Workforce of the future – and why preparing means rethinking human resources now

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Ariba, an SAP company.

 

The next BriefingsDirect thought-leader interview focuses on the fascinating subject of preparing for the workforce of the future. It's now clear that we are entering into a very diverse and even unprecedented work environment -- something the world perhaps has never known.

 

But how do enterprises prepare, and how do they create the means to analyze and manage the transition to very different work environments? BriefingsDirect had an opportunity to learn first-hand at the recent 2014 Ariba LIVE Conference in Las Vegas.

 

To learn more about hiring and acquiring talent and managing a diverse and socially engaged -- and even more knowledge-driven workforce -- we sat down with Shawn Price, President for Global Cloud and Line of Business at SAP, and the former President of SuccessFactors, now part of SAP. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

 

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Now, this is a really fascinating subject for me, this new diversity and this talent-oriented workforce. But companies must be thinking, how do I reduce risk? How do I think about making this an opportunity rather than a challenge?

Price: Dana, if you think about it, what you have just described is the company that has already started to take steps to make sure that they don't get caught unprepared for the future.

A lot of companies are having to respond to dramatic changes in their operating models, where they’re driving revenues against the backdrop of a global economy. And companies are required to deploy flexible workforces that can be engaged and can change with this fast business environment that we’re in.

We have a scenario here in the US market, in particular, where every day, 10,000 people turn 65 and that will continue for the next 19 years. So you have an experienced staff that's leaving the workforce. Then, on the front-end, you have a talent shortage. There just are not enough millennials to replace that exodus that’s occurring.

The astute companies of the future have mapped this out, have laid a plan, have started to build warm pools of talent, and understand this in everything that they do. They’ve tied their strategy to their people strategy and acquisition, and they’re really managing it for the cultural nuances that the regions that they operate in require, and they’re pretty flexible and nimble.

More diversity

Gardner: One of the characteristics, as I understand it, is that there is more of a diversity in the ways in which employees or talent are engaged with a company, many more varieties than the full-time, 40 hours a week, 9-to-5 employee type. This seems to have some upside, but it's different. You don't manage folks in the same way when they’re working through these different models.

Price: There’s a real movement and emphasis on personal brand. To a degree, you’re starting to see free agents in the market. When you look at it on the retention side, planning strategy to the right people, to the right place, and at the right time, with a lot of millennials that are entering the workforce there is a clear six month delineation. That is the greatest risk for your company to lose that talent.

They’ve come in, they’ve looked around, and they’ve decided whether they’re actually advancing their personal brand, their knowledge base. It's less about hierarchy and the old models of the past. They’re making a call on whether they’re actually advancing and learning or it's more tenure based. The way we measure is different as well.

One measurement that's completely different than anything that we’ve done in the past is your engagement index: How much do you contribute? How much is your content consumed? How engaged are you in the day-to-day?

Gardner: I suppose there’s another complicating factor. I’ve read that by 2020, there will be five different generations working together, and each with a very different set of skills, experiences, expectations, and behaviors. It means that companies can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to this. In fact, they might have to be able to have multiple ways of engaging.

How does that factor into what you’re talking about, the workplace of the future. I guess we should talk about the enterprise of the future, and that they need to have a diversified approach, not just a single way to engage?

Price: You’re absolutely right. If you look at talent acquisition today, it has shifted. The focus used to be in the past on how do I put as many people as possible through my applicant tracking system, but today it's far more strategic. It's where do I need them and how much do they cost. We need start to create a relationship at a much earlier point in order to create these warm pools of talent.

Second, it's really asking who are my best performers, where are they from, and how do I get more of them? If you have a particularly productive intern program, for example, which college are you drawing talent from that's performing the best in the specific function? So the workforce of the future looks vastly different.

The power of how talent is acquired has shifted subtly as well. It used to be solidly in the hands of the employers, but today it's a two-sided equation. If I’m hiring somebody, I often do interviews over SMS or text, because it's a stream of consciousness. It's not a prefabricated dialogue.

But I also look at their LinkedIn profile, which is how they want the world to see them. I look at their social media profile. And then the most valuable thing to me is the peer references that exist in my network that can validate that that individual is who they’re representing themselves to be.

The flip side

But the flip side of that is we have websites that allow the applicant to look into the leadership style. They can connect to their network of people that may have worked for that leader in the past. They can see if the culture that they’re espousing is working.

So you have the fundamental shift in how you’re attracting, retaining, and working with talent that is completely different from things in the past and the way that we have done it.

What the future will hold is that we’ll go to a point where you will carry your composite profile of who you are and that will be made up of both social media external to the company, the LinkedIn profiles, and in some cases, even your performance reviews, where it's appropriate to externalize it. All of that will go in your employee record that will follow you throughout your career. Systems will automatically update that, and so it will be much more consumable.

Smart companies that are innovating are redefining the processes by which they engage. In retail, for example, you have seasonal workforce, and that seasonal workforce typically has to go through the entire recruiting process again if they come back the following year.

Maybe I had a good experience year one. If I reapply, now I’m going through the website, now I’m doing verifications. Why can't we re-imagine the on-boarding to be, “Dana, you worked with us last year. You did a terrific job. We’d like to have you back. Is everything the same?” In fact, you can put an  application on your smartphone with which you can make sure that the information is accurate, and then turn you on as an employee in the system automatically.

Instead, we’re encumbered in many ways to systems and thinking of the past around some of these talent acquisition processes that are so core to delivering on the strategy.

Gardner: Shawn, thinking about the past, I suppose we used to measure things pretty directly -- productivity measurements, top line, bottom line. Is there a new way to measure whether we’re doing this correctly, whether we’re getting the best workforce and best talent, ramping up to give ourselves the resources we need as organizations to meet our own goals? Should we not think about this in productivity terms? What's the right set of metrics?

Price: It's funny. We will always be top-line and bottom-line driven to some degree, but the measurement isn’t necessarily productivity. Maybe it’s rethinking processes that can have a material impact. One is this learning management notion, where I was describing engagement. Imagine you are on-boarding to a new company. The most important thing for me as that hiring manager is to get you up to speed and, in your words, productive as quickly as possible.

How did we do that in the past? We put you in a training course or maybe state-of-the-art, an online web-based training course that would run days, if not weeks, on end to try and have you assimilate everything that we needed you to learn.

Moving ahead

The new world, which is not based on that, is trying to move that on-boarding and productivity ahead. The way that we’re doing it is we are saying, “We already own all of the subject matter expertise required to on-board somebody. Wouldn't it be cool if, before you even join the company, you could connect by a social network, not one of these isolated ghost towns that stand on their own, but a social network connected to HR or connected to Ariba?”

We could have you engage with somebody doing your same job, so you could ask that person anything you want before you got there -- what should I read, what should I learn, who should I talk to, what's my first week like? That engagement was already occurring.

Then, when you arrive in the company,  it would be your compliance learning, and the normal HR functional learning, but you would also take advantage of subject matter expertise.

Today, the way that we learn is not in large chunks of data. Think about YouTube. It's web downloadable, consumable in five minutes on my mobile device. That content that I need in order to be enabled and to thus be productive is available from my coworkers in the form of a five-minute video. Or there's this advent of massive online communities that are producing content. Or I may choose to bring in an expert from outside the company to create content.

The visualization that I have is Khan Academy, where the most complex topics are searchable and digestible via mobile in 15 minutes. That's where we’re seeing the shift from just pure top line and bottom line to rethinking what on-boarding and engagement look like, and what does that ultimately do to the acceleration of someone’s comprehension? There are many, many examples.

Gardner: Are you saying that companies need to start to become more open and social and create content and the media and mechanism, so that they can be in a sense part of this community? And how far along are companies in actually doing that?

Price: Many times social networks are established as standalone entities and they become ghost towns after a while. You kind of lose interest because they lack content and context.

When you attach it to an actual application, you can publish dynamically to that community, and you can search and see, for example, what was the number one search content today, this week, this month.

Increasingly, I’m starting to see things on people’s resumes like their engagement index, which says, “I was the number one producer of content for my company that was consumed by the social network.” You’re seeing stack rankings of that nature and form.

Cloud strategy

Social will become, and has become, an enormous component of our cloud strategy. In fact, today, we sit with more than 12 million subscribers on our social platform.

We have a large hotel chain that is actually using it to manage contract labor and part-time labor, because they want the engagement. They want the connection, but they want to be able to connect differently to them than the employee who is a full-time employee. And this hotel chain has over 170,000 contractors in their communities, and they’re grabbing information and all the expectations.

The other part of social, of course, is the mobile side of it. Our networks and our access to vast amounts of skills that would have in the past been hidden are now available to peruse, almost like a skills catalog within your own organization. You’ll find things that you didn’t even realize you had in pockets of the globe. People’s skills that you wouldn't necessarily have on file even are now apparent through that dialogue.

Most companies are going through this transformation in HR because of the macro trends we’ve been describing. What they’re ultimately trying to figure out is how do I create a strategy? How do I build a set of applications that allows me to execute against that strategy and measure whether I’m performing? And how do I drive cost out of it?

For many companies, they visualize this at the top line and the strategic level, but they also visualize it as a process, and they think of that process as recruit to retire. We believe that you can start anywhere, but you’re going to end up with this process that's interconnected.

Maybe your starting point is recruiting, because you have a lack of talent or you’re opening or you’re expanding. Maybe you have a learning management on compliance, or maybe you have performance and goals where you’re actually measuring the progress. You can start with any application and interconnect it over time.

You can read the rest of this blog post here.

 

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Ariba, an SAP company.

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About the Author
Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, an enterprise IT analysis, market research, and consulting firm. Ga...


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