HR innovations–Past and future
Pi has always been 3.1416, or 3.14159265359 if you want to be more precise. But concepts, principles and practices change in Human Resources (HR), a behavioral science-based discipline, as the business of doing business evolves.
Some 42 years ago, I got a HR job in San Miguel when it was 10 light years ahead in HR practice. I went from Head Office to Plant operations of HR and made a full circle back to the headquarters and a subsidiary, all in 18 years. That’s ample time to master the basics in all HR functions. I made friends with government, business groups, and organized labor, and developed a modus vivendi.
In 1994, I got invited to join a global oil industry player. There, I made my first few personal innovations in the HR practice. I negotiated the first Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with a performance-based salary increase for a rank and file Union in the Philippines. Up until that time, a CBA increase was always granted across-the-board.
In that oil company, I also filed a grievance against the Union. At that time, no foolish HR practitioner has filed a grievance against the Union; it was always the other way around. When we had an illegal strike, I filed a case and got a favorable ruling where “the Union leaders are deemed to have lost their employment status.” In short, we fired the whole Union leadership, but in a very humane manner. The company had a political victory and made a strong statement. The union leadership did not lose face – or money. We’re still friends.
In 1998, a large non-unionized pharmaceutical company invited me to head HR and iron out employer-employee relationship problems. I helped strengthened the Employees Council and listened to grievances at the shop floor during midnight breaks. Employees were happy when we gave them performance-based annual pay increases that equal or are better than the average granted by the top three CBAs in the pharma industry.
After 25 years in the HR profession, I retired and became a consultant. I made another HR innovation with a client with 1,500 regular employees. I replaced the annual merit pay increases with a performance incentive that is not tacked into the salary. During the first three months, the CEO advised me not to go to their premises, as some affected managers and employees were hunting me. After one year when most everybody got a windfall in performance incentives because the employees worked harder and the company exceeded its target revenues, the managers and employees were looking for me to thank me.
Past HR innovations seemed mundane compared to the innovations we are apt to see in the foreseeable future. Consider this: Consumerization of employee experience. Henceforth, HR’s mandate is to create a social, mobile, and consumer-style experience for employees. Some companies where the customer comes first will have to rethink their mantra and put employees first. Most employees, not just the millennials, are becoming netizens. HR must create one employer brand and value proposition that provides a seamless experience for all people–current employees, former employees, prospective employees, customers, consumers, vendors, etc.
Changing concept of work and workplace. Henceforth, workplace is not a place to go to. It will be an experience. It doesn’t matter which place you work–at home, at the customers’ place, or at the vendors’ place. Workplace is an experience, where all the elements are present–physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, virtual, and even aspirational. Employers of choice must be able to carefully weave all these together and orchestrate these elements in a way that inspires employees to create value that customers are willing to pay for.
HR and Marketing merger. As the enterprise aspires to create one consistent brand, the lines between HR and marketing begin to blur. At Lincoln Financial Group, EVP and CHRO Lisa Buckingham said, “I believe we need to create one consistent employer brand value proposition, internally and externally.” Some companies begin to merge HR and Marketing on such key projects as talent acquisition campaigns, employee segmentation research, and shared goals related to brand awareness and employee engagement.
HR data analytics. As most anything about people is digitized, there’ll be a deluge of data that can be mined and put to good use. HR departments must have the capability for data analytics. Some HR heads say they can’t afford it. I say they can’t afford to be without it.
Artificial intelligence is coming. Some work used to be done by people will henceforth be done by robots. In less than 10 years, three million people will be supervised by “Robobosses.” In HR, you can feed a machine with text written by a person whom you want to analyze. Within seconds, a program called Personality Insights (powered by IBM Watson) will give you the personality profile.
In future, HR innovations are limited only by one’s imagination.
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