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Jonathan White

Sage HR and Payroll

Head of Sales

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HRSS review: The must-know HR tech trends


The HR Software Show is always a good place to get a feel for how the world of HR is faring and what professionals’ priorities will be for the coming year. It provides an opportunity to gauge what’s going on in the wider industry and tap into the latest concerns and trends, to get your finger on the pulse.

In 2014, the underlying driver that pervades every facet of our world is continuously and efficiently boosting productivity – fully harnessing existing resources to drive as much value as possible. We may now be recovering from the economic crash of a few years ago, but it’s left a lasting impression on the way businesses are run. Efficiency and productivity are the watchwords of effective management, but the rise of rationalised spending means there’s even closer budget scrutiny than ever before. A condensed pool of employees is expected to deliver the same, if not greater, results than ever before.

With this in mind, it’s forgivable if HR professionals have battened down the hatches and supported the business reactively. But at this year’s show, a couple of trends really came to the fore – challenges that can be met proactively: the need to become a ‘learning organisation’, and working with a diversifying workforce.

Managing loss of capacity and knowledge

Every employee, at every level within an organisation, is now expected to exhibit impressive levels of efficiency and ever-increasing productivity. But these changes can put a growing strain on the workforce. There is reduced work capacity, as many people are now having to get through more work than they’re used to. Each employee has more tasks to be completed in the same amount of time. Against this background, the reduced teams also mean there’s less combined experience and knowledge to draw on. These two challenges together can seem insurmountable at times, and they require a ground-level overhaul of how a company operates. The key is to become a ‘learning organisation’.

In essence, learning and training need to be woven into the day-to-day core of a company. This applies to the ongoing skill-specific training that companies provide, and to training and support on how to navigate the increasingly high-pressured work environment. With an accelerated pace in the working environment, ongoing coaching to ensure employees are able to manage their workloads is vital, particularly for those whose roles may have become more complex.

As a result, the role of technology is really under the spotlight at the moment, as HRSS showed. Software is being brought in to assist in every aspect of the workplace experience, from training programmes to task management and internal messaging. With spending pressures prevalent, this means that HR needs to have a hand in making sure the right software tools are being chosen. Clearly defined goals and measured outcomes are essential to judging the success of any piece of software, but the HR team also needs to think about the workforce for which the company is providing these tools.

Managing diversity of workforce

As people’s working lives grow longer, a much broader spectrum of ages can be seen within any given organisation. The generational diversity you now see within companies presents numerous potential challenges for the HR team. Communication is an obvious and significant aspect of these challenges. How do you communicate with a workforce that ranges from people born in the 1950s and those born in the 1990s? What works for a digital native in their 20s probably won’t fit for an experienced employee in their 60s.

Social media tools have been promoted as the straightforward route for internal engagement for a few years now. The plethora of tools out there help companies to communicate with a vast number of people quickly and effectively. But what if some of your employees don’t quite understand these tools, or are hesitant about using them? Training is all well and good, but if you want employees to feel valued then you need to make sure that you’re speaking with them in a way in which they’re comfortable, the way they want you to. You have to tailor your method to your audience. This tailored approach applies to training and up-skilling as well. Different age groups will be comfortable learning in different ways.

But communication and training aren’t the only factors to consider. Motivation is a fundamental consideration that affects almost everything the HR department does. What does this employee want from their time at this company? What drives them? One thing we’ve seen out there in the marketplace, something that was discussed at HRSS this year, is that employees are no longer looking for a career, they’re looking for an ‘experience’. The post-recession jobs panic has subsided, and newer entrants to the jobs market are becoming more selective about the companies they work for. They want to know their long-term vocational goals will be looked after, and that there are plenty of opportunities for career growth.

This shift is one of several factors contributing to fierce competition for the best talent, something which is being felt by mid-sized companies in particular. These organisations have to compete with both the enterprise giants and the ‘sexy start-up’ businesses: evolving into a learning organisation is one area where they can act swiftly and effectively to help level the playing field.

Career goals are based – and dependent – on gaining the right experience and training to progress. If an organisation can ensure that learning is fundamental and ongoing, then the opportunities to progress should be clear to prospective employees. Marry this with a tailored approach to communication and training, and both existing employees and future prospects should have little problem with committing to your company.

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Jonathan White

Head of Sales

Read more from Jonathan White

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