“Smart leaders can use Big Data to work in tandem with their gut feel” Prince Augustin

Gut feel is nothing but an aggregation of thousands of internal data points or past experiences, EVP-group human capital & leadership development, Mahindra & Mahindra, for HR 2020 Forecast


Technology, data employee experience: What’s high on agenda
All these are mutually inclusive. Employee experience comes from decoding of data with the aid of technology.

As one MIT Study indicated, organisations with top-quartile employee experience achieve higher customer satisfaction and 25 per cent higher profits than the ones with bottom- quartile employee experience. The same study also corroborated the need to make employee experience top priority for organisations, as only a meagre percent of organisations today are focussing on employee experience.

Even the 2020 report of Josh Bersin enunciates the shift in focus to Employee Experience Platforms (EXP). These EXPs will help build a single-stop destination to ‘design, manage and measure’ all employee interactions by integrating all IT and HR applications. Such EXPs will act as a good tool to collaborate and share ideas, to create a multigenerational experience.

The employee touch points across the HR lifecycle and across HR processes, generate millions of data, which then becomes ‘Big Data’. The insights into this ‘Big Data’, with the use of analytics and interplay of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Language(ML), along with Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality(AR), will play a very crucial role in hyper-personalising the experience employees look for.

The decoding of what experience means will require both logical and intuitive insights through the practical use of technology based solutions. Therefore, be it intervention or the insight to create hyper-personalisation, employee experience will require the prudent interplay of data and technology.
Hence, in my view, while employee experience will be the focus, the interplay of data with technology cannot be ruled out. Therefore, all three will co-exist, not only for 2020 but for the coming few years.

The biggest challenge for HR in your sector
It’s all about creating indelible employee experience, by building employability.

Employee experience will be impacted by the trends related to the future of work. Amongst the various trends, changing demographics and technology will make the biggest impact.

According to the World Economic Forum’s, ‘Future of Work 2018’ report, 60 per cent of jobs have the potential to automate 30 per cent or more of their activities. With this changing nature of jobs, more than half the employees will need reskilling and upskilling every three years.

It is estimated that as per the trends in automation, 45 per cent of work done by people can be automated. Inevitably, routine and mundane roles will be the first to be impacted. These megatrends are bound to create disruptions in employee experience. Organisations, therefore, will have to relook at these disruptions which are primarily linked to skilling and reskilling.

The redundancy in the workforce that can arise on account of skill obsolescence or skill gaps, is phenomenal. Hence, this challenge will have to be handled with care and compassion so as to improve employability of the people. It is, therefore, certain that the fate of the war for talent will depend upon how organisations manage the talent ecosystem, by taking a blended approach to learning through skilling and upskilling.

Demographically, by 2025, millennials will constitute 75 per cent of the global workforce. Their work preferences will largely encompass autonomy and flexibility of work. However, whether work and workplace are geared to these dominant preferences needs to be reflected and debated upon. Organisations will need to ensure that millennials are aligned — through appropriate mindset training and skilling — to live up to the expectations that arise out of the way work, worker and workplace will evolve in the fast-changing world of tomorrow.

Putting the aforesaid together into a big picture perspective, we will be faced with a multigenerational workforce dominated by millennials with differential skill sets, and hence, the biggest challenge, in the area of work, worker and employment, will be skilling and reskilling without losing focus on the so-called personalisation of experience the employees look for.

Digital recognition and virtual medals
These are high-tech ways of reaching out to people, but if they are not balanced with high-touch then the employee experience will be lost. Thus, effectiveness is all about how one manages high-tech solutions with high-touch experiences.

Rewards & Recognition (R&R) have, since time immemorial, served as a process and a tool for behaviour modification. Only if we see value in the reward given to them can behaviour modification take place. The ‘what’ and ‘how’ of rewards is significant, as it is dependent upon the interplay of effort and results.

This is exactly what Vroom’s Valence Theory of Motivation advocates. When efforts are high and results are significant, a reward given using only technology may not be highly valued by the employee as it would be a purely high-tech approach with the emotional part lost. For instance, an employee who is a superlative performer in a tough year, and performs beyond expectations is given a cheque by the organisation, as a reward. To maintain emotional connect, the recognition part of the reward will need to be considered too, as an employee will appreciate if the manager concerned meets her/him personally, either in a face-to-face conversation or in a team meeting. This will balance the high-tech with the high-touch. The employee will value the reward highly in such a situation, as the manner in which she or he is recognised will create an emotional bonding and connect, for better performance.

Balancing the use of technology, digital recognition and virtual medals with high-tech and high touch approach will be the order of the day, and in this manner, the space of R&R will emerge.

Data deluge: More power to HR
HR has to harness the power of data to get deep insights so as to connect employee mindset to new age realities.

Gut feel is nothing but aggregation of thousands of internal data points or past experiences, which gives one the wisdom to make decisions. On the other hand, Big Data is formed from infinite external data points—to draw insights—which are much more than a human can process. Hence, from a capability perspective, it is better to use intuition arising out of insights from Big Data, than to merely go by gut feel alone.

But that does not mean the end of the road for gut feel. Smart leaders can use Big Data to work in tandem with their gut feel. In other words, such leaders will leverage data to refine their gut feel than to entirely displace it.

Data can also give a wrong insight if it does not capture the complete picture. Therefore, data should not be used to command every move. As Karl Sun, entrepreneur and former Google business development head says, “It is important to incorporate the gut feel in decision making because at the end of the day we are dealing with people.”

Therefore, the right interplay of data insight and intuition will be required, and intuition backed by data insight is what I will look for.

The future of ‘Teal’ organisations
According to entrepreneur and expert on self-managing teams, Brian Robertson, today there are over 1000 ‘Teal’ organisations in healthcare, banking, technology, retail and even government sectors.
The work and workplace are changing. Delayering will take place with self-managed teams gaining significance. These teams will have the ownership to execute their roles without seeking approval, so long as they are in alignment with the organisation’s purpose and values. At the lower levels, the layers of management will disappear, span of control of people may go up. Intact teams, requiring less supervision, will become more significant.

With technology pervading the workplace, ‘Teal’ organisations will emerge as a new form of organisational design, and as ways and means to employee experience. As automation is becoming the order of the day, a lot of routine and mundane activities will be taken over. A space will be created, where humans, robots and cobots will coexist.

Therefore, as humans start to learn and live with technology, the new form of organisation will emerge. Though this will not pick pace immediately, the trend is definitely in that direction.

As Robertson puts it – “‘Teal’ management can be a great tool in the future, for leaders who have a vision and intuition that there are better ways to run an organisation.”

(This article first appeared in HRKatha print magazine)

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