‘Disruptive’ HR management

Twelve 5-minute presentations by and for HR professionals on how to do differently the things that we have been doing for years: this is the ‘Disrupt HR’ concept that first started in the US and now spreading everywhere like wildfire. The pace is quick and the speakers captivating. The goal: to shake up (‘disrupt’) standard HR management practices.

Do the older methods no longer reassure us? Are we afraid of the future? Are we less prepared and confident in our success in a world undergoing constant and profound change? I spend most of my time working with HR professionals that are passionate about what they do and I have identified three main areas that can benefit from the disruptive concept.

Long live work

This story takes place on a building site for a cathedral during the Middle Ages. A man comes across three workers that appear to be doing the same job. He asks the first worker: “What are you doing?” “I’m working on stones to make a living”, he says. The man asks the second worker the same question. “I’m working on this wall with the help of my team. This should strengthen the structure” was his reply. The man walks towards the third worker and asks him the same question. The worker answers enthusiastically: “I’m building a cathedral!”. This story is taken from the book ’Réinventer le sens de son travail’ (Reinventing the meaning of your work) by Pierre Eric Sutter, in which he describes the unique relationship between a worker and his work.

The relationship a person has with the work he does defines their level of commitment, their influence and their performance.  We have all been disappointed or annoyed by the behavior or attitude of employees who are clearly not motivated: “I don’t like what I do; it’s just a job I do to make money!”. But we also remember positive experiences with employees that surprised us with the empathy they displayed in doing their job.

HR has a new challenge: to encourage the development of employees and their relationship with their work. Many HR processes will need to be profoundly changed. Annual performance reviews are no longer useful, because a year is too long. Reviews should be run continuously. Employees should be offered other positions within the company more often, otherwise they will go to the competition. Work builds confidence and employees will only do efficiently that which make them feel happy. HR needs to truly focus on the employees if it wants to meet today’s challenges.

Generation Z

All the employees that we have been recruiting in the last 3 years, and who will make up most of our workforce, are or will be from generation Z. Individuals from generation Z like to share and they get enthusiastic about things very quickly and also get bored just as quickly. Generation Z employees are looking for job security as well as personal fulfillment. Generation Xers and Millennials weren’t about to quit their job just because it took up a lot of their time and personal life.

Generation Z are particularly sensitive to wellbeing at work and are interested in learning and training. Wages are still as important to them as they were to their predecessors, but they are no longer the dominant criterion when choosing a job. Generation Z employees are constantly connected. They do everything on the net. They are also concerned about sustainable development and the protection of the environment.

All studies on this generation agree on the necessity to create an ‘employee experience’ in the company that will make the employee the focus of the HR strategy. Continuous feedback and surveys are used to make employees feel like they are given personal treatment. Generation Z employees have a need to share their opinions.  The most common example is the ‘Smiley machine’ that we now see in many companies, which employees use to describe their day at work, just they would describe their experience in an airport, for example.

The opportunity of technology

Germany has the lowest unemployment rate and the best economic performance of any country in Europe and it also has the most robots, with 300 for every 10,000 employees (versus 127 in France). Predictions on the use of robots vary, from the euphoric enthusiasm of the geeks and tech companies and the conservatism of the alarmists. All studies on the subject, however, agree that the increasing use of robots is inevitable.

Algorithms are already capable of scanning a company’s database to determine the best applicant for a job or replace a retired employee. The use of AI is now common in many recruitment and training solutions.

The most spectacular development combines Big Data with artificial intelligence. HR applications today can, for example, offer an employee all the available career possibilities. The possibilities for career development offered are based on the employee’s skills and the skills required for the position as well their experience and preferences, but especially based on the behavior of millions of other people in other companies that held similar jobs, but have moved on since then. Just like Netflix, that will suggest the most watched films, but also films with actors that appeared in the films you watched or films that are similar to ones you have watched.

The changes in the work environment, just like the characteristics of the next generations and their expectations, will be global. In the next few years, 3 billion people will be arriving on the job market, while 1 billion will be retiring. These new arrivals are already familiar with e-commerce and will be accessing e-commerce platforms to purchase freely without regard to brand loyalty. They will be traveling, voting, taking care of their families, having fun…and working in ways very different from what we have known. They will not be working for the same companies as their parents. Today’s technology connects applicants with the most attractive job offers throughout the globe. In just a few clicks, you can set up video interviews and complete the recruiting process in just a few days.

A transformation of HR is certainly necessary. Postponing it by administering ‘homeopathic’ reforms is not a solution. Those who choose to accept this transformation with a decision to make it disruptive with technology will certainly reap the benefits.