HR in 2022: Pushing Boundaries and Looking Outward

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HR in 2022: Pushing Boundaries and Looking Outward

Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the podcast & video series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders. 

What are the things that HR should start, stop, and continue doing in 2022? In our first season finale of All About HR, we talk with Rebecca Wettemann — Principal at Valoir — about the future of HR in 2022 and beyond.

Rebecca is a tech analyst and thought leader with deep expertise in many fields, including human capital management, and analytics, and AI technology and strategy.

In this interview, we’ll discuss: 

  • The one thing HR needs to start doing and improve in 2022 
  • The future-proof approach to career experiences and talent marketplaces
  • How HR can improve its business case to maximize value

Watch the full episode to find out everything you need to know to take your HR activities to the next level in 2022.

Transcript:

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Rebecca Wettemann: In fact, our Work From Home study this year found that one in five employees have taken on a new gig outside of their full-time job to gain new skills and experiment with other job opportunities. That’s a significant number. So again, this is an area where HR can get ahead of this by being the one that enables employees to understand what their career path is, to think about the key skills that they need to get there, but also to understand what opportunities are available so that they see a growth path within their own company. 

Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a new episode of All About HR. And today is a very special one because it is our season finale. My name is Neelie. I’m your host, and for today’s episode, I got to speak with Rebecca Wettemann. Rebecca is a tech analyst and a thought leader, and she has deep knowledge about human capital management, tech, AI, and strategy. Rebecca is the principal at a company called Valoir. Valoir is an analyst firm that provides research and advisory services with a focus on the relationship between people and technology. Together, we briefly talked about 2021 but mostly we looked at 2022. What is one thing that HR should stop doing straightaway? And what’s another thing that HR should start doing immediately? We also had a brief look at the trends that we recently issued here at the Academy to Innovate HR. We talked about HR owning business transformation, HR as a product, and talent marketplaces. I think it’s time now for you to go and take a look for yourself. Before you do so, however, don’t forget, if you haven’t done so yet, to subscribe to the channel, hit that notification bell, and like this video. Thank you and I see you soon for a new episode in a new season. Bye.

Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of All About HR. My name is Neelie. I’m your host and on today’s episode, which is the season finale, I speak with Rebecca Wettemann. Hi, there, Rebecca, how are you? 

Rebecca Wettemann: Hi, Neelie. I’m great. Thanks for having me today. How are you? 

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Neelie Verlinden: I’m good. Thank you very much. I’m very happy that we made connection. Alright, so Rebecca, super, super happy to have you here for the season finale. And it’s the end of 2021. 2022 is definitely inside. So what better time to reflect a little bit on this year and to try and look into our crystal ball and speak about 2022. Now, before we really dive into the nitty-gritty of all that, I thought we could do a rapid-fire kind of style of questions to kick things off with because, you know, 2021 was both a tough and an exciting year. It was tough because it was still pretty much dominated by COVID-19 and the aftermath of that. But it was also exciting because we really believe that this is the best time to work in HR. And not the least because HR is absolutely critical in helping companies overcome many of the challenges that they are facing at the moment. Now, if HR were to draw any lessons from 2021, that will prove to be relevant and useful for 2022, what’s one thing that you absolutely want HR to do better next year?

Rebecca Wettemann: HR needs to do better looking outward. They did make a lot of progress, certainly in 2021, but they need to look beyond what they do within the HR department in areas like training, learning, and coaching, where they can enable employees and not just push technology or programs.

Neelie Verlinden: Alright, start looking outward. The second one, Rebecca, coming right at you is what’s one thing you’d absolutely want HR to stop doing right away?

Rebecca Wettemann: Wow, that’s a good one Neelie. I would say HR needs to stop looking at employee surveys as a real measure of how employees are doing. We’ve tended to even look more when we’re out of the office, at even mini-surveys. Surveys, while maybe a good snapshot, are often not used with the best of intentions, and there are other ways to understand how employees are really doing than sending them another survey.

Neelie Verlinden: Fantastic. And then here’s the last one. What’s one thing you’d like to see HR start doing next year? 

Rebecca Wettemann: Focusing more on coaching and training and new ways to deliver coaching and training. You know, having employees learn is so important to engaging them in their jobs and positioning them for success in their career. So looking at new technologies and techniques to enable coaching and training on a broader basis, they’re going to be really important. 

Neelie Verlinden: Very nice. I think we’ll touch on that one later actually, Rebecca, but thank you very much for this super intro Ito today’s conversation. Now, as I said, we are going to look at 2022. And so we came out recently with 11 HR trends for next year. And for us the overarching theme there really was about HR pushing boundaries. Now, within that overarching theme, we have identified several key topics. And the first one here is HR owning business transformation. And we really believe that HR should play a key role in leading these change efforts. I guess my first question here, Rebecca, would be whether you agree with this being a key topic, a key theme?

Rebecca Wettemann: You know, Neelie, I think it’s a key opportunity for HR. In our digital transformation study in 2021, we found that HR lagged far behind the other key operational areas of the company in terms of digital transformation. This was a global study of about 1400 companies, or we looked at digital transformation across operations, sales, marketing, service, IT, product and services, and HR, and found that HR lags far behind in terms of digital transformation projects. We see a couple of reasons for that. But we also see a key opportunity why HR, as those responsible for training rescaling, coaching, mentoring, and career development, can be really important in helping employees understand the changes that digital transformation will create for their jobs and helping them to get there.

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Neelie Verlinden: Okay, so we agree that there’s this really big opportunity here, Rebecca, but then how do you think that HR can make the most out of this opportunity? Let me be more specific. How do you think that this will happen?

Rebecca Wettemann: I think HR has to look internally before it looks externally. There are tons of opportunities to implement technology within HR right now, to drive these employee rescaling, career development, and other efforts that are critically important for any digital transformation. But when you look across companies, only about 20% of companies have implemented best-in-class technologies for coaching, rescaling, and training. So that’s an area where HR needs to say: we can make these internal investments that will enable the broader change management that needs to happen for digital transformation across the company.

Neelie Verlinden: How do you see that happen? Do you see it as perhaps that there’s going to be a few transformation experts in HR departments? Or would you rather say that it would be good if each HR professional has a certain basic kind of knowledge when it comes to business transformation? 

Rebecca Wettemann: We think that there are opportunities for individual HR leaders to take advantage of these cloud-based technologies, where they can pilot, understand, and learn from technology-led coaching and training, supporting peer-to-peer mentoring. These kinds of areas for rescaling are very important. The challenge for HR has been that typically we have an average HR budget of 35 and a half euros per employee per month for HR technologies. That encompasses HCM, payroll, benefits, all of those different areas. That’s not a lot of money, right? Where other areas in the company have been successful in digital transformation is where they’ve thought outside of their practice area. So think about sales and marketing. Sales and marketing don’t go to the CEO and say: We need money to transform sales and marketing. They say we have a project that is going to increase market share. HR needs to do the same thing. Instead of saying we need to go and have better employee training programs to reduce recruiting costs, we need better training programs to drive more effective employee productivity, greater market share, and greater competitiveness. 

Neelie Verlinden: So I guess Rebecca, that would then mean that HR needs to become better as well at presenting and defending its own case, and maybe even influence. And I don’t mean influence in the sense that we see on social media, but basically influencing the various stakeholders. Am I right in saying that?

Rebecca Wettemann: Sure. To break through that 35,50 euro budget, they need to be able to find a budget outside of what’s traditionally been allocated for HR. And that means being able to have a competitive business case against other areas, initiatives, and projects in the business.

Neelie Verlinden: Now, something else, Rebecca, that I really wanted to talk to you about is about something that we’ve seen, and I’m very curious to hear your thoughts about it as well. It’s talent marketplaces and talent allocation. Now we know that one of the biggest challenges for companies has been, already for quite some time, to find talent. I think one of the biggest learnings of the pandemic is the fact that companies can no longer solely rely on finding their talent externally. More and more companies are seeing one way of tackling this problem through the creation of the so-called internal talent marketplace. Very long story short, Rebecca, what do you think about these talent marketplaces?

Rebecca Wettemann: If companies and HR won’t do it, the employees will. We’re already seeing employees reach out to say: let me see what other opportunities are available to me, whether it’s in my company or not. In fact, our Work From Home study this year found that one in five employees have taken on a new gig outside of their full-time job to gain new skills and experiment with other job opportunities. That’s a significant number. So again, this is an area where HR can get ahead of this by being the one that enables employees to understand what their career path is, to think about the key skills that they need to get there, but also to understand what opportunities are available so that they see a growth path within their own company. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I like that you touched on that, Rebecca because this is one of the other things that we identified for next year, which was all about career experiences. It’s about offering your people career experiences and these talent marketplaces and giving people the opportunity to perhaps spend some time in a different company to learn new skills and to grow there and then come back to the original company. We see that as well in relation to these career experiences. Something else I found interesting about what you were just saying, that this sounds like an employee-driven kind of initiative. Because you did the study, one in five, I believe that you said right. So that’s 20%, which I think is indeed a big amount of people. They took it upon themselves to find a different gig during the period that they were actually working from home. So this really sounds to me like something that comes from the employees themselves. 

Rebecca Wettemann: Yeah, you know, I think what we saw is employees saying, maybe my time isn’t completely being used efficiently at my current job. I’m not being monitored full time, so I can do something else. Let me look at what those opportunities are in the gig economy to try out other opportunities, to gain new skills, maybe to understand what another company’s environment is like working in. So this is an area where HR providing those opportunities can help to keep those employees in the fold, but also, and perhaps more importantly, make employees feel like they’re understood. And that HR is focused on what are the needs of the particular employee in terms of experience, even if that means letting them go a little bit.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I think there’s still quite some work to do before we get to that mindset isn’t it? Before we actually see someone leaving not necessarily only as a bad thing, but also as a good thing for them. Interesting. There was something else though that I wanted to ask you because you say, Rebeca, here’s another opportunity for HR, because they can actually try to provide employees with these kinds of opportunities. Have you come across some interesting real-life examples already of an organization doing this very well?

Rebecca Wettemann: You know, what we’re seeing is really interesting technology firms that are enabling this and large corporations that are looking at — rather than laying off or having a group of employees that are somewhat stagnant in their position — how they can cooperate with folks who may even be competitors, to share labor, to share talent, and to give those opportunities? So I can’t cite specific company names? Yeah, we’re actually seeing some very interesting work there and some interesting collaboration across industries. And areas like hospitality in areas like services, where there may be a fluctuating demand for talent. 

Neelie Verlinden: Very interesting. I’m personally super excited about the developments that we will see here in this particular area next year. Now, something else I’m very excited about Rebecca, and that I really, really am curious to hear your thoughts about as well, is something that we call HR as a product. Now, what do we mean by that is that we’re seeing this shift away from HR focused on projects, to HR focus on products because traditionally, HR often functioned with this project mindset, clear timelines, set deliverables, and then aimed at being run efficiently. Product, on the other hand, is something that is ongoing. It does not necessarily have an end. And it’s aimed at providing value with additional resources being allocated operationally as the impact increases. That’s a shift, however, from project to product, that will require, we believe, an upgrade on the side of HR professionals. They will need to better understand the company’s internal customers, their changing habits and preferences, and they will also need to step up their game in delivering a more personalized and unique experience to employees. Now, first question here, Rebecca, is this a shift that you’re seeing as well?

Rebecca Wettemann: Yes, and it’s an area where the technology becomes really important because, in a non-project-led environment, I can think about how do I pilot a particular way of technology for a small group of employees, for example, show the success of that effort, communicate it, and then make it self-funding across other areas. Mentoring and coaching is a great example where HR can experiment with new technologies to show the success from a limited deployment, and then expand it more broadly. But it does mean, however, HR has to get sharper about the way it presents its business case, realizing that a business case is not just the means to get a budget for a project, but a roadmap for how I maximize the value of that technology over time.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, that goes back to what we were discussing just a bit before, right, that really, HR does need to get better at that. So when we talk about this shift from project to product, Rebecca, where do you think that the biggest challenges lie? So you mentioned the first one here that he needs to get better than at presenting its case. But where do you see some other challenges?

Rebecca Wettemann: For HR, also in communicating and marketing its new role, and its new focus, both to management and to employees. We’ve often seen HR as an enablement of management, not necessarily as focused on delivering ongoing value to employees and managers. So shifting from that ‘set it and forget, we deliver this to you’ mindset to a ‘let us explain to you how we can help you and what’s in it for you to participate’ it’s going to be really important. 

Neelie Verlinden: Do you believe there are any obvious skills or competencies that are lacking here for HR?

Rebecca Wettemann: It varies a lot across HR teams, I would say Neelie, but certainly the ability to communicate beyond HR speak, to talk about the impact for the business and overall business terms rather than organizational behavioral terms.

Neelie Verlinden: Nice. I think the next one, Rebecca, you briefly mentioned a little bit about this earlier, from DEI to DEIB, the B being for belonging here. Now, I find this is a very interesting one. First question. What are your thoughts on this? Is this something you recognize?

Rebecca Wettemann: Absolutely, you know, for so long really, DEI has been an acronym like CSR, something that I think about, that I budget for, that I could address in the Annual Report, and then I move on. And I think what we’ve seen in the past 24 months, and in North America, is employees saying: I want to understand what my company is doing, about CSR and DEI, and I want it to be not a checkbox item, but something that I have an active role in. So we’re seeing, for example, in North America, companies employ technology to empower employee resource groups, employee volunteer groups, employees who are engaged and thoughtful about a certain cause or certain philanthropy. We’re seeing their employers put technology in their hands to enable them to make that part of the overall workplace conversation. That, we see, plays a really important role in the B of the DEIB.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, exactly. And actually, when we were talking earlier about how your studies show that employees were looking for side gigs, one of the things that made me think of was okay, maybe one of the reasons they did was because there was a lack of a sense of belonging in their current job.

Rebecca Wettemann: Absolutely. If I am engaged and feel like I truly belong, I’m much more likely to seek internal opportunities for growth, new projects, new opportunities, rather than looking outside. Absolutely.

Neelie Verlinden: Exactly. That was what I was gonna say, as well, that you’re probably much more motivated to find her people within the organization to launch new initiatives, new projects. Yes, very interesting. Something else that’s a little bit linked to this, Rebecca, and it’s also something we identified for next year, and that’s about the movement that we see in reward a little bit as well. So it’s about impactful and inclusive rewards. What do you see happening here?

Rebecca Wettemann: As we’ve seen, the clear lines between work and home life blur in the past 24 months. You’ve met my dog, other people know about their children’s schedules. We’re all much more aware of the personal issues and personal differences that affect the way we perform at work. That means HR needs to think more flexibly about benefits and an overall employee experience that reflects those diverse needs and diverse opportunities to be effective. And that goes from everything from rewards and benefits programs to understanding employee work hours and workweeks, as we think about a hybrid and work from home environment.

Neelie Verlinden: I think Rebecca, so before we move on to the final segment of this episode, I have one more question for you about next year. And that really is what are you personally most excited about for the HR space? 

Rebecca Wettemann: Firstly, I’m most excited to see the opportunity that technology enables us to bring to coaching and mentoring, not just to top management or those who are grooming for top management, but also for a broader swath of the employee population. The enabling capabilities of technology for us to do this at scale means it’s much more cost-effective, and can really help us up the game while recognizing the individual needs of different employees and how they need to learn and be coached.

Neelie Verlinden: I can see how that makes sense as well in companies’ efforts to try and retain their people, right, because, of course, we’ve heard so much about this great resignation that is going on. And I think if you can offer, as an organization, coaching, mentoring at scale, and really optimizing this combination of the possibilities that technology is offering us now, but at the same time, also having this human element there, that this could be a really big plus, and make people want to stay within your company because they feel that you could actually grow within your organization.

Rebecca Wettemann: And they’re getting some individual attention that’s focused on supporting that growth.

Neelie Verlinden: Individual attention and I think also personalized, right? 

Rebecca Wettemann: Exactly. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, very important. All right, Rebecca, one of my favorite parts of each episode is where I get to ask you about an epic win and an epic fail that you’d like to share with our listeners.

Rebecca Wettemann: So let’s start with an epic fail. I think that this is common for a lot of people, and certainly for me, but one that is important for HR to think about. And we’ve touched on a little bit. But it’s that inward focus. Sometimes I get so focused on what’s happening inwardly with my process on my team that I don’t think about the broader picture. For HR, that means not just thinking about how that project is going to impact HR metrics, but how it impacts the overall business. It means reaching outside of the HR department to communicate and understand what the impacts are going to be for a broader change management effort, a broader coaching and mentoring effort, a broader rescaling effort, and working with those different operational leaders to do a better job of presenting that business case for the business, not just for HR.

Neelie Verlinden: Nice. I think that is a very valuable epic fail. Now, obviously, I’m not going to ask you to share an epic win with us, then.

Rebecca Wettemann: You know, I think we don’t realize nearly what an epic win HR has accomplished in the past 24 months. While different sales, marketing, operations managers have been responsible for their department or their team, HR has been responsible for everyone. This has meant becoming new data gatherers, being changed management experts, being management coaches, all while everyone is having change events, whether it’s a move of house, a change in a childcare situation, or a change in any job. So while it’s been an incredibly frustrating time, I know, for HR professionals, I think when we look back and think about how they’ve been able to be effective in helping managers manage a constantly changing workplace environment, we’ll say it’s a big one for HR.

Neelie Verlinden: That’s a beautiful win. And I think it’s very true as well. Yeah. And this kind of got me lost for words. But thank you very much, Rebecca. And I also want to thank you, with all my heart, for joining us today, and for sharing your wisdom with us. So yeah, thank you very much from me.

Rebecca Wettemann: Thank you. It’s been great to be here. 

Neelie Verlinden: And yeah, thank you everyone for tuning in for this episode of All About HR. It’s the season finale, as I said, but we’ll be back soon for the next season. In the meantime, if you haven’t done so yet, please don’t forget to subscribe to the channel, hit the notification bell, and like this episode. Thank you so much for watching, and see you very soon for new episodes. Bye.

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