I’ve upgraded my F3 employee attraction model to a brand new F5 version. I’ve now included ‘Fortune” and “Feedback” as part of the essential elements of employee attraction and retention. Go on give your employees BIG F’s !!
I’ve upgraded my F3 employee attraction model to a brand new F5 version. I’ve now included ‘Fortune” and “Feedback” as part of the essential elements of employee attraction and retention. Go on give your employees BIG F’s !!
This seems somewhat of an odd statement to make in todays technology obsessed world – surely HR technology has allowed People practitioners to greatly improve efficiency by reducing manual and paper-based activities, improving data access & reporting, reducing errors, helping employees make better decisions and ensuring compliance to policy and procedure.
This is of course true at a transaction level, but herein lies the problem. The way vendors have generally designed HR technology is not an accurate reflection of how professional HR and Talent managers think, nor does it signal an understanding of the complexities in Professional HR Management. In fact the slicing-up of HR into different software modules along ‘logic’ and ‘transaction’ lines of thinking has created and perpetuates the view that HR is simply a set of somewhat loosely interrelated basic transactions.
And surely that can’t be too difficult to get right! ah, yeah! But yet time and time again we see HR functions under attack for poor performance and low value contribution. With these perceptions abound, no wonder there is doubt among some C-levels that HR is needed.
If only HR Management was so simple and logical. But it isn’t. There are a significant amount of people dimensions used by HR professionals which are not logically inclined or lend themselves to be developed into a ‘transaction’, let alone a software module. Think about important people management facets such as ‘Ethics’ , ‘Style’, ‘Diversity’ and ‘Values’ – these are key HR influences in achieving particular strategic business outcomes, and they are fundamentally intertwined into such things as learning, performance, development, communication and knowledge sharing. But they are ‘non-existing pieces’ in the HR software puzzle.
This is not a jibe at HR Software vendors. In fact some vendors clearly understand the impact of these gaps and are working hard to address them. Particularly those vendors who are focused on superior technical integration between modules.
They realize that while they have in many cases reduced HR to modular transactions to make it easy for end users, they also understand that the all-important ‘HR complexity value factor’ is partly resolved when effective and seamless integration across these modules occurs. The combination of modular interaction offers some support in achieving strategic HR objectives. Keep going vendors, there is lots more to do in this space!
HR Technology has inadvertently contributed to a weakening of professional HR outputs, but the finger should however point directly at the HR leader who has allowed the function to be reduced to a set of modules and transactions.
It’s an easy way out for poor performing HR leaders, and provides an opportunity to shift the blame onto technology. Professional HR management is not an easy job, in fact it is highly complex, with over 40 major elements or activities being continuously juggled to produce desired business outputs. Those that are successful also understand how HR technology should be used and positioned to enable people to achieve great things.
Do you have an opinion on this?
Most of the time, if you ask any HR leader to explain how HR technology is contributing to the achievement of business goals you get a somewhat perplexed expression, supported by an eloquent explanation which suggests it’s being conveniently ignored because it’s too difficult or not practical. Alternatively they reference the vendors marketing rhetoric which promise share-price improvements that would get Warren Buffett excited!
It’s moving out of the administrative and transactional mould that has defined it for decades, and whilst the transition is often very slow and painful to watch, there are many organisations whose executives are maturing in their understanding of the unique value that HR functions can offer, and their direct contribution to business goals and strategy achievement. HR professionals can’t hide behind the mystique of psychology anymore; they need to show direct linkage from what they do and the outcomes it creates, including the role of HR Technology.
HR leaders are far more business savvy too, they will rattle off their business goals, they are succinct in articulating the meaning of value for their organisations, they understand cost, growth, quality and risk drivers, and they are familiar with industry and global issues, opportunities and constraints. So what’s the problem – why are so many HR leaders resistant to show how the performance of HR Technology has or could advance the business objectives and strategies?
Some of the answer to this question may lie in previous bad experiences with “template” measurement frameworks such as the Balanced Scorecard. These tools are often introduced as off-the-shelf “best practice” which generally lead to disappointing outcomes. It’s the one reason that I loathe HRM software vendors pushing a “best practice” mantra. HR leaders wrongly believe the hard work related to measuring their HR Tech value contribution has been done for them. It can never be true – your objectives, environment and how you want to achieve your business outcomes using HR Technology are absolutely unique. You need to do the hard, detailed work yourself.
Another reason is simply lack of know-how and practice. Most HR professionals have a social science background which engenders greater qualitative rather than quantitative focus. That’s not an excuse of course, learning how to build a causal-effect model which shows where HR Technology is leveraged, is not difficult~ it just takes some practice and adherence to some basic principles such as:
By way of a simplified graphical example, I recently had the opportunity to help a client think through a cause-effect model for “Innovation” – one of their strategic business objectives. The HR director wanted to explain how their HR technology was directly contributing and supporting this objective. When we finished the model, it became very easy to explain how this would be achieved. A key learning for the client was to link the HR Technology to “drivers” rather than the performance areas.
I’ll point out again that proving the “cause-effect” (performance areas in graphic below) is critical to establishing credibility. For example, my client had to validate that “Empathy for client’s needs” really did cause “Enthusiasm & Engagement” in their environment. Once that was established the drivers for performance were identified and agreed, and HR was able to determine which HR Technology was required and how it would be used to deliver measurable outcomes.
Of course there is a lot more work and involvement from other business functions behind this simple graphic, but hopefully it’s apparent that with some careful thought and focus, the real value of HR Technology can be measured and explained. Your next business case for HR Technology funding should be much easier to achieve if you have this in place!
photo credit: All rights reserved by shellydelight – Flikr
updated March 2016
It started as a jovial discussion with some office colleagues about the “Meaning of Life” – that yet unanswered question which has plagued human kind since the beginning of our existence. Naturally we considered all unconventional opinions such as that of Monty Python,
“Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”
the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,
“The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything = 42”
and to the more serious, such as concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl’s resolve to “Having a sense of purpose that keeps your eyes on meaningful goals ahead” and general theological views which purport “To love and serve your god, and love and serve others”
But it didn’t take long before the flavour of the conversation became focussed on People…. more so the people in the workforce. We found ourselves asking a singular and fundamental question:
“WHY DOES HR EXIST?”
It’s a profound question that may have been asked before, but probably not simply answered.
In trying to answer the question our natural HR instincts lead us to describe HR activities – you know, the tons of things HR gets involved with in-between “Hiring & Firing” such as recruitment, talent development, learning, administration, workforce planning, comp & benefits, strategy etc. We raised our discussion to a “People Impact” and “Value through people” view which got us a little closer, but we were still unable to reach consensus on the proverbial question.
I reached out to my good mate Lyle Cooper, who likes to ponder difficult HR questions. He reminded me that “No person has been able to absolutely define and therefore control human behaviour”- he makes it a life-rule to run as fast as he can from anyone who claims to have a definitive answer about people, culture, life, afterlife etc.
Lyle’s point really goes to the heart of social (or human) sciences, the basis for much of what HR does, in that they are not perfect sciences. No matter how hard we try, we are not going to create the perfect performance management environment, a perfect engagement model or the ultimate user experience.
And it was this point that reminded me of the ongoing debate among mathematicians about the answer to the mathematical statement 00 (zero raised to the power of zero). The arguments as to whether the answer is 1(one), 0(zero) or indeterminate are excruciatingly painful to read and understand (especially if you are not a mathematician like me).
But while there are extreme views, most mathematicians agree that 00 = 1 is preferable, as it is more useful than the alternative choices, leading to simpler theorems, or feeling more “natural” to mathematicians.
“The choice is not “right”, it is merely nice”, is resoundingly similar to the “lack-of-evidence” and “soft & fluffy” disputes HR finds itself embroiled in.
So, while not perfect in any way, my response to the question “WHY DOES HR EXIST?” is “00 “. It fits perfectly with mathematician’s dilemma. Business functions and HR professionals are unlikely to ever agree on a common reason for HR’s existence, but by accepting 00 = 1, HR professionals are able to move forward. HR will make validity concessions, builds faulty frameworks, creates imperfect processes and design software to support an imperfect business environment – and that’s okay!
One day we may find that much of what HR is doing is wrong, in the same way many mathematical assumptions may be questioned if and when someone conclusively proves what the answer to 00 is. But until it’s proved otherwise, let HR execute its stuff…its time to stop focusing on the equation!
HR is imperfect!, but so is mathematics (and therefor finance, procurement and operations management) – the next time someone challenges your HR framework, assumptions or software choices, be sure to remind them that the meaning of HR = 00.
It didn’t take much time after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) for the truth to emerge – that at the heart of the GFC lay greed for organisational and personal financial gain, and that those organisations were happy to do this at the expense of anything or anyone. The aftermath saw a lot of anger from governments, up and downstream suppliers as well as the general population, who lost jobs, livelihoods, lives and reputations.
“One would have expected that organisations would learn from these mistakes, even if they were not in the financial services industry but clearly they didn’t. The likes of Coles, Target, Cotton on and many more have once again been blinded by greed.”
The retail industry has done something just as bad in my view. They were prepared to hang innocent and desperate people out to dry, and in this case have blood on their hands with the death of many people from the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013. The collapse of the illegally built factory claimed the lives of more than 1,000 workers. This was the clothing retail industries equivalent of the GFC except we can now rename it the “Global Fabric Catastrophe”
The reaction from retailers has been sickening. To try and cover up the facts and to suggest that the supply chain executives and others were not remotely aware of the physical conditions of employment which the garments were being produced under, and the wages the employees were earning were not nearly commensurate with the work effort, is an insult to our intelligence. How can retailers believe a monthly salary of $69 for a sewing machine worker, who lives in a single room apartment with her family and shares 4 toilets amongst 100 people, is proper and fair? It’s blatant exploitations, and comes pretty close to slavery.
The reality is that if the human disaster did not happen, the plight of these people making the garments would not have been exposed. And just like the financial crisis of 2008, the industry would have continued to feed its greed through new schemes and deals at the expense of anyone.
One has to ask what role the HR functions of these organisations played. I would love to know if any one of the HR executives or CHRO’s from these organisations believe they and the HR function are to blame in any way for this calamity. My best guess is that they won’t see the relationship between HR and this event. That’s because their level of HR Maturity is low and they are not a real strategic player in any sense, even though they have an executive seat.
The fact that a culture of greed was not identified and properly managed and influenced by HR and others is indicative of the reality that most so-called “Strategic HR” functions are not strategic nor business focussed at all. I wonder if the local organisations would allow their own staff to live under such conditions as the people in Bangladesh – clearly not, but yet HR allowed its “extended” workforce to live in misery, and capitulated in all respects around fairness, quality of work environment, health and safety and its moral obligations to fellow human beings.
Dealing with HR and business maturity is becoming a priority. How many more disasters do we need to go through in other industries before we understand that making a profit and giving returns to shareholders is fine, but not at the expense of people and in this case their lives.
2012 ushered in a new era for HR software solutions. It will be a year that we saw some really big deals going down as the big boys of the ERP world manoeuvred themselves into strategic positions within the cloud ecosystem. The writing was on the wall and vendors that didn’t have a cloud based solution and strategy (or at least claim they had one) were likely to face some difficult times financially and competitively over the next three years.
With the advent of HR cloud based tool, we also saw the introduction of social and gamifcation layers being added directly into these new products. Not just as optional extra’s, but often forming the epi-centre of the product driver. Particularly in areas such as Performance Management, where communication and discussion needs between employee and manager were ripe for something new to spur what was typically a dismal failure in most organisations.
As society was settling down to the acceptance of social media as a legitimate means of sharing knowledge, ideas generation and general chin-wags in the work environment, the HR vendors saw the gap to add this functionality into their solutions to drive out better HR and Talent management. And the good thing is it works ~ you have to be prepared to adapt your work environment, leadership styles and accept that the control that was prevalent in hierarchical organisations may not work in a social environment, but if you get that right, there is a lot of good stuff that HR can do. That’s not the problem!
Who owns the social layer?
While the HR vendors were thinking about how to leverage social layers within their products, the Enterprise social guru’s were making strong headway into major organisations. Tools like Yammer have moved many organisations into a new ‘Knowledge Management” and information sharing era – building stronger communities and starting to see good paybacks on tacit knowledge lying wasted around in their staff’s grey matter.This is good too!
So what happens when Mr HR Director goes ahead and purchases a subscription to a new cloud based HR solution that also uses a proprietary social layer tool? The reality is that many of these tools rely on the end-user using the solutions social layer, not a third party tool. OK, well having more than one social tool is not a big deal, I hear you say, we have more than one in our private lives like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, so things should work out.
This is where I think the proverbial paw-paw hits the fan and it’s going to get worse. If I look at the emergence of other cloud tools in the Finance, Rostering & Scheduling, Procurement and other business areas~ many of these tools are integrating proprietary social layers into their products just like the HR vendors, and they all have an expectation that you need to use the SM layer.
If I’m a user of the Finance tool and use its social layer, I might find that I’m having to repeat my knowledge post, great idea, message of recognition or piece of gossip on the HR tool – that’s of course if I remember to do that when I next use the HR tool. Not to mention the owners of the Enterprise Social layer who will be putting pressure on all employees to share and discuss on the corporate system. Then of course there is the confusion of whether I said something via email or on a social layer, or was it perhaps a text message.
Who will win the battle?
Maybe someone will come up with a clever technology layer that can plug into all these new emerging social tools embedded within discreet products to help manage the data flow and curb the likely confusion and risks. Until then I can see a number of battles taking place, with someone loosing and someone winning. The looser unfortunately may also see value disappear from their beloved cloud solution. What we should acknowledge is that custodianship of the social tools is not an HR right!
I think we will be seeing a bit of fur flying in 2013 – a good thing in my view. Its the only way we will see the need for something new to help us manage our changing work places.
Let me know your views.
The fundamentals of organisational structure have been the focus of attention of late, particularly as we see the emergence of social environments in the workplace, and the power that they can yield. Jamie Notter, co-author of Humanize has made a strong case for organisations to move from being “Machines” to more “Human Like” in order to tap into the values that social environments can bring to the workplace. The “Human” principles of collaboration, openness, trustworthiness, courage and a sense of belonging are instrumental and well aligned to the success of social environments and social media tools.
I get that, and agree a new work environment is necessary to create a social enterprise, but there are some flaws in the notion that social enterprise is a necessary replacement over hierarchical structures.
Lets look at the Arab Spring movement that used social principles (and tools) to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. What we observed was the power of a networked group in achieving a goal of ousting a dictator, but in the end the new Egyptian president was far from being a representative of the people who orchestrator the social uprising, nor did he have anything to do with the movement. The movement itself was seemingly chaotic – there was no formal leadership, but assumed a life of its own, to which individuals were absorbed into.
Recently, one of my favourite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, made this comment, which sums up nicely the view that I hold:
“Networks may start revolutions,but they can’t finish them. Our job is to remind Millennials of the importance of hierarchies as well as networks.”
So, I think the future organisational design model does need to change – but it’s not a complete replacement of existing hierarchies with a mass movement mentality. The future need will be to understand how to leverage the power of the collective but still allow for purposeful and clearly identified leadership. It’s also far more fundamental than simply installing a Social Media tool such as Yammer or Jam into your organisation, and as a leader hoping that you have ‘done enough’ – absolutely not! there will need to be real shifts in “who speaks”, “who decides” and ‘who acts”.
Finally, as a lover of HR technology, it would be remiss of me to not add a note that the link between HR system’s Org Management solutions/modules and social media tools is a major gap that needs to be addressed. While we have seen vendors integrating SM tools into their HR solutions, they have not truly understood how the Org management tools need to changed in order to create and support the new working environments.
I’m not normally one to jump on the acronym band-wagon, but ‘Work 3.0’ is definitely emerging as a real issue for many organisations ~ especially from an HR strategy and systems perspective. One of the messages from Work 3.0 is the notion that the workforce will be made up of lots of people providing specific skills to resolve specific outcomes, based on an on-demand working model.
The growth in crowd sourcing on-line businesses that essentially allow prospective employees to bid for a piece of work, is a good indicator of this trend, although I would hasten to say that the growth of these businesses are not an indicator that organisations are shedding full time employees to be replaced by on-demand services. I think there will be a far more gradual shift to a on-demand workforce through natural attrition and opportunity. Practically the type of work suited to crowd sourcing is fairly limited and is currently best suited to outputs that are clear-cut and easily definable, and where the risk is low. As we see technology improving in terms of speed, collaboration capability and the ability to create a sense ‘closeness’ and ‘trust’, we will see the opportunity for jobs outside of the low risk category growing.
Let me cut to the main point of this blog – your HR system and its capability to manage an on-demand, and physically dislocated workforce. There are a number of challenges that immediately spring to mind:
Hiring: Hiring someone to do a piece of on-demand work is simple – A line manager can go on-line, place a work requirement, wait for responses, select the resource you like and away you go. Of course this is reminiscent of ‘cowboy’ recruitment we have seen in the past and has a wide range of risks. So how will HR departments manage the hiring of these types of resources ?
If your organisation doesn’t have a sound practice to hire and manage contractors currently- this is a signal that you are going to have problems in Work 3.0 environments too. HR systems need to assist in managing the process, provide tools to validate employee/organisation fit, manage post work assessment (performance management) to name a few. In my view I haven’t seen any HR or Talent tools stepping up into this space. We should also not assume that current system functionality in Hiring, Assessment and Performance management can simply be extended to this new category of employee – it has very different requirements.
Classification of the employee: One of the basic HR functions is to know how many people work in your organisation – in many organisations this only means people paid through the payroll system. In my view this is a misrepresentation of the total workforce and its associated cost. The reason provided by HR is often indicated as a lack of system capability to track contractors who are paid through invoicing to finance. Work 3.0 will further exacerbation this issue, and HR organisations need to quickly get on top of this so that the workforce count if properly represented.
Data sharing: Crowd sourced employees will want to share information with organisations and want their employer to feed them information back – this data could be stored in commercial social networking tools such as Linked-in, Facebook, the crowd sourcing platform or their own personal database. The ability to share information between a corporate HR system and external and individual social / cloud tools is a new concept for HR vendors, but will become a prominent need in the next few years.
Payment: How you pay a crowd-sourced employee or on-demand employee can be challenging, particularly if they are in another country where you don’t have a physical presence. Its not so much the movement of money that’s the issue, but rather compliance to local tax regimes.The recording of time against a task will also be an important area for development and integration.
Hyper specialization: Crowd sourcing or on-demand working will give rise to the concept of hyper-specialization. Activities will be broken into a multitude of tasks in order to take advantage of an on-demand workforce. For a line manager, this brings in new dynamics to manage a team of people collaborating on a common output – Line managers will need new tools to help co-ordinate work across tasks and teams of physical and dislocated employees. Some HR systems do a decent job in supporting project environments, but its not the norm, and in future they need to provide better end-user management tools outside of the ‘Project Manager’ type tool mindset – tools that will facilitate teamwork, team management, performance management, completion tracking and communication.
Strategic Workforce planning and Talent Management: The on-demand workforce will provide new opportunities to manage the ‘supply’ side of long term talent management needs, which could ease the fears around the ‘war on Talent’ – however most workforce management tools are geared towards the traditional employment model. Workforce planning tools are emerging as an important components of an effective HR environment, particularly in the area of predictive modelling techniques. The crowd sourced employee adds an unknown layer into this equation that will need to be understood in order for WFM tools to be put to best use.
We are heading for an exciting time in execution of work in our workplaces, but we do need HR systems to start providing tools to better manage this future environment. What are your views.
…But there are so many inspirational stories about people who have become really successful, but are not regarded as gifted or highly intelligent. In his book, “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell shows that success is often influenced by a range of factors, including where we are from, the opportunities we had, the amount of time we put into our passions and that in all cases successful people don’t get to where they are alone – they always have been helped along the way.