So says Ilona Charles, Executive Director, Human Resources, Telstra; Andrew Woolf, Managing Director – Financial Services, Human Capital, Accenture; Mel Parks, Global HR Business Manager, ANZ Bank; and Aaron Green, Vice President of Human Capital Management Strategy, Oracle APAC.
The occasion was a meeting of minds – no formal speeches – just a dozen or so journalists and analysists asking many questions. Consequently, this article may appear to jump from one topic to another. While technology underpins the discussion, it was an open forum.
Arron started by giving an example of digital disruption, “What about Uber? It started without capital, no employees, and no employee drivers.’
Mel – 8 years with ANZ Bank – responded that employee engagement needed to change. With the pace of communications, they sit with tablets, smartphones and use apps. HR needs to embrace that – be agile as well as understand agile people. There is no such thing as a traditional workforce any more. The organisation's culture needs to change – quickly.
Andrew – 23 years with Accenture – spoke a little more on disruption. Look at Google and its Chinese equivalent Alibaba. Soon the whole of China will use Alipay (similar to Samsung, Apple and Google pay systems) and credit card companies may cease to exist. Some 40% of organisations have substantially changed their operations, changing because of digital disruptions – in the last 12 months. All I can say is organisations and people must change.
He commented on the change in Australian retail banking, “Branches have transformed from transactional places – deposit and withdraw money that is now done at ATMs – to wealth management specialists. Imagine what that does to HR in finding or retraining staff. There are big changes for leaders as well – get with the program. How do they interact with Gen X – Millennials – who for starters are not backward in coming forward to express how they feel.
The opportunity for HR is in data and analysis using business intelligence and predicative analysis to determine a range of issues (more on that later). The data is there already.
Then we can profile employees by incorporating – with their permission – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and more. We can use that data to identify and recruit others that share those characteristics. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile how can we find you.
The more HR can do, the closer it comes to getting that all important seat on the company board.
Aaron added that HR had to become comfortable with its changing role – data managers. It needed to get bench strength in data analytics.
A representative from AHRI – the Australian Human Resources Institute spoke of its efforts to raise the level of HR, to get practitioners certified and trained, and to promote an understanding of how HR has and will change, and what the profession needs to do to cope. Too many organisations are too slow to respond to business change.
Ilona – a recent recruit to Telstra managing HR for its thousands of staff in its retail activities – felt that ‘data and analytics' was a new concept for HR and in fact there was too much information to turn it into useful data. Few organisations – Telstra excluded – see HR as a priority that needs funding to change. We know what we need to do but there are too many disparate systems – tech and data all over the place – to be useful.
She spoke of digital disruption at Telstra Retail. Customers research online, make up their mind and come to a bricks and mortar store to buy. Retail skills need to change from selling products to solutions – what is best for the customer’s needs.
Mel agreed that there was heaps of data already but many do not have the capacity to analyse it. Data Scientists can use business intelligence to make sense of it and do things like visualise the data – it is much more than working hours, salary etc.
Andrew – In relation to a question on what HR can do to influence schools and universities to produce more data scientists. We have no problem recruiting data scientists from overseas – where STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths is taught from an early age). How many year 12 Australian students are good at STEM – let alone make a career of it, he asked.
We need to work closer with educators and academia, collaborate with them, and make this a [sexy] profession. Women only account for 15-20% of those doing a STEM curriculum.
We need to think about the skills needed tomorrow, we need to use the cloud for big data, we have to learn very fast and there is no excuse not to do it.
There was general discussion about identifying bright secondary students and offering more internships – apprenticeships. Ilona said a lot more could be done at Year 12.
Arron – who incidentally has a degree from the school of hard knocks – agreed that recruitment teams needed to broaden their scope and look wide afield. The old concept of apprenticeship should come back.
Andrew said that a strong reason people join companies is for future education and development capabilities for their frequently changing career.
Aaron felt that the millennials expectations of work/life balance, of changing careers regularly and on interviewing the company rather than the other way around made it more difficult for HR. When I hire I face a new set of demands.
Ilona commented on the question of encouraging good, reliable long terms employees – those that stay. HR is not treating long termers the same way anymore. When once job for life was highly valued, companies are getting used to millennials moving on to gain more experience. The best thing they can do is let them go and try to get them back later – training at another’s expense.
Arron stated that research had shown that only 15% of graduates wanted to work for big companies – 54% were keen on start-ups and we had to cope with societal and sociological change that drives new employee expectations. HR knows how to recruit, train and retain but it is actually encouraging upwards and outwards staff movements.
Andrew spoke on a company’s use of technology to maintain contact with past employees – alumni’s, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Social media was one of the best places to stay in touch and recruit. Where longevity was seen as a benefit, it is now all about experience. There is actually a stigma developing around staying in the one job as millennials take over management positions.
The question of what will happen in the next five years? (Courtesy of Len Rust of the Rust Report - one of the most senior analysts in the IT arena and a likeable colleague).
Ilona spoke of a 1984 Orwellian world [my term] where cameras assess employee and customer ‘sentiment’ aided by machine learning. Where workers can have their faces scanned to tell if they are happy, sad, intoxicated, or whatever and employers would act on that. She hoped it would not come to that but the technology is here now.
Aaron spoke on the treasure trove of data that could use predictive analysis and what it could potentially do but HR does not know what it does not know. We may know capabilities exist but we do not know how to do it. What if we could predict staff turnover, recruit in advance, and know what is working and what is not.
He stated that traditional HR reports, as complex as they may be – would be taken as a given generated automatically by computer. It is predictive modelling that needs to be done.
The topic of data governance was raised – just because we can do it [interrogate employee’s data] does not mean we should.
Ilona commented that so much data was willingly given to suppliers, advertisers etc., now that it had become the norm. However, she agreed that strong governance and regulatory frameworks were needed to protect employee’s rights. But, if an employee willingly consents – and gets some benefit in return - then that is a different story.
I already use a Fitbit that can give my company so much information – and I consent to that – about my exercise, sleep and other things. Imagine the data from all employees. Other employees have a GPS in the field to know where they are.
Aaron said the name HR should be changed to ‘People and Culture’ – he mentioned a HR manager that has done so – Queen of People and Culture.
To the millennial, it is no longer about cradle to grave – it is about providing opportunity for growth and to have a say in what the company does. Growth includes career mapping right down to an individual level. You need to know employees at a granular level – what their needs, wants and desires are – and you need tech to do that.
Mel stated that if every business leader looks at employees as talent and looks for talent you will get them. Problem is in big business they do not have the time. Small business on the other hand does this well.
Ilona spoke of multi-channel recruiting, gamification, and changing the way recruitment was done. That exposes more than traditional recruiting.
Arron said that traditional HR had already been disrupted – it simply did not know it yet. We need to treat everyone as a passive candidate and sift through them to find active applicants. Social media analysis is a start. We need to get to people who have not considered working for us. We can use automation to do this all.
Andrew spoke of conducting virtual interviews to ensure those candidates were ready to enter the company – run sentiment tests, EQ, assess body language, [lie detection] and so much more.
So ends a few hours of really interesting discussion. While we did not really talk about tech, these large employers could not do their jobs without it – and they are on the cusp of very large change.
· HR must change
· It must embrace big data
· There is no such thing as a job for life
· Change [turnover] of employees creates work but its good
· And it is all underpinned by IT – CRM, Predictive analysis, sentiment analysis, and more.