The 8th annual UNLEASH World Conference & Expo recently drew to a close. Again, this gathering of the most influential community of HR and HR Tech leaders was an inspiring trip, and I came away with a renewed sense of purpose and value. It was an incredibly informative and enlightening few days, and while I heard about a vast array of topics, I believe five themes are uniting and driving our industry.
Digital transformation is about people, not technology
Josh Bersin’s opening keynote stressed that despite its name, digital transformation is not about technology but people. While it’s not a new message, it is one that is easy to overlook as organisations focus on integrating all the latest technologies into their operating systems and procedures and fail to account for the human element in their workforce. In other words, HR and IT must endeavour to include employees from the beginning of the digital transformation planning. They must also ensure all employees understand the reasons for the changes and receive the training and skills necessary to function optimally in this new work environment.
— UNLEASH (@UNLEASHgroup) October 23, 2018
User experience is the key driver in changing HR systems
According to Fosway Group’s HR Realities Research 2018-19, “user experience is consistently the most critical driver when changing HR tech.” Further, the research shows that the number one reason given by HR leaders for changing a HR system is to improve the quality of the end user experience. Time and again we heard about the importance of meeting employees’ rising expectations. Therefore, it is incumbent upon employers to ensure that they consider employees’ needs, usage and adaptability when designing workstations and other platforms that employees use.
Wellness is becoming more and more important
The 2018 CIPD UK Working Lives survey report identifies health and well-being as the most important aspect of job quality regarding the key outcomes. The report found that while overall the numbers indicate a certain level of job satisfaction, one in ten workers (11%) reports feeling miserable at work and one in five reports feeling exhausted or ‘under excessive pressure’. We know productivity is tied to worker performance, so it’s hardly surprising that it is in everyone’s interest if employers take a proactive interest in creating a workplace that addresses employee wellbeing.
— SumTotal Systems (@SumTotalSystems) October 23, 2018
Productivity tools have grown by 1.7% despite the rapid increase in HR technology – employees are overwhelmed
We are told that new technology is the main factor in the advancement of the modern workforce. However, data presented by SumTotal’s Morné Swart shows that productivity growth has slowed, and engagement levels remain at their lowest point as employees feel overwhelmed by the amount of technology available to them. As HR professionals we must deliver new ways to engage talent with innovative solutions that know, develop, grow and reward the workforce while providing key insights to assist management make informed personnel decisions.
Despite this being a technology show – a lot of the focus was on human and feelings.
As Dorothy Dalton noted, threaded through UNLEASH was a strong emphasis on soft skills, emotions, psychological safety, trust, wellness, inclusion and ethics. This is why as another speaker, Esther Perel noted, organisations may need to consider the need for a Chief Relationship Officer (CRO) to ensure areas like absenteeism, mental health and employee engagement receive resources and attention. After all, companies function better and are more productive when employees are operating in an environment that is inclusive, empathetic and meets their needs.