Inside HR Tech Column Trendspotting

Here's a deeper look at three of the top 10 global human capital trends identified in a new Deloitte report and how HR leaders can take advantage of them.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
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Recently, Deloitte released its annual Global Human Capital Trends Report, which, in just its fifth year of publication, has become essential annual reading for HR, business and HR-technology leaders. The report combines findings from a comprehensive survey of more than 11,000 respondents, interviews with multiple HR and business leaders, case studies from many leading organizations, and insights from Deloitte's human capital management analysts and consultants. The result is an insightful report that sheds light on trends, challenges, and opportunities for HR and business leaders who are all tasked with driving business results through their people.

I had one of the report's principal authors, Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, as a guest on my HR Happy Hour Podcast on the day the report launched to discuss some of the key findings. For the benefit of readers who have not (yet) had a chance to listen to that interview, I thought I would share some of it here.

Rethinking the Organization

Building the "organization of the future" was cited by 88 percent of Deloitte's survey respondents as being an important or very important challenge. What is driving this imperative for many HR and business leaders? Primarily, it’s the need for the organization to become more agile, to be able to adapt more quickly to changing market and competitive conditions, and to increasingly embrace new and more flexible forms and sources of talent. The catalyst for at least some of this need is the increased volume and importance of more flexible labor/talent arrangements, i.e. contractors, consultants and other “gig” workers. As these sources of flexible and contingent labor have continued to evolve, HR-technology solutions such as Upwork, Wonolo and Toptal have become increasingly important sources of talent that HR and business leaders are relying upon to execute their rapidly changing workforce needs.

But it is not just the increased reliance on contingents that's driving the need to rethink the organization. The way work gets done in organizations today -- increasingly, via short-term, purpose-built and cross-functional teams, and not in formal, functionally defined hierarchies -- is also forcing HR leaders to reconsider how the organization should be designed. The need for increased agility in the assembling and disassembling of these teams requires HR and talent leaders to have better insights into individuals’ skills, as well as any overall organizational skill deficiencies. The need for robust talent-management, workforce-management, learning and development, and organizational collaboration technologies to support these rapid shifts in organizational dynamics places primary importance on a close connection between business, people and IT strategy in order to ensure that the organization can react as the market demands.

The Employee Experience

On the podcast, Bersin told me "the employee-engagement market is over." On first blush, you might think that was an odd thing to say, given that employee-engagement levels remain persistently low, and most HR and business leaders have bought into the notion that increasing these engagement scores would be a good thing for retention, morale and productivity.

But the reason for Bersin’s assertion, I think -- and why the Deloitte report includes it as a major trend for 2017 -- is that leading organizations are moving past the narrow concept of employee engagement, and are embracing the idea of the employee experience. "Rather than focus narrowly on employee engagement and culture," the report states, "organizations are developing an integrated focus on the entire employee experience, bringing together all the workplace, HR and management practices that impact people on the job."

What does this mean for HR leaders and the technologies that support them? Probably a couple of things in the short term: One, organizations should consider appointing an HR or business leader as a "chief employee experience officer," similar to the chief customer officer positions many already have in place. Next, at a minimum, HR leaders should consider moving past the annual employee-engagement survey and toward more frequent, more agile and more real-time employee- and manager-feedback systems. Numerous HR-technology solutions have emerged in recent years to support pulse surveys, peer feedback, wellness, collaboration and real-time recognition. And finally, HR leaders will have to collaborate with their peers in marketing, sales, product development and PR/communications to gain additional insights into how to design programs and processes from a holistic employee-experience lens.

Diversity and Inclusion

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The most popular -- and probably most important -- new element that we have introduced at the HR Technology Conference and Exposition® in the last few years was the first-ever Women in HR Technology Summit in 2016. Since that event, I have been increasingly thinking and writing/podcasting about these issues. The Deloitte report rightly places the diversity and inclusion issue front and center and in their "Top 10" of all HCM trends for 2017. The report sums this imperative as follows: "The digital organization of today, which operates as a network of teams, thrives on empowerment, open dialogue and inclusive working styles. Leading organizations now see diversity and inclusion as a comprehensive strategy woven into every aspect of the talent life cycle to enhance employee engagement, improve brand and drive performance."

What does this mean for HR leaders, and how can HR technology play a role in these efforts?

HR and business leaders have to consider making structural changes, implementing more open, visible and data-driven solutions, and educating executives and, perhaps more importantly, hiring managers, in the world of bias to give them a better understanding of how bias impacts decision making, talent assessments and hiring, as well as business outcomes.

Some of the HR-tech responses have come from companies such as Entelo, HireVue and SAP SuccessFactors, all of which offer varied solutions that serve to eliminate or reduce candidate-evaluation bias, apply data above "gut feeling" to inform hiring decisions, and help educate HR and business leaders on where even their unconscious biases can creep into talent-management decision making. This issue will only continue to increase in importance to HR and the C-suite as more organizations realize the opportunities and advantages that cultivating more open, diverse and inclusive workplaces can provide.

To wrap up, I want to remind you to read the report and check out the podcast. At the end of the show, Bersin encouraged HR leaders to help make the report actionable in their organizations by sharing it with their extended HR teams, then talking about the top trends and challenges/opportunities at their next HR staff meeting. I encourage you to do the same.

Steve Boese is a co-chair of HRE’s HR Technology® Conference and a technology editor for LRP Publications. He also writes an HR blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at



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