Recently I published an article on some of the major disruptions happening in the workplace and the role that technology has played (and is playing) in enabling or inspiring innovative HR programs. This article serves as an extension (or part 2) to that piece: Technology: The Enabling Force Awakening HR as a Strategic Partner In 2016.
After publishing that post, a healthy conversation ensued on Twitter about whether I was advocating that technology is what will enable HR to become more strategic. While I could see how one might come away with that interpretation, I want to make it clear that I see technology always as an “enabler,” never the answer to a solution or problem.
Let’s take continuous feedback as an example. Continuous feedback is feedback given to an employee by his/her manager (or peers) on their performance on a regular and frequent basis. This feedback is used to provide employee coaching and development continuously rather than only at the end of the year. Now, if a manager has 12 direct reports, one can easily imagine that providing real-time meaningful feedback to each of those reports could become quite difficult and time-consuming without the aid of technology.
The point I was trying to make was that innovations in HR technology have “enabled” these processes to exist that might never have been possible through manual intervention and definitely not with the rigid HR systems so many organizations have been saddled with for far too long.
Here are the remaining two concepts/trends in HR I believe HR technology will have a considerable hand in supporting in 2016: personalized learning and development, and transparency as the new norm.
Personalized learning and development
Personalization is fast becoming a must-have in today’s workplace. No longer can employers afford to roll out cookie-cutter programs to meet the needs of every generation or type of employee. From creating flexible benefits programs that provide employees with choices to career development and learning, personalization is the name of the game.
We’ve all heard about the needs of today’s learners. They want a learning experience that fits their personal needs, learning speed, preferred learning style, and most importantly, their learning pathway – learning personalized for them. But what most people don’t know is that this approach to learning is not new. In fact, noted adult learning theorist Eduard Lindeman laid out five key assumptions about adult learners that may sound very familiar to many of us (excerpted from Lindeman’s 1926 book, The Meaning of Education):
- Adults are motivated to learn as the experience needs and interests that learning will satisfy
- Adults orientation to learning is life-centered
- Experience is the richest source for adults learning
- Adults have a deep need to be self-directing
- Individual differences among people increase with age – therefore, provision should be made for differences in style, time, place, and pace of learning.
As adults, we have always craved a different style of learning. In fact, learning theories have existed for quite some time now that classify learning into two approaches: pedagogical and andragogical. Pedagogy is the discipline that study and practice of how best to teach. Andragogy, on the other hand, is the method and practice of teaching adult learners. Andragogy works best in practice when learning is adapted to fit the uniqueness of the learners and the learning situation. Somehow modern -day trainers and training departments have either forgotten this, or never been made aware that adults have a different style of learning that requires different approaches.
Learning has moved beyond the classroom, and experience – one of the three components of the 70:20:10 model – should no longer be seen simply as what occurs within the four walls of the traditional workspace. Learning is social and is the result of interactions with others as well as with content. That content may be formally generated by the organization and disseminated to employees, it can be employee-generated and shared through peer networks, or it may be content that an employee interacts with online and off-hours. The point is, we are all in a continuous state of learning, and traditional learning management systems are not yet capable of capturing the multitude of learning experiences that each and every employee encounters on a weekly or even daily basis.
This is where vendors like Degreed have stepped up. Capitalizing on xAPI, Degreed’s platform can capture meaningful information relating to a wide range of learning experiences and behaviors. This type of technology plays an important part in creating a more personalized learning environment, empowering learners to achieve their goals and creating self-awareness of the micro-learning moments that might otherwise go unnoticed (think meta-cognitive).
Transparency as the new norm
We have entered a millennium where workplaces are filled with four generations of workers (five, if you ask Bill Kutik). We live in a global environment where businesses must continually adjust to keep up with the accelerating pace of change that is fueled by technology. Many consider technology one of the primary drivers behind the globalization of economies, and its power to accelerate change of all kinds cannot be ignored. Social, mobile, video, and self-service capabilities provide opportunities for greater visibility into the behavior of individuals or groups, making how work gets done more transparent to the masses.
Openly communicating goals within an organization is a step toward driving efﬁciencies through information transparency. A beneﬁt of transparent goals and the linkage between them within an organization is to drive collaboration between employees directly, rather than exclusively through direct managers. Another potential beneﬁt is to drive efﬁciency through reducing redundant work efforts that might not otherwise be known. With greater transparency, individual performance and contributions to the organization become more evident. Transparent goals are critical for an employee to understand how his or her goals and performance relate to those of other employees.
Here are a few vendors that are making goal transparency possible:
- iDoneThis – productivity software that allows employees to reflect at the end of each day on what they have accomplished. The next morning an email digest is distributed, showing everyone’s accomplishments from the previous day and employees can share thanks and celebrate the achievements, helping create a culture of openness (transparency) and gratitude.
- Betterworks – an enterprise goal software platform that utilizes OKRs to create and align goals beyond the traditional horizontal approach seen in most MBO and other goal management approaches. This software facilitates the collaboration of goal creation and goal tracking across the enterprise, and encourages open, frequent monitoring and cross-functional alignment of goals.
- Atiim – (pronounced A-team) – a goal (OKR) and team performance management platform that offers a continuous real-time and closed-loop feedback process to improve alignment and transparency for managers and their teams.
Enterprise social networks (ESNs)
Transparency also means encouraging open communication across the organization and soliciting feedback from employees (and even customers) in making decisions. Being transparent in communications builds trust ‒ an essential component in building a strong culture. But even more importantly, transparency requires trust. Trust is the foundation for building a strong culture—trust in leadership, trust in teams, and trust in individuals.
Being transparent also influences employee support and acceptance of change, and also provides a sense of safety for employees to allow creativity and innovation to be stimulated, accepted, and promoted.
Blogs delivered on enterprise social networks (ESNs) are a natural way for leaders to openly communicate with their followers and are a great forum for leaders to share their thinking around business decisions, as well as a means to build trust.
Platforms like Jive, Tibbr and Facebook at Work, whose aim is to create a connected workplace that is more productive, are prime examples of ESNs that can be used to encourage leaders and employees to share ideas, collaborate on projects, and create opportunities for greater visibility across the enterprise.
Cross, R., Borgatti, S. P., & Parker, A. (2002). Making invisible work visible: Using social network analysis to support strategic collaboration. California management review, 44(2), 25-46. Chicago
Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2014). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Routledge.
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