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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Managing Attrition – Are You Looking Backwards or Forwards?

Glass Bead Consulting - Attrition

How do you manage attrition?

Most companies will review last month’s attrition figures, long after the star employees have had their farewell leaving do. This is the equivalent to looking behind in the rear-view mirror, whilst travelling at speed – you may know what’s behind you but it’s too late to do anything about it.   Or do you look forward, anticipating trends of employee flight risk and making small adjustments as you travel down the road?  After all, if you can see the possible obstacle ahead you have a better chance to avoid it.

As wages continue to rise, we see more employees dipping their toes in the welcoming water of the job market.  Keeping our best employees with us on our journey is going to be hard and managing the cost of unwanted employee turnover is going to be even harder.

Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and early Facebook investor, has said,

“Five great programmers can completely outperform 1,000 mediocre programmers.”

So how do we quantify the cost of losing our best employee? 

The calculation for the cost of losing an employee varies from one organisation to another, but typically includes hiring, on-boarding, training and ramp-up time to peak productivity. Other costs that need to be factored are loss of morale due to high turnover, higher business error rates, and a possible impact on a company’s culture and customer reputation.

Deloitte estimate the cost of losing an employee can range up to two times the employee’s annual salary.  Given the significant financial impact, it is surprising that 40.7% of UK organisations do not measure the cost of attrition, according to XpertHR.

This prompts some basic questions organisations should be asking about attrition such as:

  • Do you have a good idea of what your attrition levels will be over the next few quarters?
  • Do you calculate the probability and the impact of losing an employee?
  • Do you know the actual cost of attrition in your business?
  • Can you prove which factors cause unwanted attrition in your organisation?
  • Do you know which interventions are more likely to keep the higher performers (the five great programmers) and let the laggards leave?

Looking at attrition in the rear-view mirror

Many HR teams measure who has left the company in the last period, in which division, and what type of role as a way of broadly measuring attrition.  However, looking in the rear-view mirror only describes what’s behind us, it doesn’t tell us what is coming up, which makes it harder to prepare for unexpected change.   By the time we have realised it is too late.

Looking forward using predictive analytics

What we really need is to manage attrition more proactively by understanding who is more likely to leave and what the impact of them leaving would be on the business.  In a smallish company this is straightforward, but where you have larger teams, spans of control and distributed teams this becomes much more difficult.

Credit Suisse found that a one-point reduction in regretted attrition saved the bank $75 million to $100 million a year.  So building an attrition prediction model is one way for HR to make a substantial impact on the bottom-line.  See “The Algorithm that tells the boss who might quit”.

For those interested in more People Analytic case studies, including attrition, go to David Green’s excellent summary “20 People Analytics Case Studies

Using an evidence-based approach, we need to critically assess different sources of evidence.  Building your own predictive model is one way of building up a reasonably strong source of organisational evidence.  It is also worth reviewing the scientific research as another source of evidence, see this meta-analysis for example and reference below.  

Tej Mehta from Owen Analytics, explains the benefits of using predictive analytics,

“A typical approach will brainstorm all the potential factors that might cause an individual to leave. These are then used as inputs into machine learning algorithms that can predict flight risk with a high degree of accuracy which is often over 80%.”

The attrition landscape needs to be revisited if organisations are to remain competitive as they make their respective journeys.  Predictive analytics can be a step change for the HR community, at the very least providing some useful dashboard controls to enable better decision making.

I hope this article has given you some useful ideas and maybe some inspiration.  As always I would be interested in hearing about your examples using predictive analytics to better manage retention and attrition.    In response to our clients’ request to provide this service, are delighted to announce that we have launched a new service “Managing Attrition using Predictive Analytics”.

Some other useful resources to improve attrition management

Why Do Workers Quit? The Factors That Predict Employee Turnover (19 page PDF from Glassdoor)

Turnover: Predicting Attrition – A great free training resources from University of Pennsylvania | Coursera

Whether your company has 500 or 120,000 employees, there are many things you can do to improve retention and manage attrition, see Managing attrition using simple analytics

Meta-Analytic Review of Employee Turnover as a Predictor of Firm Performance (2011)    Julie I. Hancock, David G. Allen, Frank A. Bosco, Karen R. McDaniel, Charles A. Pierce

 

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State of HR Systems Market Europe 2016 Sierra Cedar Survey Results

For the last 19th years, Sierra Cedar have been conducting a survey on HR System adoption.  This demonstrates admirable commitment to a market that ebbs and flows like the form of our star strikers in the European Football Championships (who are only on their 15th edition).  The survey is an invaluable resource to those working in the HR Technology ecosystem – the report can be downloaded here.  In this article I wanted to share some of the findings that caught my eye, but mainly to ask you to complete the survey for your organisation, before 8th July, so that this report is even more valuable next year!

The Big 2 still dominate – I am not talking about the Germany and Spain duopoly in Euro 2016, who have won most cups with 3 each.  In European HRMS adoption, the ‘Big 2’ tech providers, Oracle and SAP, dominate 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 delegates who were at HR Tech World Spring 2016 in London, for example, noting the highly visible presence of CoreHR and Workday.  The ‘Big 2’ have their legacy customers, the onus is on the many challengers to prise them away and build their market share.

How much does this software cost? For large companies (with more than 10,000 employees), the average license cost per employee per year, is $116 (or €102).   For smaller companies with less than 2,500 employees, this cost is much more at $394 (€348).  This excludes implementation costs.  Now for this amount, you might even get you a ticket to one of the group stage matches in France.  In fact, why not spend the money on football tickets instead, your employee engagement scores will surely increase? *nervous laughter*.  When you have such highly paid employees on your payroll as Cristiano Ronaldo, who has a salary of €21m per year apparently, you want to get the most out of them.

Could wearable technology give us insight into players’ performance? 55% in the survey think using wearables will “increase workforce productivity”.  16% of organisations in the survey are using or evaluating wearable technology at the moment.  According to this article we might see Wayne Rooney cavorting around Old Trafford wearing a tracking device.

The most common pathway to an HR Technology Transformation, with 26.5%, is “Rip & Replace” which is basically moving everything all at once to the Cloud.  This is like selling your 3 most reliable players in a winning team – a tactic that is a bit risky!

Contrary to reading the industry press, not everyone is in the HR Cloud yet, it is estimated that about 50% of core HRMS is still on premise.  This might have something to do with the residual customers of the Big 2 taking their time on the upgrade path and working out options, and a rump of organisations where moving to the cloud brings more security and privacy issues.   One thing’s for sure, whichever country’s team wins in Paris will be in Cloud 9.

As you read the survey report, bear in mind the results are based on an adoption and do not represent market share.   In my view, it’s always useful to read these surveys for good background context.  This survey also highlights some of the trends the analysts are seeing and refers to useful frameworks used.  If you are considering making changes to your HR Systems, always go back a step to understand what your business really needs from HR and how this will support your HR Operating model. This article might also be useful – How to Earn your HR Cloud Tattoo.

Finally, make sure you complete the SURVEY before 8th July and good luck to your team in Euro 2016!

This article was a guest post on 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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Workday Service Partners – Overview of European Market

Workday Service Partners Europe

The Workday Rising Europe 2015 roadshow is kicking off in Dublin this week – a melting pot of existing customers, prospects and Workday partners.  One things for sure there will be plenty of HR Technology craic.

This article looks at the European Workday Service Partner ecosystem, provides some independent analysis of the market and some useful links for those thinking of moving to Workday.

So, why am I writing this article?  I have been involved in over 20 transformation programmes in the last 15 years, and nearly all of them involved HR Technology.  My particular focus is to help organisations develop smarter HR Operating Models aligned to business goals.  New waves of technological innovation has meant for the first time business needs are lagging technological capabilities.  See my article for HR Tech Europe Blog – “HR in a Time of Brilliant Technologies”, however when assessing the impact of new technology on HR, we sometimes get dazzled by the ‘glare’.  Workday has been a real catalyst for transforming HR.  One feature of selecting Workday as your HR technology system is that you have to work with an authorised Workday Service Provide, although there are good reasons for this, we think “how you implement” and “who with” should be a major consideration when selecting HR software.

To start with, we should say, we like Workday and what it has achieved in helping to transform HR. However, it’s role as a HR transformer is not because the functionality of the software blows away earlier generations, but also because it has risen on the wave of technological changes such as mobile, cloud and better integration.

There are three other reasons, we think why Workday is a true HR transformer.

1 – Workday’s main success has been to pitch successfully to the C-Suite.  By raising enthusiasm for great people management, HR has had another go at making the case for workforce transformation after some patchy results in the last 20 years.

2 – Implementing major new software usually requires a business case to the Board, and this has led to HR having to provide assurance that HR has an operating model that is fit for the future.  A new system has often triggered a review of what we do in HR to support the business, the structures, skills and ways of working. 

3 – Every Workday customer gets the same software, and this has forced HR to simplify and streamline processes.  The upshot has been that after making the case to invest in our people management infrastructure, HR has been able to focus more on business priorities whether that is developing talent, sales effectiveness or productivity.

 

In going through the process of choosing the best HR system to suit the requirements of your business, you will have considered some of Workday’s competitors :- SuccessFactors, Cornerstone, Meta4, Fairsail, FinancialForce.com, ADP, Ceridian, Oracle and MS Excel (joking!)

Whichever software you select, a key consideration is choosing the right implementation partner, in terms of cost, quality and risk management and ultimately successful business outcomes.   In our post, How to Earn your HR Cloud Tattoo, I shared some tips to consider when implementing your cloud-based HR system.  This included “Make sure you check out suitable partners before you select the software as this will significantly influence the pricing for your project.”

Once the HR Technology selection decision has been made, the next step is to find an authorised Workday Service Partner.  This is not necessarily a problem, but buyers should line up their preferred partner before signing the Workday contract.  This is important as the success of your Workday implementation will depend on the quality of the service partner, and it is worth thinking about this before you sign the contract.  We have also noticed it is harder to get good independent advice for buyers.  Analysts, well they analyse…Consultants provide advice, but also have big Workday practices – they know the product but have a clear vested interest, and Workday themselves are trying to create a healthy service partner ecosystem.  This involves supporting new entrants into the market and ensuring the quality of deployment is high. 

Anyone who has earnt their “HR Cloud Tattoo”, knows “putting in a HR system” doesn’t “transform HR” or improve the “workforce capability” despite some of the sales pitches I have come across.  Improving workforce capability will only start once the system is stabilised, the new operating model is working and leaders confidently empower managers to manage effectively.  This can take years, not a few months.

A view on the European Workday Service Partner market

For those who have selected Workday, your next step will be to choose one of the official Service Partners.

For customers, this is generally good news.  On the one hand you can be assured that service partners work to a stringent standard, that the software will be deployed using consistent service standards and every consultant is Workday certified.

On the flipside, you have a more limited group of service partners to choose from.  Also, although each partner is reputable, it is more difficult to get independent advice within this context on scope, commercials, programme management issues with Workday. To be blunt, some of the service partners, as you will see below, rely 100% on Workday for their revenues – they are not going to bite the hand that feeds them.

The market for certified Workday consultants is hot!  There is high demand from customers, but a low supply of experienced certified Workday consultants.  As the Workday sales machine does its thing, competition for consultants will increase and so will salaries – potentially pushing up the implementation bill for customers.

Workday is growing fast, but is still not profitable.  The cost per employee per year will not be going down, even if the competition mentioned above come snapping at their heels.  

The market is changing all the time and will evolve in the next few years which is very important for Workday’s long-term success.  As you can see the Workday European Service Provider market has some familiar names, and some more you will not have heard of.  We have characterised the 17 European providers into 5 different sections :- from the Big 4 and Tech Titans, HR Heritage providers, to the general Cloud experts and Workday specialists.  We will continue to see M&A activity in this space.   The Big 4 and Tech Titans (and outsourcers) will make a move for their smaller competitors as the best way to acquire certified Workday consultants and buy a chunk of market share.

I would also expect one or two of the US focused providers to enter the European market. For example, one of the largest Workday Service Providers in the US, OneSource Virtual, has recently opened a centre in Derry, Northern Ireland, so will be growing its capability in Europe.

I could plot the Workday partners on a 2 by 2 matrix with ‘completion of vision’ against ‘ability to execute’ and show you how many certified consultants each provider has, but I not sure this will help you find the right partner given your requirements and the maturity of this market.  Instead, I would characterise the market into 5 segments.

The Big 4

Well I am not sure if its Big 4 or 5 these days, it doesn’t look like Ernst & Young are a major player in this space for now anyway…

Accenture – 2nd largest service partner globally according to HfS, in terms of certified consultants.  Can take on the larger, more complex programmes

Deloitte – with 120 Workday customers, it is probably the largest service partner globally

KPMG –  showed ambition by buying Towers Watson’s Workday practice this year

PwC – have over 200 Workday professionals globally

Pros – they have big pockets and seem committed to this market.  They have a breadth of offerings in technology and consulting, and their Account Manager probably plays golf with your CIO and CFO.

Cons – they can turn any project into a massive industry fuelled by an expensive army of fresh-faced analysts.  Relatively expensive, and unless you are Unilever you will not be at the top of the queue for the best consultants.

Question to Service Partner – “Your sales director is *very nice*, but please can I interview the actual team I will be working with?”

The Tech Titans

Like the Big 4, the Tech Titans are well known and survivors. They can work on a mega scale and all keen to develop longer-term outsourcing solutions. (not sure whether Accenture fits in here or Big 4…)

Cap Gemini – European tech giant with HQ in Paris

CSC – A global leader in providing technology enabled business solutions and services

HPE – Hewlett Packard Enterprise, who recently split with HP Inc

IBM – recently bought Meteorix, probably the 3rd biggest SP in terms of Global Workday certified consultants

Pros – they will be on your short-list if they already run some of your tech infrastructure, so you will know how they work to some extent.  If you are thinking of implementing Workday then outsourcing or considering BPaaS then I am sure the tech titan will be interested in negotiating.  (see my article for CIPD on Will the Cloud have a Silver Lining for HR Outsourcing? )

Cons – not usually a great fit for smaller organisations as you will be down their pecking order, but some are trying to build up their practice quickly so worth considering if they are keen. 

Question to Service Partner – “What do you mean you can’t come to a meeting in Berlin because of your Q4 travel freeze!?”

 

HR Heritage

So these guys have been doing your pension and benefits admin since 1953 and know everything about HR and have some very good consultants.

AON – showed their commitment to this market by buying Kloud this year, also big player in HR Outsourcing

Mercer – one of the smaller Workday SPs, with a wealth of knowledge in pensions, investment and workforce

Pros – depth and breadth of HR knowledge.

Cons – Towers Watson had their Workday practice bought by KPMG…wonder whether Mercer can compete with the Big 4 and Tech Titans?

Question to Service Partner – “Can we talk about your Benefits plans? (only joking!)”

 

The Cloud Specialists

These two are regarded as expert at cloud implementations.

Appirio – very experienced with 900+ enterprises moved to the cloud with Salesforce.com, Google and Workday

Kainos – 750 staff with 150 global customers

Pros – both have good reputations and know their cloud deployment techniques

Cons – will have less breadth of offerings as Big 4 and Heritage HR

Question to Service Partner – “How do you stop your team being poached by the Big 4 and Tech Titans?”

 

The Workday Specialists

These service partners live and breathe Workday and have a symbiotic relationship with the mother lode.  Some have local payroll expertise.

Ataraxis – based in Belgium and know European payroll

Cloudator – A cloud-based multi-country payroll system for the Nordics

DayNine Consulting – European clients include Cambridge University Press, TIP Trailer Services and Global Blue

EverBe – Based in Paris.  HR and local payrolls for France, Benelux, Italy and Spain

Realright – specialist with focus on the German market

Pros – might fit your niche perfectly e.g. German/Nordic payroll and probably cheaper than the Big 4.

Cons – they are specialists so less able to provide broader technology and consulting services, also good candidates for takeover by bigger fish.

Question to Service Partner – “So tell me, how many share options do you have then?”  

This was a short overview of the main players which you might find useful, and some tips and to consider before choosing your Workday Service Partner, but if you have decided to use Workday here are some of the considerations when selecting a Workday Service Partner:-

– Consider the fit with your organisation and team – if you have 1,700 employees you will be way down the pecking order for the Big 4 and Tech Titans who might send their intern down to meet you for scoping meetings!

– Are you considering outsourcing, or BPaaS as an option?  Then it’s worth sticking with the same partner through the whole process if you can and evaluating the vendors outsourcing capability up front.

– It’s important to consider and see their proprietary Tools and Methods developed.  The winners in this market will develop the best tools that consultants want to work with and give best results and customer satisfaction.

– Workday will often recommend a particular service partner to work with, this is worth listening to, but their interests (keeping the ecosystem healthy) might be different to yours, so also prepare a shortlist to evaluate.

– It’s crucial that the consultants working on your project have a good understanding of the particular regulations in your geographies.  This could mean for your organisation, the 20 deployments in France and Belgium are more important than the 200 deployments in the US.

– Make sure you meet the actual implementation team.  As well as Workday experience, look for broader HR/consulting experience.  Will they get on with your team?

– Sector experience – Workday is building up its credentials in different sectors in Europe but isn’t there yet….check the Service Partners understand your industry?

– A general point, from our experience the cloud service partner can probably get the system up and running quicker than your organisation can make the required business decision and adapt to the change.  Make sure you have good governance, programme management and excellent change and communications skills in your team.

– Ask to speak to at least 2 or 3 customers in your industry/geography for references.

If you have already earnt your HR Cloud Tattoo, then please share your experience in selecting a Service Partner.  I would also welcome any tips and suggestions from Service Providers themselves, directly or on Twitter @AndySpence.

If you would like this article in a nice PDF format, then let us know and we promise not to charge you $1,295!  And enjoy Dublin if you are at Workday Rising this week!

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The Campaign for Meaningful Work

david graeber pointless jobs tube poster

This week I am thinking about the “why of work” for a few reasons.  Firstly, I am going to the Meaning Conference in Brighton, where I live, a gathering for people who believe business can and must be a force for positive change.  Secondly, the same evening I am seeing one of my favourite  bands, The Fall, who have been going strong since 1977.  As the late John Peel explained, they are “always different, always the same.”  Thirdly, I also have a 20 year reunion with friends I started work with back in 1995. 

If I apply the why of work to each situation, why has the lead singer of The Fall, Mark E Smith, churned out an album nearly every year since 1977?  Why is there still a bond between people who long stopped working or socialising with each other?

Work is clearly more than paying the bills, it fulfils a much bigger human need – to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Through our work, we seek a sense of purpose and a connection with others.  Yet, there is a crisis in the modern workplace, from YouGov research that shows “37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless” to David Graeber’s article, in STRIKE! magazine,  “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs”.  Quotes in David’s article were used by activists to plaster the Tube in London with posters. 

The workplace is a fragile balancing act between employee’s needs and employers’ needs. There is a  relentless pressure on employers to get more out of staff, and increasing employee productivity is the holy grail.

Over the last few years, employee engagement has been pushed as the solution with an assumption that increasing employee engagement increases productivity.

Organisations can spend massive amounts of energy and cost on initiatives to increase employee engagement with the belief that (1) it will raise productivity and (2) it is the right thing to do.

However, there are some glaring flaws with this:

We don’t actually know what employee engagement is.

Definitions typically point to many factors – see here for a good example of employee engagement which shows 9 factors.  This makes it far too complex to analyse, and definitely too difficult to convert into actions that make a positive difference.

We don’t know what actually causes employee engagement.

There are lots of studies which show correlations between engaged and productive staff, but it is very difficult to isolate cause and effect relationships. 

There is a correlation between organisations with high employee engagement and better performance.  However this does not mean employee engagement causes higher performance.  For example, we might also find that high employee engagement is correlated with older workers, taller workers, those that live nearer the place of employment etc.  In other words, it is very difficult to say one factor causes higher performance and this is a classic ‘chicken and egg’ debate.  Read Flip Chart Rick’s take on this  “Employee engagement hyperbole” or Professor Rob Briner, “Don’t believe the hype of employee engagement”

So we might spend time and energy on creating a happy, engaged workforce – but this raises another question:

Who needs ‘engaged workers’ doing the ‘wrong’ work?

You might have happy workers but it won’t necessarily help your organisation achieve its goals unless work is linked to the goals of the organisation.  This is much harder to achieve than ‘raising the engagement survey score by 2% every year’.

I believe employee engagement is a fad for a low wage environment – herbal teas and fresh fruit in the office is cheaper than an across-the-board 4% pay rise.  As wages increase I think businesses will focus on measures that will actually increase productivity.

So why are employee engagement initiatives still so popular?  This needs a fuller answer, but my views are:

  1. They are easier to do than root cause analysis and great job design
  2. An industry has been built up around engagement solutions – a massive sales push! #NuffSaid

 

The Campaign For Meaningful Work

 “He who has a ‘why’ to work can bear with almost any how.”  Nietzsche

Without a strong causal link between engagement and productivity we are simply left with a hunch or intuition.

Well here’s my hunch.

Meaningful work is important for our own personal sanity and well being, and so says Mark E Smith,  Marx, Maslow and my grandmother.  To me, it makes intuitive sense.

So what can we do to increase engagement, work happiness and possibly productivity?

Here are some of my suggestions to help make work more meaningful.

Link the work to something bigger

If you work as a CEO, a carer or a cleaner in a hospital, you are just as important in helping people to recover from illness as the nurses and doctors.

Why do I work? I help make organisations better places to work.  How do I do this? By working with HR teams to improve people management and the workplace.  This purpose gets me out bed in the morning (along with a strong cup of Yorkshire Tea).

By linking every persons’ job to the main goal of your organisation – whether that is to heal the sick, make people feel good, make organisations better etc you help create meaning.

Empower people to organise their own work

Some of our organisations are creaking under industrial age structures that haven’t changed since the 1950s.  The tools we use to collaborate at work are being revolutionised.  We now have an opportunity to reinvent how we work, and to empower teams to have a major say in the design.  I am not suggesting that we can all design our organisations like a start-up, or Zappos or Google – but we can start using some of the principles.  If you have had a say in designing your teams’ work then it should become more meaningful.

Show your organisation’s impact on customers

Medtronic are a specialist in medical devices, and make amongst other things prosthetic limbs.  Many of their employees do not have direct contact with their end customers.  Medtronic shares stories of patients who have benefited from the company’s products with its employees and meet customers at its regular ‘town-hall meetings’.   In the words of a senior executive,

Our people end up feeling personally involved in our company’s mission to restore people to full life.  They can see the end result of their work. Many are profoundly moved by the patients’ stories.

This has a much greater impact on morale than going through the quarterly earnings report.

Keep learning about what motivates us at work

Despite the glib books and 100 page academic reports, this is a complex area.

There are lots of misconceptions about what motivates people at work from financial bonuses, bowls of fruit, Christmas hampers or a pat on the back – take your pick?

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn't just about the money, but it's not exactly about the joy either.  It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose.

Here are two videos worth watching on what motivates us at work.

Dan Ariely, a behavioural economist gives a TED talk – “What makes us feel good about our work?”

But, why have one Dan when you can have two?  Dan Pink, the author, illustrates  “The surprising truth about what motives us” with the help of an RSA Animation.  This has had over 14 million people view this on YouTube, make sure your Reward Manager is one of them!

“Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose” REPEAT “Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose”

Finally, ditch that annual engagement survey!  Unless in your heart you know that improving aggregated self-reported survey responses will really help you design and maintain a great place to work.

Put some of these things in place and watch the results – maybe in the emotional commitment employees have for your organisation, maybe the spring in their step as they travel to work, or just possibly in their productivity.  I will be listening and learning at the Meaning Conference, rocking to “Dead Bead Descendant” by The Fall, and as always irrepressibly tweeting @AndySpence.  It would be great to hear your views on the ‘why of work’ and how you make more work more meaningful.  

See also, What Makes Work Meaningful? and The Seven Deadly Sins Preventing Meaningful Work

 

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HR in a time of Brilliant Technologies

We are indeed living in a time of ‘Brilliant Technologies’.
 
I studied Cognitive Science & Artificial Intelligence back in the mid ‘90s. The multi-disciplinary researchers dreamt about natural language comprehension and powerful AI computing power.  Fast forward 20 years and they would be delighted to meet ‘Miss Siri and Mr Watson’.  

I am passionate about the impact of technology in organisations and have written about the role of automation in a HR Tech Europe blog article, ‘HR Robots: Transformers in Disguise?’ 

However, when assessing the impact of new technology on HR, we sometimes get dazzled by the ‘glare’.  The biggest impact of living in a time of ‘Brilliant Technologies’ on HR is not the cool tools, but the way technology transforms our economies and societies, changing the workforce skills needed in a globalised economy.
 
In our workforce we now see:
 
• Five generations working together in an ageing workforce – in 2020, nearly a third of the UK workforce will be over 50
• Freelancers working 24 / 7 across the globe – Harvard Business Review estimates 1.3 billion people will work virtually in the next few years
• The continued automation of knowledge workers – wiping out swathes of middle managers
 
There is a relentless push for organisations to survive and flourish in this competitive environment.  Since 2000, 52% of the Fortune 500 has disappeared, Professor Gary Hamel makes the prediction that 50% of the Fortune 500 today will no longer be with us in the next 10 years.
 
“Management 1.0 at its core is a mash-up of military command structures that go back thousands of years layered with the discipline of industrial engineering, which goes back maybe 120 years,”
 
He argues that survivors will need to move to Management 2.0.
 
“…a reboot where Values & Transparency replace Rules & Hierarchy and Fear.”
 
If our management structures are not suited for a digital age, the same principle applies to some of our HR people management practices.  For example, our annual performance reviews and engagement surveys in a workforce full of freelancers; working 24 / 7 across the globe is suddenly looking very ‘Management 1.0’.
 
We can now provide employees with better technology to manage their teams more effectively, such as tools that provide real-time feedback on performance and goals.
 
In this new digital age, people management practices and HR operating models will also be revolutionised.   Josh Bersin argues that ‘People Management is replacing Talent Management.’  
 
“Talent scarcity is still a problem, but engagement, empowerment, and environment are now the real issues companies face.”
 
What does this all mean for HR Technology?
 
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
Peter Drucker
 
In his speech at HR Tech Europe in 2013, John Sumser took the historical perspective – he noted that we are at the end of the HR enterprise software era.  The HR Technology industry has done its job well, and provided automated solutions for most HR processes.   In some cases we have calcified these obsolete management and HR processes from the last century.
 
We see the benefits of the cloud, mobile, analytics, robotic process automation and collaboration tools.  The adoption of HR Software in the Cloud in combination with mobile technology is a catalyst for HR to empower managers to improve workforce productivity.  
 
There is a steady move to migrate HR systems from on premise to SaaS (Software as a Service).  Along with the required HR process standardisation; this technology will reduce the total HR transactional effort with less HR administration support required.  Savings can be reallocated to strategic goals such as developing talent, with learning solutions and collaboration tools.  The new systems also allow better data quality over time and enable us to move from descriptive analytics, to predictive and prescriptive analytics where we can predict not only ‘when’ an event might happen, but also ‘why’.  
 
So the way we deliver people management is changing, driven by workforce, new business models and technological innovation.  HR structures, organisation, policies and processes are also in need of a review to ensure they are fit for the future.  The CIPD recently curated a series of 10 articles from leading thinkers such as Josh Bersin, Dave Ulrich, Ed Lawler, Nick Holley and others, on ‘Changing HR Operating Models’, which is worth a read.   
 
What can you do to determine whether your Technology and HR Operating Model is Fit for the Future ?  
 
Start by asking the following questions:
• Do your current HR practices deliver your organisational goals now and in the future?
• What will your HR model (services, skills, organisation) look like in the next few years and will your HR technology support this?
• What tools and solutions does your changing workforce require to achieve their goals?
I believe we are indeed living in a time of  ‘Brilliant Technologies’, but don’t be dazzled by the glare!
 
What will I be looking for at HR Tech Europe?
 
I am looking forward to the insightful conversations and presentations at the HR Tech Europe conference and aim to find examples of organisations that have found more agile ways of supporting engagement and improving performance to report on.
 
I am also really interested in hearing about the journeys that organisations have gone on to adopting “Brilliant Technologies” and capture the lessons learned.
 
Get in touch and let me know what you discover @AndySpence and #HRTechEurope, and I will hopefully see you in London or Paris in 2015!
 
This post was orginally posted on the HR Tech Europe Blog as a guest post.
 
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