The end of the last century saw the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, marked by the technology-based fusion of biological, digital, and physical worlds that is not changing the way people work but is in fact driven by the way people work. In recent decades, the business landscape has undergone tremendous change. People rarely stay in one job for decades, for example. Changes in social behavior and demographic shifts (notably, the arrival of Millennials, who gravitate toward flexible and entrepreneurial careers) have altered the shape of the workforce. In the wake of the Great Recession, the gig economy has arisen to help workers achieve independent “job security,” and personal marketability, and better work-life balance (with the standard “9 to 5” schedule is on its way out). And digitally connected work environments are displacing traditional brick-and-mortar office space.
Against this backdrop, companies are waging a very real war for talent and struggling to find the employees they need. One CareerBuilder survey found that “more than half (54%) of employers currently have open positions for which they can’t find qualified candidates” and “60% of employers are concerned about the costs associated with delays in filling open positions.” Skills shortages are causing hiring delays and lost revenue. Clearly this is a problem that needs to be solved: people are the lifeblood of any company, and a company that wants to stay relevant and capture market share today must be employee-centric.
Enter the innovative and strategic HR player. Today’s HR leader is being asked to step away from dealing with risk management and collecting yearly performance reviews (two more business traditions that are on their way out). Corporate human resources teams now need to navigate new technologies, manage employee expectations, and ensure that their organizations have productive and happy workforces. The modern human resources department favors specialization over a generalized, one-size-fits-all approach to workforce management and talent strategy.
How does a modern HR leader navigate the dizzying array of available technologies? Human resource information systems (HRIS), training and retention platforms, workforce analytics, gig workforce digital online platforms—the choices are vast (and growing in number each day). Throwing artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix can complicate things even further (though it’s unlikely that AI will replace humans, who are better than AI at strategic thinking, building relationships, and solving critical problems). By covering some of the more tactical tasks and enabling HR leaders to deliver on increasingly diverse deliverables within the organization, technology is not replacing HR and its supporting staffing partners but elevating their roles.
During this new industrial revolution, talent strategy is beginning to engage a technology ecosystem of different platforms that can handle all aspects of an organization’ workforce. HR’s new role for organizations now includes building the business case and driving user adoption for several types of technology platforms that cover the full life cycle of talent strategy. The key to successfully adapting to the Fourth Industrial Revolution is not asking “Is this amazing technology?” but asking “Is this technology a good match for us?”
To answer that question, HR leaders must first identify their primary challenges. What gets tackled first in workforce-strategy planning? Is it better to adopt a multipronged approach to address several challenges at once? An iterative approach, based on prioritizing deliverables and challenges can be a solid choice (and one that’s least disruptive to an organization). For example:
- If recruiting and talent retention are the top priorities, an approach that leverages a mix of staffing providers, digital platforms (to attract freelancers and gig workers), and recruitment processing outsourcing solutions can be a good way to expand the talent supply chain and provide insight into performance and delivery. Many staffing providers are broadening their service offerings beyond staff augmentation and direct placement. They are delivering total workforce solutions and partnering with different digital platforms and ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) to support their client’s needs.
- If a better understanding of performance is the top priority, an approach based on metrics and workforce analytics is a good place to start. A big-data–based analysis can provide an organization with the compass it needs in its efforts to source, recruit, retain, and engage top talent and identify problem areas. The ability to use metrics to drive effectiveness in those areas is a game changer that has shaken up the HR world in recent years.
- If addressing problems with training and development is the top priority, consider an approach based on using technology platforms tailored to specific needs. Some provide comprehensive training modules, for example. Others automate employment reviews with immediate and interactive feedback between hiring managers and employees. Tech-based training and development platforms are increasingly taking the place of traditional annual performance reviews and training.
HR leaders shouldn’t feel daunted by the idea of adopting new technology. Many new technology platforms in talent acquisition and HR management are being designed specifically to integrate with existing systems and platforms (such as CRM) in order to accommodate organizations that often already have multiple platforms and legacy systems. And having some of the new systems in place to automate (and even make visible) some HR processes can create a much more favorable candidate and employee experiences (particularly when those systems have robust mobile capabilities to meet younger generations’ communication preferences). By working with the right technology partners, innovative HR leaders will position their organizations for success.
The founder and president of Gallagher and Consultants, Terri Gallagher has over two decades of experience in enterprise contingent workforce strategies in the finance, healthcare, manufacturing, and telecommunications sectors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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