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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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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7 Challenges that People Analytics Must Overcome

People Analytics - Glass Bead Consulting

7 Challenges that People Analytics Must Overcome

I am excited about the role People Analytics will play in transforming organisations.  I have seen some real success stories where organisations have incorporated more data-driven decisions about people and work. 

David Green highlights some great case-studies in his article, 20 People Analytics case-studies, which includes, Virgin Media, who reduced sickness absence rates from 9% to 4% saving the business £750,000.

There is clearly a journey to be taken where we move from our current starting point, where we often distrust the data we have on employees, to a place where we can better predict sickness absence, attrition and productivity.

Most organisations are already on this journey to some degree. The percentage of companies that believe they are fully capable of developing predictive models doubled this year, from 4% in 2015 to 8% in 2016, according to research by Deloitte, “Global Human Capital Trends 2016”.   However this journey will have some challenges that we will need to overcome.

People Analytics can play a key role in reinventing organisations.  However we need to resolve some of the structural challenges to truly succeed.  I covered some of these themes in my recent presentation, The Role of HR in Reinventing Organisations: Embracing People Analytics, at the Workforce Analytics Summit in Sydney.

Despite the hype, there is low adoption of People Analytics at the moment – here are some of the challenges that I think we need to address and also some suggestions of how WE (in the broadest sense) can overcome these challenges.

As always, I would welcome your views on the challenges, and especially ideas, and examples of how to overcome them.

Challenge 1 – We prefer ‘gut feelings’ to make people-based decisions

"80% of HR practitioners say their company leaders still rely on 'gut feelings' to make people-based decisions"  according to a survey of Human Capital Institute members in partnership with Oracle.

What’s wrong with using ‘gut-feelings’ to make people-based decision?

Professor Rob Briner from Bath University explains in his article What’s the evidence for…Evidence-Based HR?  that “our intuition is a valid source of evidence, albeit a weak source.” 

Daniel Kahneman, in his book – Thinking, Fast and Slow described two main types of thinking well with their inherent biases.

When you are under time pressure for a decision, you need to follow intuition. There is nothing wrong with using our intuition or gut feeling, but as Kahneman has said “you should not take your intuitions at face value”

So back to the challenge for those with skills in People Analytics, if your business customers do not believe that data is useful then they will not ask for it, or use it, or believe in it.  Which is a fairly big challenge!

So how do we overcome this challenge? Maybe there is a middle way between the fast and slow lane?

What you can do:

Make sure the boss ‘gets’ using evidence-based data.  If you are the boss, then make sure your new hires also ‘get’ it.  

Make intuitive decisions more data-based AND our data-based decisions more intuitive

 

Challenge 2 – The Peak of Inflated Expectations

Emerging Technology Hype Cycle - Gartner Emerging Technology Hype Cycle – Gartner

In HR we have always had business problems, statistical knowledge and access to piles of data, so why the hype around People Analytics now?  Well the Cloud and Big Data sales machine is probably talking to your boss right now.  You know the pitch, “Analytics pays $13.01 for every dollar spent”.

Managing expectations on people performance with the CEO should be your job and as mentioned, People Analytics has delivered some good early results, but one of the biggest dangers right now is far too much hype.

Since 1995 Gartner has been measuring The Hype Cycle, the promise of emerging technologies, and shows five key phases of a technology’s life cycle.  Is People Analytics in danger of succumbing to the hype before it delivers benefits?

Peak of Inflated Expectations -> “Early publicity produces a number of success stories – often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not”

Trough of Disillusionment -> “Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver.”

So what if the CEO gets excited about HR once in a generation you might say?  What happens if we set expectations too high for People Analytics and do not deliver?  It will not be the first time that HR has over-promised and under-delivered based on “best-practice”.  At some point you will need new recruits in a competitive market which needs new software, but there’s only  so many times you submit a business case with a decent ROI.  What you really need is some early positive results.

What you can do:

Set realistic expectations on people analytics – aim low  and over-deliver.

Start with a specific business problem

Learn from the early adopters

 

Challenge 3 – HR doesn’t need Big Data, it needs Big Questions

“Without data you are just another person with an opinion” W.Edwards Deming

But, “Without questions, you are just another person with data”

There is a danger that People Analytics is a solution looking for a problem and in the “scientific method as an ongoing process”, the generation of interesting questions is a key step. 

To do this we need to know the business.

I had a client a few years ago, who trained a group of HR Business Partners as 6-Sigma Black Belts.  After the training, they demanded a data dump from Peoplesoft.  "What problem are you trying to solve?” and the reply was “We don’t know yet until we see the data…”.

The example highlights the need to solve business problems not analyse data.  Strategy is all about making choices, so if you run an analytics team, generate as many questions and hypotheses around a particular problem area as you can by casting the net widely.  

What you can do:

Generate many wide ranging questions and hypotheses which solves business problems

Coach Business Partners and HR into developing hypotheses and sharing the insights back to the business

 

Challenge 4 – We need the right tools to do the job

This paper is worth reading, “HR and Analytics: why HR is set to fail the big data challenge”  (Angrave et al, 2016)  published in Human Resource Management Journal. 

As you might expect from the provocative title, they don’t hold back :-

“the HR analytics industry, which is largely based around products and services, which too often fail to provide the tools for HR to create and capture the strategic value of HR data.”

In other words, our HR Systems, data and reporting tools might not help us answer the business questions we have.  Many HR operational systems were simply not designed for analytics, and although they are improving, I expect to see more sophisticated analytics functionality in subsequent software releases.

What you can do:

Keep discussing your needs with your Technology Partners

Collaborate with others in the industry to source great tools

 

Challenge 5 – No confidence in the underlying frameworks

To use a house analogy, there is no point having cameras & sensors, unless the house is structurally sound in the first place.  We need to have a roof, secure doors and running water before we can add sensors that optimise our heating, detect poisonous gas, detect intruders etc

As Max Blumberg says in his article, People Analytics: Who’s fooling who?   “if like most people you don’t believe in your organisation’s competency and performance management frameworks, then you certainly aren’t in a position to believe in the results of statistical analysis based on data generated by these frameworks. As the old acronym GIGO says, Garbage In, Garbage Out.”

What we are crying out for is a theoretical framework to test our hypotheses about people, behaviour, productivity and organisations.  We are not there yet, but I am optimistic that over the next few years we can develop the skills and knowledge to increase our confidence levels in people management.

What you can do:

Stop doing people analytics until you’ve fixed your frameworks.

Collaborate with academia and peers in other organisations

 

Challenge 6 – Show me the Money

The problem is, you can show the C-Suite pretty data visualisations of their organisation showing attrition, gender balance,  and average commuting time, but the hard truth is the CEO will only really listen when you link it to Revenue and Profits.  When it comes to employees, the holy-grail is increasing employee productivity.  We need to link as much as possible to employee Productivity to get ‘buy-in’.

What you can do:

Develop your own internal measures for employee productivity

Try and link your initiatives to improving employee productivity

 

Challenge 7 – Structural issues with HR Operating Models

I have been speaking and writing about some of the structural issues with HR Operating Models for many years (see for instance, Is your HR Operating Model Fit for the Future?  If the supporting structures for HR analytics are not in place, then the probability of success is lower.

A couple of structural issues with HR Operating models that many orgs sill grapple with are:

Working in silos.  In HR we have developed some great experts over the last few years (e.g. talent, learning, reward etc) yet we have also become a function of specialists creating more silos which makes it harder (not impossible) to work together as a whole to deliver HR (Business) strategy.

The role of HR Business Partner.  The role was introduced as a strategic partner and account manager for HR Services, however there have been challenges.  Many orgs are on their 3rd or 4th revisions of this role and HR BPs are key to solving business problems as key customers for an analytics service.   However we are in a transition phase, as described by “Most HR BPs won’t cut it…”   from Luc Smeyers and “Stop Hiring Data Scientists if you’re not ready for Data Science” from Greta Roberts.

We will never have the optimal HR Operating Model with managers, systems, HR experts working seamlessly together.  However we can strive to continually improve the model using People Analytics to help rethink many of our HR programmes and influencing how we deliver our people management.

What you can do:

Learn some of the lessons from others in HR Transformations over the last few years

Ensure Business Partners have good analytical skills and are inquisitive about the business. Provide coaching on basic statistics and people analytics where needed.

Continually evaluate the efficacy of our HR and Management initiatives

My “gut-feeling” is that People Analytics will help reinvent organisations.  We are in the early stages of a journey and we can all help by sharing methods, learnings and positive results.  We need to keep an eye on some of the near-term challenges as we move forward.   One key action within our control is to set realistic expectations and solve specific business problems.  This can get our business partners more interested into a different way of working.  The technology industry will probably evolve to roll-out improved offerings with time.  And our evidence base should get better as we improve data quality and start to ask better informed questions.  Although the ecosystem I refer to is complex, with diverse vested interests, we should continue to encourage sharing and collaboration as much as possible.  

Here is a presentation on "7 Challenges that People Analytics Must Overcome" I gave at HR Congress Amsterdam in November 2016.

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The Quantified Workplace: Technology vs Trust?

Glass Bead Consulting

Jo, an Account Manager is being taken to the office in a BUG, a BeemerUberGoogle driverless car.  She is discussing her day with her automated coaching partner, Sirius.   “I notice that you had less alpha-rhythm sleep last night.   I suggest you have some breakfast, to increase your energy levels. At 11am you have a meeting with the new Client Executive.  She is usually sceptical initially but warms up.  Remember to ask an open question, and smile to help her feel at ease.  I notice that Lee, your Insights Manager, has a different socialising pattern and lower productivity since coming back from sick leave last week – might be worth checking in with him today while in the office?”

This futuristic scenario requires you to suspend your disbelief!

Firstly, it meshes different data sets that we don’t measure at the moment – on performance, location and personal biometric data.

Secondly, it assumes we have a robust framework for the prediction of behaviour, and we are not quite there yet.

And finally, it assumes employees, like Jo, are willing for employers to use their personal data on movement, diet and performance in this way.

All currently outrageous, but could this type of insight be possible in the future?

People Analytics and Social Sensing Technology

In his book “People Analytics”, Ben Waber, President and CEO of Humanyze,  explains how Social Sensing Technology could transform business.

His team use Sociometric badges which they ask employees to wear for workplace experiments.  The badges are like a large ID card stuffed with sensors that can measure movement, face to face speech, vocal intonation, who is talking to whom and for how long.  The experiments all require employee opt-in, and have produced some interesting insights already.

Jos De Blok, CEO of the innovative community care organisation, Buurtzorg, was asked,

“What is the optimal team size?”

His answer was 12. Why? 

“Because we don’t have bigger tables.”

A witty and pragmatic answer, perhaps, but this makes assumptions about office design and team effectiveness.  

Using Sociometry badges, for example, Humanyze assessed whether a redesigned office boosted employee collaboration, or employees were actually using that treadmill in the gym they had lobbied so hard for.   When we have choices on the design and layout of our offices, we can actually use employee movement data, in addition to other communication data, to analyse collaboration patterns of employees.  In Office Design, there are many questions where this kind of approach can help. Do campuses actually yield better interaction patterns than offices with thousands of people on different floors?  When is open seating better than having your own desk?  Should we put long or short tables in our offices?  The use of physical space is underused as a tool for changing patterns of collaboration and behaviour.

Waber gives plenty of other examples of using the Sociometry badges in the workplace. For example, Corporate Epidemiology, when you get a dose of “man-flu” (this is a disease btw) do you tough it out, or stay at home?  Employee tracking can help guide the best workplace policies and practices to reduce employee sickness. 

Thanks to those ‘perennial office guinea-pigs’ working in call-centres, a study on Employee Burnout with Bank America found that strong cohesion was linked to lower stress levels.

Waber also approaches the question, How to encourage Innovation?   Who is more creative, the team behind Bart Simpson or Eric Cartmen?   Both very funny cartoons, but did you know an entire episode of South Park is conceived and animated in 6 days, whereas, an episode of The Simpsons is produced over the course of 6 months using a Korean animation studio?   Waber outlines the very different creative processes and declares South Park the winner based on ratings – Doh!  He studied three R&D teams to understand creativity in general, and found the amount of time spent interacting with team members was positively correlated with creativity.

Swipe right for better data

The workforce data we hold at the moment is often static, out of date and relies on self-report rather than actual behaviour.   Data on our actual behaviour is far better than our self-reported data.  All of us have completed the obligatory annual Employee Engagement survey at least once in our life, by circling 4 out of 5 on every item, without even reading the questions.  And if it wasn’t you, your colleagues have done this.  An example from online dating illustrates the relative value of self-reported data vs actual behaviour. 

“People might list 'money' as an important quality in a partner, but then we see them messaging all the artists and guitar players," Amarnath Thombre, president of Match.com. 

Match.com tries to get around this by basing recommendations on people’s activity and actions rather than solely on their answers to the questionnaires.  (from Bernard Marr’s article, Can Big Data Find Your Next Valentine?)

Using sensor data in combination with other data sets has great potential for learning about employee behaviour and providing insight on organisational and business choices.  A natural next step is to link our employee data with our customer data.

Designing a better Customer AND Employee Experience

Many organisations are experimenting with using sensor data to understand customers’ behaviour.  Amazon have plenty of online data on customers, but this is a challenge for high street retailers.  There is a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behaviour, using video surveillance and signals from their smartphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in a particular aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it. 

Another futuristic scenario from retail…

30% of your shop sales employees agree to wear the sociometry badges.   Over a few months, you gradually test your hypotheses, run experiments and work out how to increase sales, and gather more accurate information on customer preferences which positively influences the next fashion buying cycle.  Your employees start to see the benefits of the approach and more “opt-in”.  The cycle is positively reinforcing over time, prospective employees who are not comfortable don’t apply, you bring in new employees who get up to peak productivity quicker.  You roll-out this model through your 500 shops.  Customers are happier.  You beat the competition. You win.

Designing our customer experience based on insights from actual behaviour and linking to employee behaviours could reap great rewards for some organisations.   Or from an employee perspective, this would mean designing our employee experience based on insights from actual behaviour with customers.

From Quantified Self to Quantified Workplace

Quantified Self is the movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person's daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical).  It is a big industry, think Fitbit, Apple Watches etc.   BYOW – Bring your own Wearables is an emerging trend, see Putting Wearables to Work form Salesforce.com, which expects nearly 3x growth in wearables across the enterprise in the next two years.

The Quantified Self movement has a strong set of disciples, you are probably close to one.  The reported results are impressive in health, fitness, managing chronic disease, sleep, mood and habits.

My view is that if free wearables are offered on a voluntary basis in certain workplaces, you would get three broad groups, those with absolutely no interest, those interested for a while, and those who love the idea and utilise the tools.

Squaring The Circle

What happens when wearing tracking devices becomes compulsory for employees? 

We are already starting to hear about cases where capturing personal data on location has gone too far for employees.  For example the case of the woman in California fired after disabling here GPS on her work phone.  Another example was the outrage after The Daily Telegraph, in the UK, put sensors under the journalists desks.  Lesson learned – always get permission from employees first, especially when your employees are journalists!

In Dave Eggers novel, “The Circle”, a new employee called Mae joins the World’s most powerful and influential company. Imagine a mega-merger between Google, Facebook and Apple.  The Circle’s goal is to have all aspects of human existence, from voting to love affairs, flow through its portal, the sole portal in the World.  This is the same for all employees, including Mae.  This is where the ‘hairs on your back stand on end’ and we bring in an Orwellian sense of outrage!   The novel brings up some great questions about privacy, transparency and even identity. 

This type of data could be used unscrupulously by employers, “How well it is received by staff will probably entirely depend on the way it is used,” says Bernard Marr, an expert in data and analytics in business.  “If it is used as a disciplinary tool focused on the behaviour of individuals, it is sure to lead to resentment. But when utilised as a way to gain an overview of the company, it will probably generate fewer complaints – and more useful insights.”

So any whiff of dystopia and you lose.  You will not attract or keep employees.

The winning organisations will be those that empower the workforce, are transparent and share the benefits.

The Quantified Workplace will be introduced, but at the speed of employee trust.

Trust Trumps Technology

If we don’t have employee trust, then there will be a backlash on using more extensive personal employee data.

Frederic Laloux describes the future of management in his RSA interview, “How to Become a Soulful Organisation”.  The future of management will definitely not be based on a time and measures study, the focus will be to empower purposeful teams to make the right decisions.

If we don’t have trust or empowered employees, all we will have is Digital Taylorism – a modern version of “scientific management” that threatens to dehumanise the workplace.

This would be a great mistake.   Instead we should provide employees with tools to manage their work, themselves and their machines more effectively.

We need to ditch Industrial Age thinking.  Organisations will thrive if they empower employees to make the right decisions and provide meaningful work.  The idea of the Quantified-Self is about self-improvement.   Whoever gets to the Quantified Workplace with a willing workforce will reap the rewards.  The rewards will be enormous – with greater insight on customer and employee behaviour.

The winners will not be those who enable the technology, but those who construct a new contract with employees, based on trust.

Finally, we catch up with Jo…

“Jo gets taken home from the office in her BUG driverless car and reviews a positive day with Sirius.  She approves an AmazonDrone delivery so her fridge will be topped up before she gets home.  Later on, she puts her feet up, selects an immersive movie, opens a bottle of wine and then the most satisfying task of the day – she reaches for her smartphone and presses the OFF button.”

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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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Will the Cloud have a Silver Lining for HR Outsourcing ?

Organisations have had to respond to the seismic shifts in the economy with the increased use of contractors, zero-hours contracts, interim resources, partnership arrangements, consultants and outsourcing to weather the storm. This process has also been mirrored in the HR world as HR directors scrutinise how to source current skills needed to deliver HR services.
 
Outsourcing started out as a necessity of 'doing more for less' and has increasingly become standard practice, with many organisations using outsourcing to drive efficiencies. However, before outlining why outsourcing might rise again, it is worth a quick refresher of its history and some of the lessons learned.
 
The birth of multi-process HR outsourcing came about in the late 1990s as part of the first wave of HR transformation, the goal of which was to spend more HR time helping to deliver organisational strategy and less HR time on administration. The tactics deployed involved tools for managers to do more people management and restructuring HR based on economies of scale. These included HR shared services and tactical outsourcing, and economies of scale with business partnering and specialist HR teams. Some of the enablers of these changes adopted ERP technology, corporate portals as well as the emergence of a multi-process HR outsourcing industry.
 
First wave of HRO – the early adopters
 
We all understood the logic of the first wave of HR outsourcing in 1999 – freeing up HR to focus on strategic aspects of the job. It is worth pointing out that outsourcing wasn't a new concept in HR, with most organisations already outsourcing their payroll as standard practice.
 
It was this desire for HR transformation that created ground-breaking global HR outsourcing deals, with Exult-BP and ePeopleserve (Accenture and BT).
 
The rationale for the 'buyer' organisations such as BP and BT was to use outsourcing to help drive transformation, including standardised HR services, reduced HR cost to serve and access to new innovations such as HR portal technology.
 
The thinking behind HRO vendors such as Accenture and Exult (eventually bought by AON Hewitt) was to build up a large global client portfolio and benefit from labour arbitrage by offshoring work to countries such as India. The economic case provided a client with 15–20% savings and the possibility of making a 15–20% margin over a ten-year contract.
 
A longer-term aim was to provide standard HR services using the same technology platform. However, the problem was that each client was taken on in a different state of standardisation, with a different configured HR system, which meant that the service was very much tailored to that organisation and couldn't easily be shared with other organisations – in other words, the antithesis of standardisation.
 
The results of this first wave of HR outsourcing were mixed for both client and vendor. As someone who was involved in one of the very first outsourcing projects, I found it exciting, but it caused many sleepless nights! I witnessed at first hand the trauma of moving the organisation to standardised services, HR service centres for clients and also restructuring HR with new roles such as business partners.
 
As David Ulrich, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, reflected, 'Often the first pancakes or first batch of cookies do not come out well.'
 
Second wave of HRO – some vendor consolidation and indigestion
 
The second big wave of change in HRO contracts came around 2006, including Unilever-Accenture and Johnson & Johnson-Convergys. These didn't quite deliver our dream of a standardised multi-tenant service enabling each client to benefit from new innovations either. Instead, these services offered bespoke solutions, tailored to clients' demands and meeting the particular nuances of their HR operating models. They had some success; according to industry analysts, Everest Group, the multi-process HR outsourcing market is worth about US$3.3 billion globally.
 
Although the HRO industry consolidated, outsourcing contracts lasting a decade were thin on the ground when organisations couldn't see where they might be themselves. Single process outsourcing went from strength to strength, such as benefits administration, recruitment process outsourcing, payroll and learning.
 
From my perspective working on both the client side and the vendor HRO side, there were a number of lessons learned in the first two waves of HR outsourcing.
 
Key questions that need to be thought through before considering outsourcing:
 

– How will outsourcing fit with your HR operating model and HR strategy?

– Does your organisation really have the appetite to standardise HR processes and services?

– Do you have required experience managing third parties?

My view is that cloud will have a significant impact on HR and will help HR to deliver the original goal of freeing up time to focus on strategic imperatives. And outsourcing will play a big part in that for many organisations.
 
Third wave of HRO – will the cloud give HRO its silver lining?
 
There is a lot of excitement around technology as a driver for change, particularly in talent identification and development, and workforce productivity. HR continues to have challenging requirements, from finding future top sales performers to providing tools that monitor the performance of a global project team. There is now a relentless move to migrate HR systems from on-premise to SaaS (software as a service).
 
At the 2013 HRO Today Forum in London, Mike Ettling, Global Head of Cloud and On-Premise at SAP, commented that:
 
'The game-changing impact of SaaS is the fact that SaaS is melting business processes. In the past we designed our system around the process; now we have to design our process around the system.'
 
A great benefit of an SaaS solution is avoiding the expensive and time-consuming customisation 'fudges', for example trying to get the system to map your exact paper-based performance management process. SaaS drives process standardisation because 'you get what you are given' in terms of functionality, and then configure it for your organisation. However, you still need to persuade employees to work differently.
 
Cloud will force HR to become more standardised, requiring less centralised HR teams to maintain it and breathing life into the HR outsourcing market.
 
A new offering – business process as a service (BPaaS)
 
The impact of cloud technology also gives HR some attractive outsourcing options, for example, move HR processes onto a standardised SaaS platform and outsource the management of the HR technology platform and HR administration. This combined offering of business process outsourcing and software as a service has been called BPaaS, or business process as a service. BPaaS offers standardised yet highly configurable HR services, allowing organisations to standardise transactional HR processes. The rise and rise of Workday, and others such as SAP's SuccessFactors, has stimulated the HR outsourcing market with NGA HR, IBM and AON Hewitt all with HRO contracts using SaaS.
 
As SaaS forces HR to standardise, there is less HR administration needed, therefore the BPaaS deals so far have been smaller in size. The BPaaS model fits nicely with the new generation of agile HR operating models.
 
So with the potential benefits of a new generation of HR outsourcing, how might this impact future HR operating models?
 
Impact on HR operating models
 
To benefit, HR will need to learn from the past and execute a more standardised approach to the delivery of HR services.
 
Software ultimately has to be used by us pesky humans. Good design, robust governance, communications, training and support are always needed irrespective of the next technological breakthrough.
 
And with any outsourcing, the same questions need to be asked about how it fits with the HR operating model and HR strategy.
 
As we design a new generation of agile HR operating models, the adoption of cloud and outsourcing will pose some interesting trends to watch, including:
 

– SaaS will automate many HR tasks; manual HR work will be reduced substantially.

– There will be less need for HR service centres as cloud-based systems manage to support the move to self-sufficiency for managers.

– There will be a new type of HR outsourcing which develops more around business consultancy services and specialist HR advice than service centres/manual processing.

– More HR resources will be allocated to solving business problems.

Summary
 
The early innovators of multi-process HRO had the right idea, but perhaps at the wrong time. The conditions for multi-tenanted HR outsourcing are now possible because of cloud technology. HR will have to overcome a resistance and scepticism to outsourcing, after mixed results in the past. Whether we use cloud or on-premise ERP HR systems, the hard work required to standardise HR services across geographies and divisions will still need to be completed, but now the benefits will be worth it
 
This post was orginally published by CIPD,  'Will the cloud have a silver lining for HR outsourcing?' in a report 'Changing HR Operating Models'
 
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Will HR in the Cloud kill HR Outsourcing ?

Will HR in the Cloud destroy HR Outsourcing ? HR Transformer Blog
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Will ‘HR in the Cloud’ kill the HR Outsourcing industry  ?
 
Or, are the claims of the HR Technology industry in ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ ?
 
In Aristrophanes play, ‘The Birds’, written in 414 BC, “Cloud Cuckoo Land” was an unrealistically idealistic state where everything is perfect.
 
In our 2013 HR play, Ms HR Vendor helps the trusting Ms HR Director erect a perfect HR operating model in the clouds.
 
For HR Directors, this has the appeal of ‘killing two birds with one stone’.
 
Firstly outsource chunks of your HR services on a standardised platform.  Secondly, hand over responsibility for your HR systems to the same vendor.  
 
This service has been called BPaaS or ‘HRO in the cloud' and this report from Gartner, is worth reading on the topic –  From ‘BPO to BPaaS: HR Outsourcing calls for the cloud.
 
Will SaaS melt HR processes ? 
At the recent 2013 HRO Today Forum, in London, Mike Ettling, former CEO of largest global HR Outsourcing company, NGA HRcommented that the demand for HRO will decrease over the next few years.  In Mike’s view this is because  :-
 
“In the last 2 years we have seen the phenomenal rise of enterprise ready SaaS solutions in the HR industry.  The game changing impact of SaaS is the fact that SaaS is melting Business Processes.
 
In the past we designed our system around the process, now we have to design our process around the system.  There will be less scope for customisation.”
 
From this perspective, there will be less HR work in general and less outsourced work.  Not a good signal for the growth of the HRO industry.
 
For those interested, Matt Charney from Recruiting Blogs covered this panel debate well, in Transaction to Transformation: The Next Generation of Outsourcing  
 
HR SaaS – Practical Lessons from HR Buyers
In a separate session, Julie Fernandez from analysts ISG, provided some insights from HR Buyers, typically clients with > 10,000 employees. 
 
 
Amongst the trends and themes I picked up from Julie, were :-
 

– HR Buyers are cautious, ‘letting the dust settle’ on SaaS providers as they review their current HR Operating Models and future needs. 

– The rise and rise of Workday has actually breathed life into the HRO market – NGA HR, IBM and AON Hewitt are implementing or have HRO contracts using Workday software.

– HRO Buyers want both SaaS and services together, however are not willing to lose portal, chat, contact centre solutions that have been developed over last 10 years.  Expect HRO providers to develop solutions in this space. 

– There is a 15-20% HRO penetration level for orgs with >10,000 employees and there has been more new buyers in last 8 months than previous 2 or 3 years

– According to ISG, it seems HRO is not dead yet and in fact SaaS will actually stimulate market.

One of the HRO vendors told me that the Workday (SaaS) HRO deals are certainly smaller in size, which does tend to support Mike’s view on the impact of SaaS – it does reduce the HR work required.
 
Are the claims of the HR Technology industry in ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ ?
It is natural to have some healthy scepticism about the claims of the HR Technology providers on the latest generation of HR systems. (especially if you’ve had as many sleepless nights as me working on Transformation Programmes over the last 20 years!).
 
Haven’t we heard these promises from the HR Technology industry before ?    The claims are remarkably similar to the promise of ERP systems back in the 1990s.
 
That the new generation of software will be rolled out to willing managers enabling them to be more productive, more self-sufficient and  will help them manage their teams more efficiently.
 
Did the technology deliver the promises? Well generally, no.
 
One of the reasons that HR is no more strategic than back in 1995 is that HR Technology has not delivered the promises.  There are lots of other reasons why, and I refer to them in other posts “How to avoid HR Technology bogeys” and “Is your operating model fit for the future?”.
 
Part of the problem is that the software ultimately has to be used by those pesky human beings.  So we need good communications, training and support.
 
Isn’t SaaS or HR in the Cloud, just the ‘next wave’ of HR systems I hear you say?  We expect better functionality and usability in each new release, and HR Directors or managers don’t really care where the servers are located.
 
What is it about SaaS in particular that will drive such process standardisation compared to just another release of software ?  We still need to persuade employees to work differently. 
 
One of the great benefits of going with a SaaS solution is we do not have the expensive and time-consuming customisation fudges.
 
You get what you are given in terms of functionality and then configure for your organisation.  There will be a need to use the system provided for your HR Processes, and so there will still be change management required.  This will reduce the HR Service cycle times and the HR administration support needed – which is all good news as these savings can be spent on more value add activities.
 
Is SaaS a catalyst for more or less HRO ?
In my opinion, The 'size of the pie' will decrease (not as much as tech firms say) but the HRO slice will increase
 
In other words, there will be less work overall due to the benefits of implementing standard process, however, the proportion of work outsourced will stay the same or increase.
 
The drivers for RPO and HR Outsourcing will still be there.  Standard software will make transitions easier with consistent service levels – increasing the appeal of outsourcing.
 
Over the next couple of years we will see lots of activity with reviews of HR Operating Models, implementation of new HR systems, and more HR Outsourcing contracts. (and hopefully roughly in that order!)
 
The Workday marketing machine will get to your Board and you will need to have worked out your plan.
 
So as the 2013 HRO Today Forum ended, the HRO industry could be heard to mutter a collective breath of relief and echo Mark Twain,
 
"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated". 
    
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Impact of an Ageing Workforce on HR

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

A key question for us is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Working Late – The Impact of an Ageing Workforce

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

*Loosely based on the work of Sir Paul McCartney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this mean for HR?

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

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

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

What you can do

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

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How to Avoid HR Technology Bogeys

It’s only a week after we were gripped by a great sporting comeback in the Ryder Cup in Medinah, Illinois and once again our focus is back in Chicago, this time for the HR Technology Conference and Expo, which starts on Monday 8thOctober.

There is talk of “disruption” in the way we manage the people in our organisations led by new tools and technologies. Plus there are exciting developments with HR in the cloud, Social in the Enterprise, Analytics (including Big Data) and of course, Mobile Technology.

The HR Technology industry is in ebullient mood after some big trophies have changed hands in the Wall Street clubhouses. These include :-

SAP purchasing Success Factors
Oracle buying Taleo
IBM procuring Kenexa
Plus of course, Workday launching its IPO

But back on the fairway, away from the conferences, the analysts, and the business press – implementing HR Technology successfully does have its challenges. Selecting the right technology platform with the right functionality is hard enough. Guessing where your business and your workforce will be in the next 5 years and then persuading your sceptical Line Managers that this will help them in their job is even harder. If in doubt, see how well you get on with this useful list of HR Technology Questions from Naomi Bloom.

But, for every perfect delivery there is a bogey.

It is all too easy to get bedazzled by exciting innovations and disruptions taking place, whether in the clouds or by ‘belly putters’. The fact that 68% of technology projects fail, because companies forget their ‘basic swing’ hitting a few unexpected Bogeys along the way! The good news is that HR have crucial skills to bring on the people side of the project that are so critical to success.  HR can lead projects with confidence, avoid the bunkers, and ultimately become Technology Champions. (see article on Why HR Need to be Technology Champions)

Although I can’t make the HR Technology Conference Expo this year, we here at Glass Bead Consulting, have played a few tough rounds over the years in the HR Transformation Cup. Here are some reflections from the HR Clubhouse we have come up with to help with your handicap and ensure project success.

1  Agree how decisions will be made during the technology implementation

So the first big decision went OK.  At the beauty parade, the software company wheeled in their best salesperson and your Finance Director and Technology Director were impressed enough with the pitch to go with your recommendation for Fusion/SAP/Workday/other. You didn’t really have to revert to your evaluation criteria and weightings, but they still gave the right answer. First job done – now comes the hard bit…

As you get into delivery, you will have to make a number of decisions along the classic project management triangle of ‘Time vs Scope vs Cost’. Often there will be competing demands on your budget, resistance in unplanned areas and resourcing conflicts. At this point the last thing you need is any delay, with 10 expensive Fusion/SAP/Workday consultants on the project, you’ve calculated their burn rate on the train to work (but didn’t tell anyone).

It is critical to spend time up front working through how decisions will be made on the project, who will make them and what the escalation path will be. Governance is key in any substantial project. Make sure a clear governance structure has been agreed up from the onset, and ensure there is a business sponsor to help iron out issues.  Decide who will be on your Governance Board and what their role will be.

When you get going, on occasions you will hit the ball into the rough, and will need to have some difficult conversations on scope, timings, budgets. You will want to remind everyone the terms they agreed at the beginning of the project.

2  It’s the People, Stupid

Start thinking about the change strategy right at the beginning. The Technology Account Manager will make the deployment sound so easy, if mentioned at all. However, think carefully about all your stakeholders, what they need from this change, what their concerns will be, start rehearsing your messages and arguments because you will need to start them soon.

In our experience, to develop an effective change strategy is a canny mix between the high-level, for example, ensuring the change is couched in your organisational goals, and the low-level, getting out a monthly project update, keeping the intranet portal up to date and so on.

Ensure that when you construct your budget and programme team, you have allocated enough resources to communications, change and training expertise – but you work in HR, so you know this right?

3  Agree the goals of the project

Then ‘tattoo’ them somewhere strategic, well at least get them printed on some nice mouse mats or put some posters up. There are many reasons to put in a new HR System and different stakeholders will have diverse drivers and see the benefits in different places. Irrespective if this is to deliver a transformational change in people management, consolidating different systems of records, or to enable employee self-service. Get consensus up front on the goals of the project, show how these goals links to your overall organisational strategy and your HR Strategy.

The new system is ultimately there to delivery HR goals and ultimately make the organisation more successful.

When you get into the project, a few shots will inevitably be hit in the bunker, and there will be crunchy decisions to make, but make sure you can revert to a compelling vision and goals for the project. Also ensure your sponsors agree with these and communicate them widely.

And finally, make sure that ‘the tattoo’ is temporary.

4  It’s still the People, Stupid  – Identify what skills you will require

The skills needed to run HR are not the same as those needed to transform HR. Review how you will get the skills and experience required in programme management, process design, technical skills, support knowledge, change management. Then work out when these will be needed and for how long those skills are needed. Do a skills audit and work out the gaps – but this should be easy as you run HR.

You will need to fill the gaps, identify all the team members, considered the progression of roles, procured any external contractors or consultants and developed training courses.

Remember, your project team capability has the biggest impact on success not necessarily the software.

5  Define your HR Operating Model and HR Processes

It is important to know what flavour of operating model your new technology will be supporting in the future. Will there be changes to what you expect Line Managers, your workforce, your HR Business Partners to do? What is the scope of the HR shared service centre and how much might be delivered by 3rd parties in the future? It is vital that your new system will support this.

At Glass Bead Consulting, we have developed a HR Process Inventory which details every HR service, and who should be doing what in the new operating model. We found this tool really helps our clients stick to what it really needed in terms of requirements. A HR Process Inventory helps flush out ownership and interface issues at a process level, before it becomes a problem for the System Design.

It is easy to forget that typically a new technology system might not deliver real benefits for many months or years, once you have completed an eye-watering amount of data cleansing and trained the Line Managers to use the technology correctly. Unfortunately, for large global projects, by the time the system is fully operational the HR Strategy, and HR Operating required to support it might have changed anyway.

By clearly articulating your HR Operating Model and HR Process Model you can reduce the risk that they system is not fit for the future.

Finally – don’t let the Tail wag the Dog. The biggest mistake of technology projects is to let the system lead the process you will be delivering to your customers!  Our firm belief is HR has valuable skills in Change Management, Training, Communications, sourcing the right people and resources to drive any projects, including IT system implementation. Increasingly, HR also need to be Technology Champions to avoid those expensive bogeys.

It would be great to let us know what you think, or share lessons learned, on the blog or #HRTechConf

Your loyal HR Transformation caddy,
@AndySpence

 

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