery of solutions exclusively for Workday. We empower organizations of all sizes by providing Workday deployment, consulting, training and in-application payroll services, benefit administration, finance and accounting outsourcing, and application management services.

It is exciting news about your new Customer Centre in Northern Ireland, why did you choose Derry?

Because we knew the next phase of our business was to launch our UK HRMS and Payroll services, we knew it would be strategically beneficial to have a service centre in that area.  After a long selection process, we finally settled on Derry because of its labour market, stellar talent, and the positive relationship its government has on businesses. The talent and workforce in Derry is absolutely unbelievable. We certainly haven’t regretted our decision.

What services will you be providing in the UK this year?

OSV provides UK AMS Consulting, Workday Deployment, UK Payroll and Tax Services, and will be launching an Employee Service Centre that will assist with Workday Helpdesk, Workforce Administration, Benefits Services, Document Management and Administration Services. In the latter part of 2017, we will also be providing AP Processing in the UK.

HR Outsourcing gets a mixed reception due to some tricky relationships in the last 20 years, is BPaaS less risky for organisations?

Absolutely. When BPaaS is used to outsource, we don’t have to go into a company’s system and takeover the maintenance of the software like a traditional BPO.  Through BPaaS, a company is able to outsource services within their system of record. This makes it less risky to the customer because their system is already in- house.  A customer can decide at any time to bring an outsourced service back in-house and we can make that change without altering their structure.

You have done 870+ Workday projects (initial deployments and add-on engagements). What is the no.1 tip you can give on a successful implementation?

Don’t underestimate the complexity in deploying the software. It is imperative to bring in a partner that can help you design and think through how you will utilize and configure the software.

At what point in the HR software buying/implementation cycle would an organisation consider BPaaS?

Typically and ideally during the buying cycle. The BPaaS delivery model is very different from your traditional BPO service model and if you want a true BPaaS offering, you have to be careful to choose a true multi-tenancy SaaS provider who can deliver a range of services that can be standardized across a variety of customers and ultimately be more cost–effective. If that is important to you, it should be discussed during the buying cycle.

Finally, what do you think is the most exciting trend in HR Tech in the coming years?

What excites me the most is the way systems are being built today.  It isn’t uncommon to see various platforms sharing information in real time. For instance you can log in to one platform by using your Facebook credentials. The possibilities with that type of technology are endless because you’re not limited to the information that is only in your database.

This was a guest blog for HRN Blog, "BPaaS Rising – HR Outsourcing in the Cloud"

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HR Robots: Transformers in Disguise?

Transformers-Robots-In-Disguise-San-Diego-Comic-Con-2015-Exclusive-Trailer

At HR Tech Europe last year I was fortunate to meet a very nice robot, called Oscar, who works for Oracle.

In ‘speaking’ to the Robot, I noticed it’s intelligence was limited by the human who was hiding behind the conference stand using a microphone.  It dawned on me that it passed the Turing Test, but in reverse.  As you know, the Turing Test, is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour indistinguishable from that of a human.  So, the reverse Turing Test, is a test of a human’s ability to tell if a robot is really human?

According to McKinsey, the automation of Knowledge Work will have an economic impact of between $5 to $7 trillion dollars by 2020.  (see  “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy”  which is an excellent 176 page PDF report)

In their book, ‘The Second Machine Age  – Work, Progress and Prosperity in a time of Brilliant Technologies’ McAfee & Brynjolfsson, explain that the ‘first machine age’ gave rise to the modern discipline of management; companies hired armies of managers to co-ordinate the workers who operated the machines, and to organise supply chains and distribution systems.  The ‘second machine age’ will reconfigure the discipline: much of the work of bosses, from analysing complex data to recruiting staff and setting bonuses, will be automated.  The impact on society of this and the age of “peak-jobs” is one for the economists, futurists and gulp……..politicians.  (see for example  “Intelligent” robots threaten millions of jobs warns Ed Balls )

However smart machines impact us right now.

Google’s “human-performance analytics group” uses algorithms to decide which interview techniques are best at choosing good employees, and to optimise pay.

Robots in literature and movies have been used to project our greatest fears. Karel Capek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) (1921) – is credited with coining the term “robot”, which in its original Czech, “robota” means forced labour, and is derived from “rab”, meaning “slave.”

In the context of the automation of work, the visceral fear is not having a job or livelihood, but what we are talking about here is not so much CP30, but rather the general adoption of “smart-machines” replacing traditional white-collar work.

So what is the impact of Robots on HR ?

Firstly, the ongoing transformation of the workforce enabled by technology means our HR strategies are looking increasingly out of date.  We can guess that there may be less workers, probably different contracts of employment and definitely different skills required.  So our annual performance reviews and engagement surveys in a workforce full of freelancers, working 24 X 7 across the globe is looking very last century.

Secondly, even more HR transactional work itself has the potential to be automated.

When we talk about Robots in HR, what we really mean is Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

What is RPA ?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.

What does RPA really look like?

RPA in practice covers process automation, IT support and management and automated assistants.

An ideal set of circumstances in which to apply RPA are rules-based, repeated and standardised work activities.

So in HR, RPA lends itself well to core HR data administration using a central ERP system, payroll, on-boarding and off-boarding.

I have written about the impact of cloud technology on HR and the need for HR to standardise its processes to utilise new SaaS Technology,  “Will HR in the Cloud kill HR Outsourcing?” and Phil Fersht followed up with his slam dunk article, “HR in the Cloud: It won’t kill HRO, but it may kill what’s left of dysfunctional HR”.

There is a trend of reducing HR work, particularly transactional work, and I see RPA as a continuation of this trend.

When we review a HR function, we look at all HR work activity with different lenses.  So for HR work that is not subsumed by HR in the Cloud, we now look to see whether we can eliminate, automate or outsource – and now RPA can play a key role here in automation.

What are the benefits for HR ?

Howard H Nelson, Founder and Managing Director of Honhr Ltd, writing on the Genfour Blog,  suggests the following :-

“RPA will initially make significant in-roads into the transactional HR activities and eventually become the feeder of business intelligence into the higher-end activities and will impact all processes.  Robotic costs are already massively beneficial when compared to equivalent full-time employees (£2,000-3,000 of robot power can displace £20,000-30,000 of employee costs) the maths of the new proposition have already made a paradigm shift. “

See also my interview with Hayley Lange at Genfour, "Where does RPA sit in the wider HR transformational landscape?"

The term ‘Robot’ is probably not helpful, and may fall by the wayside after a few years.  However RPA will fill a gap in current HR Models until we all move to the promised land of HR in the Cloud with easy to use HR Technology.

The implication for HR and future Operating Models is that we often look at areas of HR which are core and strategic; those that need to be kept in house and those areas which could be outsourced.  Now we have a new string to our bow – which activities can we give to robots?

Maybe robots will turn out to be better guides than your humble consultant, but surely that’s taking it too far !

Get in touch and let me know what you discover @AndySpence and #HRTechWorld, and I will hopefully see you in London or Paris in 2016!

This post was orginally posted on the HR Tech Europe Blog as a guest post.

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HR Change and Transformation 2014

This has to be the most interesting time to be working at the intersection of HR, organisation development and technology. 
 
Leading change in 2014 includes responding to growing markets, geographical expansion, mergers & acquisitions and cross-cultural leadership across 5 generations. The importance of effective leadership, talent management and high employee engagement has never been so great.
 

There is a lot of buzz around technology as a driver for change in areas such as talent identification and development and workforce productivity. Its use can span all areas of HR and management, from working out which candidates are most likely to be our top future sales performers, to providing tools that enable a manager to monitor performance of a global project team. At the same time we have massive changes in our workforce, from the rise of the freelancer economy, to skills shortages and demand for 24 X 7 collaboration.

We can be proud that HR has been a pioneer in adopting many emerging technologies such as Cloud applications like WorkdayOracle Fusion and SuccessFactors. Social Media in HR has in LinkedIn a high profile corporate leader, and the adoption of Mobile is changing the recruitment landscape.   HR also has the advantage of having change management skills to ensure successful implementations.

At the HR Change & Transformation 2014 Conference, we will hear from speakers who will showcase HR innovation happening in their organisations.  Speakers from different industries and sectors will share their insight and expertise in Leadership, Change & Culture, from identifying talent to developing and integrating a new generation of leaders.   Effective change management is a blend of the right change strategy combined with getting the small things right. We will hear examples of how different organisations have achieved this.

We are also at an HR Strategy crossroads, where many of our HR strategies are undergoing radical change. Some of them were developed 50 years ago, when business and society were very different to how they are now. In addition, the set of external drivers which moved us to the HR operating models of the 90s are changing fast, so now is a good time to re-assess.  Many current HR operating models are not fit for the future given the transformational change going on in our economy and workplace.
 
In some organisations, HR needs  to transform itself first before it can lead change and transform organisations. In our Talent & Transformation stream, we will hear examples of how organisations have transformed HR to delivery business goals.   HR Transformation is not really about HR. Although HR is the focus, the outcome is about improving People Management in organisations. HR is well positioned at the crux of workforce, productivity and human beings.  HR Transformation is really about “Workforce Transformation” with HR making the rallying call.  With new agile HR operating models, we need to think about what skills capabilities HR will need for better performance Management and business integration.
 
For successful HR Transformation, the trick is for HR to empower managers, in Technology, Tools & Insight. We will hear about the rise of Mobile, Social and Gamification and the benefits of Analytics in HR. Fundamentally, HR does not yet need Big Data; it needs Big Questions. What problems do we need to solve in HR? We will hear from speakers who have solved business problems using analytics and a new set of tools.
 
Over time, Software-as-a-Service will make us standardise our HR processes – because we will have to use the systems as they are, not configure them to our existing processes.
 
This is an important time in the  history of people management with the convergence of technology innovation, workforce demographics and  economic restructuring.
 
In 2014, we are too busy to care about being invited to the top table. We now have an opportunity to create our own table and invite who we want!
 
This conference will showcase many examples of HR innovation some of which you will adopt in the future. Enjoy the sharing and let us know what examples of HR innovation you will be speaking about in 2015.
 
I am chairing one of the streams at this event and will also be facilitating a Pre-Conference Workshop “7 Steps to Transform HR” – a pragmatic and practical approach to transformation using strategies that have worked with real HR case studies.   A 10% discount code is available for our HR Transformer Blog readers, CT14AS9.  Be great to see you there! #HRCT14
 
Andrew Spence
HR Transformation Director
Glass Bead Consulting
June 2014
 
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Is your HR Operating Model Fit for the Future ?

HR Strategy Glue - Glass Bead Consulting
 
 
Current HR Operating Models are not fit for the future.  The implementation of the Ulrich model in the 1990s was driven by changes in technology, the need to demonstrate value for money, development of the HR Services landscape and a focus on more HR Strategy.  Ulrich’s research was built on trends which were transforming the IT and Finance sector at the time; including shared services, outsourcing,  manager self-service, and ERP technology enablement.  The ultimate goal was to spend a higher proportion of HR resources on delivering HR Strategy, and less on HR administration.
 
The Ulrich model delivered some benefits, but patchy implementation gave mixed results.  So after all the effort, the question remains – why is HR no more strategic now than in 1995?
 
The HR Business Partner (BP) role was introduced as a strategic partner and account manager for HR Services, however there have been challenges with the timing of the introduction of the role.  Launching BPs before HR Shared Service Centres have started leaves them with an impossible task of balancing transactional workload with the strategic expectations of customers.  In my experience of training BPs, I observed the ‘rule of thirds’ in larger organisations; a third are excellent, a third would be excellent with time and development, and a third will never be ‘strategic’ BPs.     The Business Partner is stuck between a rock and a hard place in a mismatch of expectations. 
 
In my view the great promise of HR ERP Technology has not delivered. Most organisations do not have one interconnected system for HR records, recruitment, learning, payroll, compensation management, succession planning tools and performance management.  Many multi-million dollar transformation initiatives based on HR Technology, have not delivered their goals, been late or over budget damaging the credibility of HR to transform organisations. 
 
HR has built a set of specialist functions that work well in silos, for example in Talent, Learning, Reward, Recruitment, Employee Relations, but don’t often work together as a whole to deliver HR Strategy.  There is evidence that we are not spending a higher proportion of our time on delivering HR Strategy as we did in the 1990s, from research carried out by Professor Edward Lawler of the University of Southern California. We have not made progress in improving the productivity of managers through enabling self-service tools. According to Towers Watson, 56% of organisations now require HR to approve transactions, which was certainly not the original vision of the Ulrich model.
 
The Ulrich model was developed from external drivers relevant in the 1990s but we now have a different set of drivers in place, and should re-evaluate our current structures.  Now is a good time to review our HR Operating Model, with over 50% of organisations with more than 5,000 employees in the process of re-organising their HR department from bringing in a new leadership team to redesigning HR services from the bottom-up. 
 
Technological innovation has provided big changes in the workforce.  It has also provided more opportunities to deliver better HR Services to a mobile, and more global workforce.  McKinsey estimate that the automation of knowledge work will have an economic impact of $5-7 trillion dollars, displacing workers with technology.  Workforce changes mean we have high youth unemployment in some areas, a jobless recovery, an ageing workforce that will need to work into its 60s and 70s and localised skill shortages, for example in science and engineering.  The demand for Talent is constant.
 
So where do we locate our businesses in an economy with high unemployment? Do we need a core set of employees on permanent contracts and flexible contractors who provide the right skills at the right time? Which employee services can we deliver through mobile devices?
 
HR is becoming increasingly fragmented and hived off into HR Services and specialist advice.  There is a growing need for more HR Strategy, yet there is less capability to deliver it.  There is a demand for support to transform organisations, yet HR has struggled with change management, technology deployment and Organisation Design required to transform itself.  The HR Services market is moving every quarter with new entrants, mergers and acquisitions.  New skills are required in analytics, influencing behaviour change, vendor management, and for HR to be workforce technology 'evangelists'.
 
So what can we do?  We can learn from the experiences of implementing the Ulrich model, but challenge parts of the model that are no longer applicable. 
 
1. Understand the changes in your workforce now and in the future, and assess the likely impact on your organisation
2. Challenge current and future HR skills you have and will need in the future 
3. Review technology innovations and partner with organisations that have a passion for improving workforce productivity
 
By focusing on the journey and not the end destination, you can move towards a HR model that will provide the 'HR Strategy Glue' enabling you to adapt and respond to future drivers of change. 
 
Join in the discussion on HR Transformer Blog or at the Tucana HR Change & Transformation Conference where Andy Spence is delivering his keynote speech on Future Trends in HR Operating Models.
 
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What will you Stop, Start and Continue in 2013 ?

 

This is the time of year when the turkey is a recent plump memory, the mince pies are all gone, the Christmas recycling is on an industrial-scale, and the champagne is in the fridge ready to bring in the New Year.  

A question I usually ask myself is What will I Stop, Start and Continue doing the following year?

I find this is a useful exercise to carry out both personally and professionally.

So why not get some of that old Christmas present wrapping paper out, write down those activities and ask yourself the following :
 

What activities will I Stop doing ?

By this, I don’t mean the post-Christmas detox activities, like drinking horrible tea and running round the block.  In a work context, list the activities and ask yourself – what would happen if you stopped doing this?  

This is your New Year spring clean, clearing out the clutter to free up space to focus on better things.

So once you have done this, and crossed out a chunk of activities, (you will still need to pay people, so payroll stays on the Continue list, nice try!).  Of course, most of what you do is valuable so will stay on the Continue list.

Now the fun bit, you have now created some space and energy, so think about What are the activities that you will Start doing in 2013 ?

Download our Stop, Start, Continue Worksheet below:

 

Here are some of our HR candidates to consider Stop and Start doing in 2013, we look forward to hearing yours.

HR Candidates to STOP
1.    The Annual Performance review – is this a meaningless paper chain, with low-value conversations with no discernible increase in productivity? If so, then dump it.
2.    Engagement Survey and Action Plan.  Can you really demonstrate that this activity improves productivity, happiness or just improves the survey results every year?  Cause and effect is too difficult to discern, so is time to do something more effective instead?
3.    Doing ‘line-managers work’ with basic employee performance issues. You have rolled out the training, had a ‘hand-holding period’ of 6 months to help less confident managers.  Is now the time to take the hard decision and ask yourselves, if a Line Manager can’t do this now, then do they need to move on?
4.    Creating reports that add no value whatsoever. Unless there is a business reason, stop producing them and see what happens…

HR Candidates to START
1.    Conduct a “meaningful work” review.  Ensure every employee understands how their work fits into the "Why" of your organisation.  Get this right and you will have much more productivity, satisfaction and better results than putting free fresh fruit in the canteen!
2.    Review your HR Strategy to ensure it aligns with the latest Organisation Strategy (which has the habit of changing every quarter)
3.    Conduct a HR Assessment – do you know how much it costs to delivery your HR Services, compared to leading outsourcers or even your competitors?
4.    Check the HR Technology market for Talent Management tools and ditch those awful spreadsheets.
5.    Make more of an effort with Finance and IT…you will always need them, they will always need you…..surprise the CFO and take them out to dinner.
6.    Find out what your Managers really think about HR service – conduct a HR Importance vs Effectiveness Survey to help you hone in on what the priorities should be in 2013.
7.    Ring up your HR Transformation Consultant to help you set-up a successful HR Change Programme in 2013

Whatever you Stop, Start and Continue in 2013, I hope it is a happy and prosperous year for you professionally and personally.

 

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