3 Major Takeaways from the HR Technology Conference 2016


The workplace is changing. To increase employee engagement and happiness, companies need to stay on top of the always changing HR environment.

The human resources industry is rapidly changing – both in employee expectations and technology capabilities – are companies keeping up? This was the overarching theme from the latest HR Technology Conference in early October.

It’s a near full-time job for HR professionals to keep track of the latest trends because employee management procedures and expectations shift rapidly. Companies that rely on outdated processes are likely to find themselves struggling to hire and retain quality employees.

The HR Tech conference highlighted a number of ways the HR world is evolving. We’ll highlight three of the points discussed and explain the impact they have on companies:

1. Major organization transformation movement is underway
For decades C-suite executives structured their organizations in a hierarchy – employees reported to managers above them and these managers reported their plans and results to other higher-ups. And for years, this organizational model worked. But now that traditional structure is quickly collapsing, according to Deloitte’s report, “Global Human Capital Trends 2016: the new organization, different design.” Many organizations (45 percent, according to the report) are either in the midst of significant restructuring (39 percent) or have plans to do so (6 percent).

“Businesses need to keep pace and meet the demands of this rapidly-evolving business ecosystem,” said Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, in a press release. “By empowering teams, creating a new management model and developing a younger and increasingly inclusive leadership structure, organizations are reinventing themselves to innovate, compete and thrive.”

The HR Tech Conference – via its sessions, attendee conversations and technology exhibitors – reflected many of Deloitte’s findings. When attendees at the Engagement and Retention keynote panel were asked to raise their hand if their companies were undergoing major transformations, roughly 40 percent did. Chief Human Resource Officers from Starbucks, IBM, Cisco and ADP were just some of the speakers in that panel that reiterated the same feelings.

It’s critical that HR professionals understand what’s trending in HR so they can make the necessary changes and investments. And right now, for many of them, that’s a near-complete overhaul of the top-down hierarchy that has been a staple in business operations for years.

“Companies shouldn’t fear tearing down their current hierarchy for one that is more horizontal and

team-focused.”

2. Networks of teams replacing old hierarchical structure
Companies shouldn’t fear tearing down their current company hierarchy for one that is more horizontal and team-focused. Deloitte’s report, “Global Human Capital Trends 2016: the new organization, different design,” pointed out that many companies (62 percent of all companies) have actually shifted away from functional (traditional) structures to those that are more flexible. In effect, as Josh Bersin put it, meaningful values and a strong, positive culture provide the “glue” to make these networks a powerful driving force to accelerate innovation and business growth.

The driving force behind this restructure, according to Deloitte, is the rise of the millennial culture, new technology and the need to work with customers more closely and in new ways.

Specifically, as it relates to this new wave of employees, HR Tech speakers highlighted how CHROs are now being asked to focus on improving their employer brands because of sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, which allow employees to easily review and research companies. Because of the increased transparency, employees are now more than ever in the driver’s seat. They expect companies to reward and recognize them in unique, creative ways for their high performance, and the level of appreciation they receive influences whether they apply for or stay at a company.

3. Wellness incentives a big hit for employees
For companies that are a bit confused as to what types of unique benefits they should or could offer, conference speakers spoke at length about new wellness incentives and rewards that are being offered. While there are many unique rewards and recognition benefits, wellness programs are becoming more of a hit in the workspace because they positively affect companies and employees.

Wellness programs can increase office productivity and improve a company’s bottom line by reducing health care costs. And employees have reaped the benefits of these programs for varied reasons including lowered health care expenses, reduced stress levels and an overall increase in happiness and job engagement.

“Employers continue to depend on health and wellness initiatives to curb health-care costs and foster a successful and productive workforce,” explained WorldatWork and HealthMine in a 2015 report of about 6,500 WorldatWork members.

It’s crucial that companies, particularly HR professionals, recognize and understand just how quickly HR processes and workplace environments change, such as the move from hierarchy structures to ones that are more horizontal and flexible. They can’t wait for these transitions to take place before implementing changes (this is reactionary). These professionals must stay one step ahead of these evolutionary trends by allowing and helping their workplace evolve naturally and with the times.

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