I tuned into a recent Gartner webinar on 2019 priorities for human resources (HR) executives as a deliberately skeptical worker. My mission was to see if any predictions even remotely touched on what employees want.
First, a little context: When I registered for the broadcast, I reached out to a colleague, who shared his perspectives on trends, human capital management (HCM) software, and, most telling, the employee experience.
“Many predictions come from people more focused on what companies want employees to do than what workers themselves want,” said Steve Hunt, senior vice president of Human Capital Management Research at SAP SuccessFactors. “We’re researching what HCM technology should feel like from the employee’s real experiences. It’s crucial to make lives better for both HR managers and employees company-wide.”
Fast forward to the webcast, which was hosted by Leah Johnson, vice president, Advisory at Gartner. The firm’s latest survey of more than 800 global HR leaders found that business growth was their No. 1 business objective. Their ranking of the top three HR initiatives they think will achieve this objective was revealing: building critical skills and competencies (66 percent), strengthening the leadership bench (60 percent), and the employee experience (51 percent).
Forty-eight percent of Gartner’s surveyed HR leaders said managers weren’t effectively developing employees. One piece of Johnson’s advice was to develop “connector” managers, people who provide targeted feedback and bring together the right people and resources to develop direct reports. She said connector managers can improve employee performance by as much as 26 percent.
So far, I’m fully on board. All employees want good managers.
Most of these study respondents expected over 40 percent of leadership roles to be significantly different within five years ‒ outpacing current “supply-driven” planning approaches. Forget basing leadership needs on potential future vacancies in current roles. Instead, focus on the strategic horizon to explore which leaders the company will require to achieve long-term goals.
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When it came to the third-ranked priority, employee experience, I circled back to Hunt’s comments about what employees want. Sure enough, Gartner found a gap between employee experiences and expectations. Fifty-five percent of surveyed HR leaders conceded that their organization struggled to bring the company’s employee value proposition to life in workers’ daily lives.
For example, employees don’t just want more technology, they want the experience itself to be faster, more relevant, and personalized. Johnson concluded that HR could improve experiences by thinking holistically about what employees valued, factoring in rational plus emotional considerations.
Hunt told me one of the culprits in all this was first-generation HCM self-service solutions. Early iterations were often designed to reduce head count by “distributing pain and suffering” across thousands of managers and other employees.
“When workers are forced to follow poorly designed technology-based processes that help HR but don’t align with actual reasons why employees were hired, they get frustrated,” said Hunt. “The psychological term for these activities is ‘illegitimate tasks.’ These are processes that waste time and increase employee stress.”
According to Hunt, research shows that when employees are forced to use lousy self-service HR systems, the stress follows them home. They feel angry and resentful because it takes them away from doing the things they were hired to do, and they don’t have time for tasks that contribute to company success.
When employees are forced to use lousy self-service HR systems,
the stress follows them home
“HR shouldn’t get to decide what makes for a great user experience. Employees should get to decide that for themselves,” said Hunt. “We’ve already done a lot of things to develop a great user experience from the employees’ perspective, not just HR’s. Instead of forcing self-service on employees, the software needs to invite them in and help them do their jobs better.”
It’s only fitting to give employees the last word here. When I asked Hunt what a trend forecast would look like if it was written by employees, he said that most people want more transparency about issues that impact their career, namely, “if they’re paid fairly and in the best job given their skill set and goals. They want to know what senior leaders truly are thinking about, and if they’re moving their career path in the right direction. They also want the tools and resources they need to be successful. This includes not wasting their time.”
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