People First: What are the key HR trends for 2018?
We’re nearly at the end of January and with the year still in its infancy optimism still abounds with regards to the likely growing impact of HR in 2018. Although as I am typing this in San Francisco in the run up to co-chairing People Analytics & Future of Work, my confidence may just be a case of jet lag combined with wishful thinking.
So, with a cup brimming full of sanguinity here are some trends I expect to see more of in the HR space in 2018.
1. PEOPLE FIRST – FROM 'ONE SIZE FITS ALL' TO 'ONE SIZE FITS ONE'
Let’s start with what is for me the most welcome and indeed key trend. Soothsayers have long been urging HR to take a leaf out of marketing’s book and it seems that the message is finally getting through. Recognition that creating bespoke and personalised experiences for employees (and candidates) is not only good for workers but the business too is becoming common currency. This represents a radical shift from the typical ‘one-size fits all’ HR programs of the past. Companies like Cisco, IBM, Unilever and Salesforce are already doing this by combining people data with machine learning to provide personalised experiences for employees in areas such as talent acquisition, onboarding, learning and internal mobility. Many more companies are using Chatbots to enrich the employee/candidate experience (as well as to streamline HR operations). Employees expect consumer like experiences at work. Technology coupled with data enables organisations to provide these experiences. Critically the more astute companies and business leaders recognise that improving experience and better understanding employee sentiment leads to better results.
2. PRODUCTIVITY, TEAMS & ORGANISATIONAL NETWORK ANALYSIS (ONA)
In Bersin by Deloitte’s HR Technology Disruptions for 2018 report, Josh Bersin writes about the shift towards systems of productivity as well as the growing desire by business leaders to understand and improve team effectiveness. Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report revealed that 48% of companies are experimenting with Organisational Network Analysis. This matches my own experience of speaking to people analytics leaders, where ONA is the innovation they are most interested in. As we seek to understand the power of social capital, networks and connectors within organisations, so the rise of ONA will continue.
3. ADOPTION OF PEOPLE ANALYTICS IS BEGINNING TO SPIKE (HOORAY!)
Up until now the rise in adoption of people analytics has been steady rather than spectacular. I expect this to change in 2018 as analytics is integral to creating personalised employee experiences (prediction #1), properly harnessing ONA (prediction #2) and is the centrepiece of digital HR transformation. Whilst HR continues to struggle with people analytics particularly in areas such as creating an analytical culture, I sense a breakthrough is near. I certainly expect to see evidence of this over the next two days at People Analytics & The Future of Work in San Francisco.
4. THE SCOPE OF PEOPLE ANALYTICS IS BROADENING
Not only is adoption likely start to spike in 2018, but the scope of work covered by the discipline is also broadening. Up until now the bulk of people analytics projects have largely focused on driving better business outcomes and traditional employees. This ecosystem is set to expand to incorporate contractors, freelancers and automation (hand in hand with strategic workforce planning and skills analysis). Moreover, expect to see more projects concentrated on improving employee experience (see #1) and wellbeing as well as team performance (in concert with ONA – trend #2). A good illustration of how the discipline of people analytics is evolving is provided below in Figure 2, which you can read more on in ‘People Analytics 3.0’ by Al Adamsen.
5. GDPR MOVES THE ETHICS & PRIVACY DISCUSSION IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
The general consensus thus far about the impending EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which comes into effect in May 2018, is that it will place yet further restrictions on organisations when it comes to handling people data. But is this an overly negative mindset? I think so. A more positive way of looking at GDPR is that it will force companies to put employees first when it comes to collecting, storing and analysing data. If you can’t articulate the benefits to employees of collecting and analysing their data then don’t do the project could become the mantra. So, whilst there will undoubtedly be short-term pain for HR in complying with the GDPR, the mid-long term gain could be that it moves the ethics and privacy discussion in the right direction. Is that really such a bad thing?
6. EMPLOYEE WELLNESS IS NO LONGER TABOO
Perhaps it is the renewed focus on productivity and creating employee experiences. Maybe it is the increasing weight of evidence linking employee engagement and wellness to business results (see example here from Thomas Rasmussen). Whatever the answer it is refreshing to see that the subject of wellbeing and mental health is no longer taboo. In Josh Bersin’s bloghighlighting the HR Technology Disruptions for 2018, he describes the market for wellbeing tools as “the next big thing”. With much of the commentary around the future of work centred on humans being displaced by machines, this is uplifting to see. Expect to see more companies providing their employees with the tools, data and “nudges” to support exercise, mental health, work/life balance and consequently motivation and happiness.
7. BEHAVIOURAL ECONOMICS ENTERS THE WORKPLACE
Another example of the “people first” approach companies are increasingly adopting with regards to employees comes in the area of behavioural economics. Once again, HR is playing catch up with marketing here as companies have long sought to understand and influence consumer behaviour. Whilst examples in HR are still in short supply, I know a number of people analytics teams that are experimenting in this area. One of these is Google (watch Prasad Setty in the video below and read this article by Laszlo Bock) where much of the focus of the people analytics team is on research that helps educate Googlers on how they make decisions and to help them make better ones over time. Expect to hear more about companies researching the impact of behaviour on employees, teams and organisations.