Trends that will shape the HR profession in 2018

Hear Kathryn Kendall, chief people officer at Benefex, and Perry Timms, founder of PTHR, in conversation with Cathryn Newbery, CIPHR content editor, as they discuss the eight key trends that will shape UK HR practice in the next year.

And if you’d like more food for thought, why not read our new white paper: From evidence to automation: eight trends that’ll shape the HR profession in 2018?

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Cathryn: Hello and welcome to today’s webinar brought to you by CIPHR, which develops software that helps organizations attract, engage, and retain work forces more effectively and in partnership with employee experience best specialist Benefex. Over the next hour we’ll be exploring the trends that we think will shape the UK profession during the course of the next 12 months.

In 2017 HR professionals had to contend with significant government and regulatory changes from the Apprenticeship Levy to the confirmation of gender pay gap reporting requirements, as well as the abolition of tribunal fees. These external factors look to be significant again in 2018, with the added specter of Brexit coming next year, not to mention fluctuations in the economic climate. So how are HR practitioners coping with these factors? What’s top of their agendas and could this be a transformational year for the profession?

Joining me today to discuss all those and probably much, much more are my two guests. First up, we have Kathryn Kendall, Chief People Officer at Benefex. Kathryn, could you tell us a little about yourself and your role here?

Kathryn: Yeah, sure, no problem. So I head up the People Team here at Benefex. I’ve been in post for about three and a half years. I’ve got probably about 15 years of HR both operational and strategic expertise and really very focused on how can we maximize the employee [inaudible 00:01:13], serve employees, and help to get the most out of, you know, getting towards business objectives and achieving our strategic goals?

Cathryn: Fantastic. Thanks very much. Also joining us today is Perry Timms, founder of Consultancy PTHR and author of the 2017 book, “Transformational HR.” Perry, can you give us a quick clue about the HR subjects keeping you up at night at the minute?

Perry: So I think…thank you, Cathryn. Delighted to be here. So I’m in Salford right now and I think I’m surrounded by [inaudible 00:01:39] and talk of passion and pride. So, I think what I’m being kept up about is the fact that organizations still aren’t unleashing the passion and pride of the people who are there helping their work become real. So yeah.

Cathryn: So first, we’re gonna have a quick run through today’s agenda. We’ll kick off with an overview of the survey CIPHR carried out in December asking HR professionals about what’s on their agenda for 2018. Then Kathryn, Perry, and I will debate and discuss the eight key predictions the [inaudible 00:02:06] whitepaper has identified for the year ahead. Finally we’ll have some time to dive into your questions and comments that we haven’t covered.

So what are HR’s professionals’ priorities for the coming year? We surveyed nearly a 150 people and about what they focused on in 2017. Here we can see recruitment topping the agenda. But if we look to HR’s priorities for 2018, we can see that moving down the priority list and the big difference is the growing importance of data protection and GDPR, which is hardly surprising, given the general data protection regulation comes into effect this year in May.

Three of the top five priorities were coming across both years. That’s recruitment, health and well-being and pay while the other newcomer for 2018, so to speak, is performance management and appraisals. But there are many missions from HR’s priority list, not least corporate governance, sexual harassment, HR transformation, diversity and inclusion, and gender pay gap reporting. Perry, just quickly, why do you think these topics weren’t rated as high a priorities by our responders?

Perry: I guess what I see a lot of my colleagues and fellow HR practitioners doing is having to grapple with the whole raft of legislation and high impact, I guess you’d say, so necessities. And those on the priority list appear to be the things that, you know, business leaders are saying, “We must comply. We must do good. We must respond to these things.” So I guess it’s the old adage of what gets paid and what’s legal needs to be looked after first. So I think that’s why these are…there’s a slip down the list. I think the irony is sometimes if you have a more transformative approach then…and, you know, some of those other things become a natural consequence of having that, I guess you’d say, sort of slightly more strategic view.

Cathryn: Yeah, that makes sense. Thanks very much. Now we’re going to dive into the eight key predictions for 2018 from CIPHR’s new whitepaper from evidence to automation, eight trends that will shape the HR profession in 2018.

So our first prediction is that HR will recognize its failure to tackle the productivity problem and find the confidence to try something new. So first a bit of context. UK productivity was up 0.9% in Q4 2017 and although that sounds pretty low, that’s actually the biggest rise in productivity for six years. If productivity had risen pre-2008 financial crash rates, the UK would be 20% more productive than it is today. And German and French workers actually achieve more in four days than British ones achieve in five. All that leads us to ask what does it mean to be productive and what levers can HR draw on to make an impact. Kathryn, can you help?

Kathryn: Yes. It’s a really interesting debate and it’s something that I’m personally really passionate about. I mean, I personally believe that, you know, we are clinging onto this 9:00 to 5:00 model, which is dead in the water. Every single study out there shows that people cannot be consistently productive for seven, seven and a half, eight hours a day. So what that means is within our organizations is we have started to develop these kinds of siloes of unproductive behaviors where people are…they’re doing things and it’s almost people can’t get even being active and productivity as the same thing. They’re very different things. People are doing thing. But those things are not things which are directly driving the productivity of the business. So they’re not things which are helping us to achieve our corporate goals.

And it means people get caught in the spiral sometimes of, you know, returning…we all know what it’s like when we’ve got a task that we wanna put off until we return to the stuff that’s easy or the stuff that we’re used to, the stuff that we’ve always done. I think in 2018, HR has got to lead that drive forward to absolutely [inaudible 00:05:42] out these siloes in business where just productivity is sagging because people are wasting time on maybe old ways of doing things, maybe inefficient ways of doing things, maybe just the things that they revert to and resort to because they haven’t [inaudible 00:05:55]. They don’t understand how to do the productivity-adding activities. But there is a huge, huge opportunity for HR here in 2018 and I think we’ve said, “We grab that by the scruff of the neck to ensure we drive our organizations’ productivity forwards.”

Cathryn: Perry, would you agree with that?

Perry: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don’t think the door is totally it rests at HR’s door rather and, you know, I think this is a whole business issue and it’s a whole systemic issue actually. So if you look at work of people like the Work Foundation, they’ve been taxed by this for quite some time. So I echo what Kathryn said. I mean, a couple of things just to throw in as sorts that I’ve got. We have developed a whole load of wasteful habits that just because we’re busy, that seems to be leading towards productivity. But I genuinely think we haven’t broken that cycle of wasteful habits. And I think part of the reason we haven’t done that is because austerity as a kind of an ethos, I suppose, that’s happened since the financial crash. It’s all about cuts, cuts, cuts. Those cuts are aimed at, you know, sort of reducing your spend to increase your profit or viability in that respect.

And I think we’ve taken that approach. I think we’ve just cut wherever we can to try and be efficient and that hasn’t helped productivity. I think the other clues that are out there in work of, again, in the Work Foundation are people like the RSA and the CIPD who’ve been champion in this process of, or this philosophy I guess, of good work and I see too much work and too many jobs that are quite soul-destroying for people. So, you know, they genuinely haven’t got the energy or the wherewithal to not only tackle it at their most optimum level, but also to solve the problems of waste because they just wanna kinda transact their way through it because it’s so dull and demoralizing. So I think HR’s responsibility lies I guess in some of the job design elements that I just don’t think are helping that productivity equation at all.

Cathryn: Yeah. I think that ties in really nicely to the idea of a good employee experience. And what does it mean to be having a good day at work so that you feel that you can contribute to an organization that your contribution is valued and that you’re not scared to speak up and make a difference? And I think too many employees don’t have the opportunity to do that, as you said, Perry.

Okay. Great. Onto the next prediction. A new ethos of evidence-based decision making will emerge. But it won’t just be about the evidence. According to the CIPD HR Outlook winter 2016, ’17, 89% of HR professionals expect to use evidence more heavily in their work this year. The same report also found that HR professionals are more likely to favor their own experience and internal data over the findings of academic research. So we have three questions for you. What does it mean to be evidence-based? Are they good and bad types of evidence? And where can I start with using evidence? Perry, what does it mean to you to be evidence-based in your practice?

Perry: A couple of things really. I think I’ve been watching this growing sort of debate/that realization I guess that we have been a little bit hamstrung by not enough of the right kind of evidence. And I think that’s genuinely driven some of that in my view is almost an irony compared to what’s on your slide. It’s that we thought we have to have a huge amount of long-tail academically-validated research. So often we thought, “We haven’t got time to do that. We’ve been asked for demands on this and that and the other. So, I’ve gotta go with what my experience tells me and this is what I’ll do.” It’s not always the right thing to do.

So I think we’ve had a myth that evidence is always some hugely numerically-based process of validation that goes into the realms of sort of several tens of pages, but it isn’t that in my view. I think where I’m seeing advancements in some of the more progressive workplaces, they have a constant experimentation, evidence, and then adaptation approach. So I think you can do it in a cycle, in a sequence. I don’t think the evidence has to be in a volume. So that’s where I think there’s perhaps a growing understanding that there are all sorts of types of evidence, as well as just the whole numeric and the mass data types approach.

Cathryn: Yeah, absolutely. Kathryn, how do you make use of evidence in your role?

Kathryn: Well, I think Perry’s absolutely right and I think there is a real danger…you know, if we look at sort of HR practitioners, I think there’s a danger that we can kinda go the other way from being seen as this very reactive, soft, fluffy function also too far the other way and getting hung up in streams of [inaudible 00:10:18] information data, which actually allows to drive the business forward. So, you know, my approach very much within Benefex and within organizations that I’ve worked with is actually [inaudible 00:10:30] what is right for the business.

So it’s looking at what are the key trends, what are the key issues that our business is experiencing right now, and then what people practices can we put into place in order to address those trends. I think there’s a danger if you start looking too far, if you’re going to get too hung up on the academics behind, you know, any kinda data stream etc. etc. Then you’re creating more problems than you’re solving. It’s gotta always be about ultimately what’s the output of this, what is our change. positive [inaudible 00:10:55] respond as a result, and how can I demonstrate that as well. I think that’s where we need to focus.

Cathryn: Yeah, I think that’s really important. Where do you start when you’ve been using evidence in your practice? What was the starting point for you?

Kathryn: So for me it’s always done from I suppose looking at some of the key metrics. So I always think I really key [inaudible 00:11:13] for HR professionals is what’s going on with your employee attrition actually? What your turnover rates? They’re one of the biggest organization health barometers at any organization. So what are they doing? Are they’re going up? Are they going down? What’s happening to the people with less than six months service within your organization? If they’re leaving you very quickly then you’ve got problems at your on-boarding stage of things. So, I’d be finding those key measures, you know.

Your absent [inaudible 00:11:37] would also be something key. Mental health is a very hot topic at the moment. You should have good, strong absence metrics which allow you to understand at an early intervention stage whether there are issues in the business and then putting measures to address it. We need to avoid being reactive with our evidence. It’s about actually how can we put in place product and programs which address this almost before it becomes an issue?

Cathryn: Yeah, definitely. And Perry, would you have anything to add to that?

Perry: Yeah. I mean, I was nodding furiously at all that, just so you know. But I suppose where I start with evidence sometimes is it’s not really evidence, but it’s valid. It’s perceptions. So if we want to know how many people are engaged with our paying benefit system, we could probably assemble a group of people in a room and say, “Where do we perceive people’s opinions on this to be on a scale,” and you get almost like some percentages. And then you go out and test that. So you come up with some perceptions that isn’t really evidence-based. But it’s your hunches and it’s what you sense and feel and determine. And then you use that to then go out and get some harder evidence and then kinda check and validate those things because sometimes your sense is a useful evidence form when validated against something a bit more data and metric. So I start with the sense. What do we think it is? What do we feel it is? And then use that to go and test it.

Cathryn: Okay, fantastic. Thank you. Our next trend that we’ve identified is that technical experts will be released from the tyranny of line management. Some more stats for you from the CIPD HR outlet winter 2016, ’17. Forty four percent of HR professionals who say people management skills is an important leadership behavior believe that their senior leaders are lacking in this area. And it’s a problem that’s been going on for some time. As far back as 2012, the Department of the Business found that three -uarters of organizations in England reported a management skills deficit. And nearly half, so, 46% of people we surveyed said they plan to focus on line managers in the coming 12 months.

So the questions to the panel are why is management assumed to be a promotion and what can we do to support experts so that these skills all progress without management responsibility? And Kathryn, I know this is something you’re quite keen on because you have a lot of technical experts at Benefex who are not so keen on line managing.

Perry: Yeah, absolutely. Very much so.l I think it’s overt. You know, certainly in the time I’ve been here, it’s one of the biggest things that we’ve tackled because there is this kind of historic, you know…it has this historic approach that once you get beyond a certain level that to be promoted further, you have to take on line management responsibilities. And I think finally now, we’re all catching on to the fact because… And we’ve, you know, sort of chastised those technical experts in those roles as to why they’re not delivering as line managers.

My personal view on this is I actually don’t think you can teach people management skills. I think you can improve people management skills. But I believe it’s something quite innate. I think that you aren’t either able to manage people or that’s not your skill. And we’ve been very focused here at Benefex on saying, “Actually, we need both people in the organization who have great technical skills and we also need people in our organization who can manage people really, really well.”

Now, there might be the occasional exception where you do find someone with great technical skills who is also a great manager of people and that’s great. But in my experience, in my career, the times where I’ve seen that happen I could probably count on one hand. So my focus at Benefex is very much now about saying, “You can get to whatever level in the organization you want to get to right up to board level, without necessarily having to manage people.”

We are bringing an [inaudible 00:14:57] where we have a team of dedicated people managers. It’s actually…it’s taking the business partner model one step further. Actually who are dedicated people managers who look after our people, who drive them, develop them, who coach them. And then our technical experts aren’t spending half of their week tied up in one-to-ones which is not their natural strength and more importantly takes them away from the work we really need them to deliver. It comes back to that productivity challenge, as well.

Cathryn: Yeah, absolutely. And Perry, quite a provocative statement from Kathryn that management skills are something that can’t be taught. Do you agree with that?

Perry: No. I genuinely think you can learn whatever you want to learn. So I think there’s an intent. And that intent comes from what Kathryn’s point is really, which is do you really feel the sense of privilege to lead people or do you see…feel the sense of achievement in doing what you want to do that isn’t leading people? So I think you can teach it. But I think you’re often pushing against a natural tendency perhaps. So I guess that’s where I’d start with people. It’s like, you know, do you want to have the privilege of leading people or do you want to have the privilege of creating great products in your own kind of isolated way?

Fantastic. Then I think you can make that choice. And I think that’s where Kathryn’s directed some really good energy. I think that would be successful and lead to productive ways of working. I’d just be keen to make sure that those people who were let off the hook of leading people or, and the technical experts, still work on the relationships they have with their colleagues because that’s been an important part of working together. But generally, I’m with this whole amnesty thing. I think we’ve been trying too long to persuade too many people to lead, when they don’t really want to.

Cathryn: Yeah. And why is it that so far management has assumed to be a promotion to people?

Perry: In my view, hierarchy. So the organizational chart says, you know, “Success means you go up,” whereas actually what I’m starting to see now is a few companies going, “Let’s not have that shape. Let’s have a flatter way of doing things. And then we can find our rightful place that isn’t necessarily in a pyramidal structure.” I genuinely think that’s what’s caused a lot of it.

Cathryn: Okay. Thanks a lot. Onto number four. Corporate transparency will give new impetus to the diversity and inclusion agenda. So 70% of HR professionals CIPHR surveyed said they expected transparency in corporate governance to influence their plans in 2018. And a separate survey found that 77% of UK business professionals expect organizations to lose staff over the results of their gender pay gap reports. And so the questions we have here are what happens on gender after the reports are published and how can HR push forward the wider D&I agenda? Kathryn, what do you think is the next stage in many organizations after these reports come out?

Kathryn: I think it’s a very, very good question and my honest view is I don’t think it’s a question which enough organizations have given thought to. They’ve been very focused on the corporate governance, which is to publish the figures. That’s getting done. And we’ve seen the statements which go alongside this because there’s talk about what’s being done. But my personal view from the ones that I’ve read so far is we are snipping at this issue around the edges whereas if we look at what our average gender pay gap is…and this is true and, you know, that the focus is on reporting agenda. But it’s true that there are also challenges in other areas of diversity within our business. This is something we need to make a wholesale change on, you know. It’s not enough to say, “We’re going to do a women leaders program and try and promote more women.”

We are still going to be snipping around the edges. The clear issue is that women and people of all minorities are not progressing into those senior roles. To change that it comes back to my view. We have to make a wholesale change to how we work, when we work, where we work, and what those roles, how we design them, what do they look like? We’ve got to stop valuing traditionally stereotypically male traits over those which are more stereotypically female and get that balanced because we know all the statistics are there. A more diverse organization directly leads to productivity and achievement of corporate goals. But this is about wholesale change. And I think any organization thinking they can just put in a couple of programs and try to promote more women…that is not going to change the position we’re in right now.

Cathryn: Perry, are the people you are speaking making efforts in this area linked with the reports or are you not seeing evidence of that so far?

Perry: I think there’s…again, I used the word intent. I think I’m seeing a lot of intent. Now that…if you want the kinda lid’s off this one in the right way and I think Kathryn’s hit on some fantastic points. We’ve been kinda dancing around the edges of this and now I think we’re smashing into it head long. Thank goodness for that. So I think, you know, people are almost getting a sense from the ones I’m talking to like, “How great. Now we can talk about it a bit more openly and not quite guardedly.” So there is a consequence to that because there will be some damage and some fallout and there will be some, you know, things that companies would rather not have to address that they’re now gonna have to address. But it’s about time.

So yes, I’m getting a sense that people are relieved that, that is now a subject you can talk about without having to be a bit cautious or looking like you’re sort of waving a particular lobbyist agenda. And now it’s just an unfair, not right, thing that’s happened up to now so how do we make it fairer and put it right? I think I’m seeing people wanting to ask those questions. And I think we still need the top team to actually really genuinely understand when HR’s knocking on its door saying, “This is not right.” What the consequences and potential damage both reputationally and psychologically, humanly and economically, of course…if they don’t put it right, that’s what will happen.

Cathryn: Is there a risk that other faucets of diversity inclusion will get overlooked because they’re not gonna be reported on?

Perry: Yes is the short answer to that. And I think again, where we make our case, I think we have to look at a number of different…it goes back to the evidence question. We need to show the potential cause of a lack of, you know, affirmative and right kind of action on this one. But yeah. I mean, you know, so if we obsess over one aspect of diversity and inclusion, then by nature we are almost deprioritizing others. And I think we have to say, “What’s the right human being thing to do?” And that includes a number of different features, of which this is one of them.

Cathryn: And Kathryn, what tactics would you recommend for HRs who want to kind of persuade their senior leaders that this is something that should be top of mind this year?

Kathryn: Sure. And Perry’s spot on. You have got to get that top team on board, you know. HR can facilitate that. But ultimately, to see the whole cell change, we need every single business leader out there to be signed up and want to do this. And it comes back to what we were talking about earlier which is it’s about the evidence. All the statistics are out there proving that greater diversity in our workforce leads to greater productivity. It leads to lower [inaudible 00:21:34] turnover. It leads to greater retention rates, etc., etc. So I think it’s really starting to for each and every organization painting that picture of what not making those changes is going to lead to. It’s showing the output. That’s what’s key.

Cathryn: Okay, thank you. So item number five. We’re onto data protection and we expect the GDPR will change HR’s attitude towards employee data. This, of course, comes into effect in May 2018, as you should know already. Fines for data breaches will rise to a maximum of 20 million euros or 4% of an organization’s turnover, whoever is greater. Eighty nine percent of HR professionals in the CIPHR survey said data protection will be a focus for 2018. So we wanna know what impact will this regulation have on how HR collects and stores employee data and how can HR encourage a data security-aware culture. Kathryn, can you help us with those?

Kathryn: Yeah, so I think, you know, sort of from…everything’s [inaudible 00:22:31] GDPR. And at Benefex we are very data focused culture, which is a huge advantage. I think the biggest change for HR is gonna be about stopping keeping unnecessary data and, you know, if I look at my time in the profession certainly when I was in my first HR role we were…we had it drilled into us that, you know, if it’s evidence-based especially, you kept it, stored, collect, etc., etc. And now it’s almost about minimizing the unnecessary retention of data.

So I think it’s a really positive thing for the professional. I think there is gonna be a big administrative hurdle for organizations to jump through this year to get their houses in order. But there’s nothing in the regulations which should scare organizations. There’s nothing which is unreasonable or outrageous. It is about sensible data retention, secure data retention. And most organizations who have been looking after their employee data correctly will already have their houses in order for this. It is simply gonna be about, you know, making sure you fall in line with the regulations.

Cathryn: Okay. And as you said, the organizations deals with a lot of data anyway. So can you tell me about the data security culture that you have here?

Kathryn: Yeah, so absolutely. So, you know, data is our business. It’s what we do. We wouldn’t have our business, if we weren’t able to look after that data correctly. So there’s a huge focus right from employees joining our organization that they are trained, they are inducted, they go through mandatory security training, which talks about the importance of keeping personal data safe, secure, handling it correctly, retention periods, etc., etc. We also make it very clear to employees that this isn’t a responsibility of our security team or HR team. Every single person who works with Benefex has a responsibility for that data and that is ingrained to the business from day one. You could go up to any one of our employees and they would be able to tell you, you know, what we do to keep our data safe. And that does make it [inaudible 00:24:14] easy when it comes to the GDPR but we have already got [inaudible 00:24:17] already covered.

Cathryn: Fantastic. And thank you. And Perry, do you have any advice to add around this cultural aspect of data protection?

Perry: I think just to underscore what Kathryn said, I’m getting the sense that the people I’m talking to in HR are taking it seriously, but they’re not panicking. It hasn’t hit them like a ball out of the blue and it’s work and effort that there’s a genuine understanding of the [inaudible 00:24:38]. so I don’t see anybody even rebelling or running away from this. And as a result of it, I think yeah, it’s creating a culture of actually we need to be a bit more attentive to the way we manage the information we have that is sensitive and we need to have a duty of care-over. And I suppose the only thing I’d like to add, I suppose, to create a bit more awareness is that this is an opportunity to say to people, “This is how we’re looking after your data as an organization and let us help you learn how to look after our data and your own when you’re outside of the organization.”

So, you know, privacy and security controls for using their own social networks or their own data or whatever it is. I think there’s a good trade-off here. The more savvy they get with doing that in their everyday life, the better they’ll be at guarding and being the sort of first point of defense for us when it comes to security issues for the workplace data. So yeah, I think there’s a good opportunity to make this a useful conversation and I guess it’s brought data protection into the realms of being absolutely necessary, not just kind of lowdown ticking box.

Cathryn: Yeah, definitely. I think there’s definitely some scope for supporting employees to be more aware of what they’re doing with data and how other organizations might be storing their information. Then that kinda feeds back to their company too which is great.

Perry: Yep, yep.

Cathryn: Okay. Item number six. We expect HR to realize that employees are humans too. Nearly 80% of people surveyed by CIPHR said they expected to be influenced by humanization in HR this year. We’re seeing a growing trend with moving from viewing employees as units of production to individuals with different wants and needs. So the questions to the panel are why is HR starting to figure this out now and how could this realization change HR practice? Perry, your thoughts on these?

Perry: Yeah. I mean, I’ve got a grin ear to ear on this one. It’s almost like an irony, isn’t it, that we have to say that HR’s come to the realization that people are humans. Do you know what I mean? However, I think what we’ve done…if we look at the journey from industrial relations and personnel into HR and the kind of an evolution beyond that, we are much more insightful now about what it means to be a person who just also happens to be an employee on your payroll. And I think we’ve seen some successes of outlier organization who we look at fondly. It is a vessel economically and how come?

Oh, they just happened to also have a very humanist approach to the way they engage their people and[inaudible 00:27:04]. These are people who are going away from, you know, machine like epidologies of, like 9:00 to 5:00 or, you know, a four-working day week to promotion [inaudible 00:27:15], all those kinds of things. There are companies going, “We’re gonna break all those rules. You know, human beings don’t fit into that routine every single day of their lives.” Now I think there’s been a growing intent that we have to deal with the complexity that isn’t to people’s liking.

I think I’m seeing a bit more attention being paid to things like, you know, how we understand psychology, how we understand workplace, the physical impacts on how people feel. How they feel and how productive they are, are actually linked.

Cathryn: Yeah, fantastic. Thanks very much. Kathryn, what do you…what’s your view on this? How could this change HR as we know it?

Kathryn: Yeah, so I think Perry’s right. You know, in some ways HR kinda goes through these cycles and we went from, you know, very light, fluffy personnel, both very fixed on spending time with people. We then went to kind of the HR revolution and we got heavily entrenched in data and probably did start to really focus on, you know, that, you know, resource side of things and I think we’re just kinda coming back out at the other side of that curve now. You know, this to me is all about the employee experience and I think, you know, finally…for so long, we banged on about employee engagement and we just didn’t really know how to improve it.

We brought in employee engagement experts and nothing’s changed. But suddenly there is…it has been a light bulb moment I think for the industry. People are starting to understand that everything our friends in marketing are doing when it comes to customer experience we need to be recreating when it comes to our people. And I think the realization is there and the reason that we’re seeing action being taken is very quickly organizations are working out that when it comes to the war for talent, which is as fierce as it’s ever been over the last however many decades, people are not going to stand to work for an organization who doesn’t treat them like human beings. I mean, we all wanna come somewhere where we feel we can make a real difference, where we feel like our opinions are counted and valued, that we can drive change, that we can positively influence things.

There are common denominators for every single one of us in the workplace. So this is all about the employee experience and I believe that, you know, there’s some heavy compliance stuff that HR’s got to do in 2018. We need to get [inaudible 00:29:15] GDPR. We’ve gotta go through that, etc. But beyond that. the focus is gonna be, and I think, learning some lessons from what we’ve seen in marketing, how the best organizations out there delivered that amazing customer experience. That’s what we need to be focusing on. That’s what we need to be replicating in order to get the best people and to keep them, as well.

Cathryn: Yeah. It feels like employees have a much higher expectation of what they want from an employer now because they can demand more from people who supply them in other areas. So we’ve got things like Amazon Prime delivery straight to your door. You can be anytime, anywhere, ordering online or talking to big corporations through social media and they want employers to act with them in the same way.

Kathryn: Absolutely. And I think the irony of all of this is…as I think employers and employees actually want the same things. But employees want to come into a nice working environment where they’re able to make a difference. Employers want to be able to attract the best people who are able to come in and make a difference. We’re kinda all saying the same thing. We just need to work out how we get there as quickly as possible.

Cathryn: Okay. Fantastic. Onto number seven. As automation extends its influence, an imperative to future proof skills will emerge. Eighty five percent of those surveyed by CIPHR said they expect to focus on future proofing skills in the next 12 months and a recent PWC report found that up to a third of UK jobs could be at risk from artificial intelligence by the 2030s. So the questions for our panel are what jobs or tasks are most at risk from automation, do employees have a moral responsibility to prepare workers for the future of work, and how on Earth can we plan for what’s coming next? Perry, perhaps you can start with tackling the first one of those.

Perry: For sure, yeah. So I think there’s a rule of thumb out there by a number of research institutes, which will tell you that, you know, if the work has a very linear pathway as in the decision making processes, if then, then that job is likely to go. So I think it’s where you’re dealing with the complexities of uncertainty, human creativity, those kinds of things, those seem to be the safer roles. And so, you know, that includes things like accountancy. And that includes things like certain elements of the law. So I think, you know, where information is assembled in order to create a solution, those roles are as much at risk as, you know, machines in packing and distribution and self-driving vehicles. So what drives it is this research that proves the way you can automate tasks is 70% cheaper to then administer that work by automated route rather than human route. So, the economics again are gonna drive a lot of that. So, anything that’s got that trail is at risk. Anything that’s a bit more complicated, you’re probably safe.

Cathryn: Okay. Thanks so much. Kathryn, onto question two. Do employees have a moral responsibility to help their workers ready for this kind of change?

Kathryn: Well, I think really that’s what we were just talking about, which is that employee experience. It is that psychological contract. I think it’s about transparency and actually, it’s okay to say to our work forces that we don’t have all the answers right now. You know, let’s not pretend that we’ve got these crystal balls here. None of us exactly know what the result of automation will be. Perry’s right. I think you can start to plan for it. You know, typically we’ve looked at organization design maybe one year out. We’re gonna need to start to look at that 3, 5, and even 10 years out.

But I think it’s just about a continued transparency and openness and not saying that we’ve got all the answers. [inaudible 00:32:33]. You know, we also look at the papers. We all understand that change is coming and we also understand that that change isn’t clearly defined. But if we create that cultureness of openness and transparentness, A, it ensures that our psychological contract remains intact. Als,o it gives our workers the chance to support us as we move forward in terms of actually helping us to understand what’s coming next, being part of that change, being part of that revolution, and being in the best possible place to then perhaps become some of the new skill sets, which will be needed as we automate certain roles.

Cathryn: You would hope that employees who are on the front line who are doing their jobs will start to realize how their jobs are changing and be able to feed that back to HR better than HR could [inaudible 00:33:11].

Kathryn: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Cathryn: Perry, would you have anything to add about how organizations can start to think about maybe doing scenario planning or some kind of longer-term org design work?

Perry: I think without Kathryn’s starting point it gets really difficult. So I think as an organization, you need to commit and maybe that is through HR and say, “Look, you know, we’ve got some challenging times ahead. So, let’s see how can we come together and share information.” And I think the critical thing then is if you’re a…and let’s say you’re a company that’s got 700 employees. You’ve got 700 pairs of eyes and ears and brains that can actually be looking out for the things that are gonna be the right kind of opportunity to change.

Listen for the danger signs about what could be automated. And then use the brains to engage the, “How could we either redesign the job? How can we go into a different market space? It’s gotta be automated,” whatever it might be. So I think this is shared responsibility here. It’s up to the boardroom and HR to keep an eye on robots taking jobs and redesigning because it takes everybody together to go, “What do we wanna do that’s better as a result of automation that comes along?” So I think to deny that responsibility is just a little bit too passive for me and let’s engage everybody, almost like crowdsource our way into the future.

Cathryn: Yeah, I don’t think we can survive this by going at it alone. I think collaboration’s gonna be really important to kind of understand what’s happening and how we can adapt. Humans don’t have a very good history of going at it alone. So, we need to work together on this.

Perry: Exactly.

Cathryn: Okay. Onto our last prediction. HR will stop worrying about how it’s perceived and start doing what it believes is right. HR professionalism is on the 2018 agenda for four-fifths of people CIPHR surveyed. And obviously, perceptions of aggression have long been front-of-mind. Many people will remember the front cover I’m showing on the screen from “Harvard Business Review” a couple of years ago where an author posited that it was time to grow up, HR. But what does professionalism actually mean? Does it matter and will HR ever stop worrying about what other business leaders think about us? Kathryn, what does this mean to you and does it matter?

Kathryn: So I’m totally the wrong person to ask about this because I have a real personal problem with HR’s obsessive [inaudible 00:35:21] about what it’s called and whether it has a seat at the boardroom table and whether it’s had enough. I don’t know any other profession that does this. My personal view on this, and I realize it’s not necessarily a view shared by others, is it doesn’t matter whether we’re professionals, whether we’re practitioners. What matters is what we are delivering to the business, the value that we are delivering.

That’s what matters ultimately, not what name we were, whether we were chief of HR offices or chief people offices or personnel directors. It’s what we are delivering to the business. I think every moment that we spend worrying what the business thinks of us and whether we’re driving enough value is time which takes away from us driving value. So while the theory behind it is interesting, I do think that, you know, as a professional, we have got to stop getting hung up in this, “Are we adding enough value,” and go out and deliver that value and provide the evidence that proves we’re delivering enough value. And then all of those questions will go away.

Cathryn: Perry, your thoughts on this?

Perry: I think it matters. I think we’ve perhaps been a bit apologetic in certain areas. Like Kathryn says, we’ve been a little bit self-obsessed in areas. I think we’ve been sometimes perhaps even a little bit almost like self-effacing in areas. What I’m seeing is a group of HR professionals that maybe don’t gravitate towards. They’re probably seeing more of them every week who are going, “I am responsible for driving a significant impact at the company or the organization I work for.” And they’re owning that change in terms of [inaudible 00:36:47] with people over things like, you know, budget or methodology or whatever. I’m seeing a much braver approach.

And I think we are probably…I think it’s our time now. I think all those things we talked about, productivity and all that kinda stuff, technology, whatever… I think we’re now saying actually people made a difference. We are responsible for helping people make a difference. So let’s not apologize anymore. Just get on with it with some real conviction and some real good evidence. And I think I’m seeing that. So professionalism, if that’s what it looks like, I’m behind that every step of the way.

Cathryn: Okay, great, fantastic. And so that brings us to the end of our eight key predictions. But there’s loads of stuff we haven’t talked about, of course. So not to mention Brexit, the gig economy, the so-called war for talent, millennials, another term that we love to hate, appraisals and performance management, and mental health and well-being more widely. Kathryn, what, for you, are the glaring omissions here?

Kathryn: Yeah, so I think it goes back to kinda what Perry said at the start, which is there is a lot of compliance and there is a lot of must do’s in 2018, which are really, really key in terms of making sure that they happen, you know. We know that [inaudible 00:37:53] pay reporting, regulations. Se know that there will be noncompliance in PR. We know that we’re gonna be fighting a continual war to get and keep the best people into our organizations. So I think that this is where some of these areas and probably others that aren’t mentioned on here starts to essentially kinda fall down. I don’t think that it’s the desire isn’t there.

It’s just that there is a finite amount of time to focus on some of these things. So I think funneling out of some of those things, we will start to address some of these. So when we get…you know, when we are delivering that great, great experience that starts to address the war for talent. When we know we’re compliant we can tick off compliance boxes and we can focus more time on value-add. So for me I’m seeing this 2018 as a year of two halves, which is first half of 2018 is some compliance boxes that have got to be ticked. The second half of 2018 is then how do we build on that? And how do we ultimately deliver a great place for people to work where they can give it their best and be as productive as they possibly can?

Cathryn: Yeah, great. Perry, what do you think about this year of two halves concept?

Perry: I get it totally and I think that is it. And I think we are probably in a position where we…you know, we know that in ’19, there’s potentially some kind of Brexit decision that needs to be taken and I think we’re obviously gonna get ourselves as ready as we can for that. But equally, I get the sense that we also need to be adaptable. So I think we are now getting into position where we don’t fix our plan so much. We know that there’s some fluidity to them. So I guess that’s…I totally agree with that two halves of a year. And the only three things I’d add to these are perhaps less almost, like, you now, tagged things.

But I think we should focus on our development. I think we should pay huge attention to how skillful we are and what we know and, you know, how strong we can position ourselves to be that adaptable force, which then fuels our energy because I think we need to be the most energetic resource within the work place because we’ve got so many things that get our heads around and lots of issues to resolve. And that then means we should build relationships [inaudible 00:39:47] inside, outside, within the profession and that kind of stuff. So we ought to focus on those three things, as well, whether we’re in compliance mode or whether we’re in creative mode.

Cathryn: Okay. Thanks very much, right. Now, we have time to move onto your questions and comments. So the first one we’ve had in asked, “When we talk about what HR believes is right, who do you mean that’s right for, the organization, the profession, the employee or all of the above?” Kathryn, can you tackle that one? That’s really related to our last trend, number eight.

Kathryn: Yeah, so it’s a great question and it goes back to my point, which is actually I think we’ve kind of all seen who’s [inaudible 00:40:24]. We kinda all want the same things. Organizations want to be productive and delivering. Employees want to go work for great organization, which is productive and delivering, a great organization which allows our employees to be productive and deliver is great for the business, great for employees and great for the HR team because ultimately we facilitated that. So I think if we kind of start our year based on how we’re all reading [inaudible 00:40:47] form this, really helps us to finesse and focus those, you know, those processes that we’re bringing into place.

Cathryn: Fantastic. And Perry, hopefully you can help me with our second question. Jemma [SP] asked, “The gender pay gap will always be there if we continue to offer salaries to candidates based on the candidates current pay. How should we be deciding what salary to offer successful candidates?” And this is really interesting. There’s been some stuff in the news recently about Amazon in the U.S. saying that they’re not going to ask about candidates’ previous salaries because they think that it’s harming their gender pay gap.

Perry: Well, I think all that’s just prejudicial, yeah. And when you wanna start a new habit, you have to almost sometimes just completely cull what you did before in order to start out fresh. So I think that’s almost where we need to be. So, I mean, the moral sort of crusader in me would like people to almost, like, just completely pause everything to do with pay and just have a really big sweep around it and bring it all up to level footing. And then you don’t have that problem anyway. But I think we’re gonna let this one roll out over the course of…well, I guess people would sorta say evolution.

But yeah. I mean, you know, why do we obsess about that anyway? Do we not know what this person’s worth? So why do we need to worry about what they were paid before? And I think we just go, you know, “Here’s the deal. Here’s the economic proposition. How does that sit with you? Let’s get talking.” So I think it’s a cleaner way of doing it to start from a perspective of, “I don’t need to know that information. I know what this role is worth.” Otherwise it becomes a stupid game of poker. So let’s not do that anymore.

Cathryn: Okay. Kathryn, would you have any ideas about that?

Kathryn: Yeah, I agree. I think it does come back to…I think historically, we’ve been guilty as an industry of using people’s previous salary as a lazy way of doing reward design. It’s been almost a way to avoid doing the work. And we need to actually properly do that design work when it comes to our reward strategy that says, “Actually, what is this role’s value within our organization?” And then you’re right. Then you get away from that and I’d like to say I hope that we will move towards [inaudible 00:42:44] jobs are and just advertise transparently with A, this is the flat salary rate and it doesn’t matter whether you’re [inaudible 00:42:50] 20,000 pounds or 100,000 pounds. That’s I think…if we were aiming for that, then I’m optimistic that we can get that. But it will mean wholesale change.

Cathryn: Yeah, definitely. And I think we…I see so few job adverts these days with transparent salaries. They are the ones that stand out in the market place. So I think it’s gonna take a few brave organizations to actually kinda spark that change and to encourage more to do the same. Yep.

Okay. I have a question from Grace here who asked, “If the contributors had to identify just one of these trends as biggest for 2018, which one would they choose?” And I’d also add and why. So Kathryn, which one would be your must-do?

Kathryn: It’s a really good question. Okay, so if we take GDPR compliance to one side because we know that’s got to happen, I think if we look at the trend, probably the biggest in terms of wholesale change for our working environment to me it is down to the employee experience because that encompasses so much, the humanization of employees, working patterns, how, when, where we work, productivity. That kinda sort of, you know, covers all of those things. So for me, that’s the big thing. That’s the big opportunity that we have this year.

Cathryn: Okay. Perry, what would be top of your list?

Perry: So, I’d back that one. So therefore. what I think may consequentially happen because of that one…because I think often if you use that one as your primary driver, other things would eventually start to be challenged and changed. So, I think it’s that one about technical experts and tyranny of line management. There’s so much that I think is at fault with the world of work due to some really, really poor management behaviors and practices. I think, you know, you could get rid of a whole load of tension, if that happens. I think humanization is your first point, which I think naturally leads to this kind of eradication of the, you know, the awful toxic leaders. So yes. Let’s see that happen.

Cathryn: Okay, great. We have a question here from Tim who says, “Financial well-being is being talked about more and more. Where do you see organizations accessing the resources, advice, support, and material that employees need?” Is that something you support Benefex employees with, Kathryn?

Kathryn: I was going to say [inaudible 00:44:45]. That’s what we do really well. But I do think it’s a key point that actually, you know, as we’ve seen in these areas, whether it’s financial well-being, whether it’s mental health, those kind of areas, I think organizations need to not feel concerned about bringing in specialists to talk about these areas, that, you know, it is getting more and more complex, things that we need to support employees with. And actually, I think coming and talking to an organization such as ourselves, we’d like that specialist advice. It’s a sensible thing to do. We can’t expect our HR practitioners to suddenly become experts in all of these areas. So it’s about I think understanding where the right sources of information are and then being able to make sort of a considered choice on which one of those you choose to use.

Cathryn: Perry, have you done any work on this at all or spoken to anybody about this?

Perry: I haven’t. I mean, I’d say…so I’d start with the point that I, you know, I recognize the current economic system is a little bit broken. But it’s the one we’ve got. So therefore when something’s broken, you have to help people deal with that sort of, you know, inadequacy in system/ Sp. it’s really important. I’m not directly involved in anything. But I do recognize just how a significant effect this is on how the relationship between an employee and its employer can be almost framed. So, if it’s through openness and a real kinda supportive mechanism here, that could be just the sanctuary they need to help them with a whole number of facets for the rest of their life, which probably start falling apart, if I haven’t got their financial stuff right..

Cathryn: Okay. Thanks very much. And our next question. So something that we’ve touched on is the importance of metrics to helping HR engage senior leaders with their priorities. Are there any other tips and techniques for helping HR engage wider organizations, employees, senior leaders with their priorities [inaudible 00:46:30], wherever those priorities are? Kathryn, can you help us?

Kathryn: Yeah, so I think it’s about creating a joined up road map, which is very clear about what the organizational strategy is. How does that then sort of flow down through to individual departments and then how does that then cascade down to individuals? So for me to deliver maximum productivity? From everything we’ve talked about, that includes employees want to be treated as adults, wanting to be made to feel like they can make a tangible change. I as an individual need to understand how does…what I’m [inaudible 00:46:58] influence what’s my thought strategy and influence what the business is trying to achieve. I think if we give our employees that level of transparency, that can hugely help on our drive to be more productive because all of a sudden if they know that’s what we’re striving for when they find themselves wasting time on non-value added activities, they’re gonna start to call that out. So it comes back to that collaborative approach. But we’ve got to be transparent with the organization in order to get to that point.

Cathryn: Perry, what would you add here?

Perry: I mean, I get it. I’m underscoring everything Kathryn said there because I think, you know, organizations are socialized constructs. We’ve just prevented some of that from happening, with structures and procedures and hierarchical component levels. But I think that’s exactly what you do. You make the…it’s a normative thing to do. You make it they’re actually talking about the direction of travel for your organization and the impacts of a political decision or, you know, another sort of economic event or whatever.

Open the discussion on it and understand it and co-deliver and plot something of a way forward in the future. And I’m a big fan of things like employee ownership which is where, you know, companies are actually owned by their employees. And that has a huge impact on how sustainable these organizations become because everybody’s in it for the right reasons. So I think the more you socialize it, the more it becomes something that everybody actively participates in and then it’s a joint effort, for sure.

Cathryn: Okay. Thanks very much. We have another question relating to productivity, somebody asking, “What sorts of activities or initiatives can HR kick off that will start driving productivity quite specifically?” Perry, would you have any ideas here?

Perry: I think yeah. I would actually. So I think it’s almost like you’ve gotta be really, really critical about where you think your productivity leakage is or, you know, kind of obstacles are and if that’s an attitude, then you call that out. If that’s in real bad process, then you call that out as well. So I’ll give you an example that I often quote here. You know, sometimes you might need to get three people’s permission to spend 50 pounds on some stationery. But you can call a meeting with about 11 senior executives that probably costs you about 14,000 pounds.

You don’t need anybody’s permission to do that. And it’s almost like, you know, we need to have a better sense of accountability, responsibility for wastage here. So I’d start with that. I’d start with, you know, HR talks to people who are, you know, seeing obstructions or experiencing hemorrhages and leakages and try to plug those gaps by working with teams who can then go in and, you know, problem solve. So yeah. I do that. But again. you only do that when you have dialogue with people who are right in the thick of the work.

Cathryn: Yeah. And Kathryn, is there a case for HR role modeling more efficient, more productive way of working, and not doing these non-value add meetings and that way kind of inspiring change?

Kathryn: Definitely. And I think this is very much about HR coming out of the…maybe not the ivory tower, but certainly their little corner office with their closed door and getting actually out into the thick of the departments and really understanding how the business works. The most successful value-adding HR teams that I see out there are those which don’t just understand how their people kind of operate in business, but actually what the business does. Where are the real pressure points. Where are the challenges? Where are we not moving as efficiently as we can> Where are all the pain points of people?

And then it’s about HR really building that culture of transparency kind of to Perry’s point which is all about, you know…for example, we have something at Benefex where every month anybody who wants to can ask a question. They can do it anonymously if they want to and submit it. And every single question which is asked, we will stand up in front of the organization and discuss that. And sometimes it will be a question and sometimes it will be about, “We’re doing this process that I don’t think is very efficient. And actually if we did it like this, wouldn’t that be a great idea?” And sometimes that might. But sometimes it might not. But it gives people I guess that ownership to be able to call out as examples. So it’s getting to the heart and the [inaudible 00:50:48] of the organization. And then it’s building that culture of completely transparency where people are rewarded for [inaudible 00:50:55] thought.

Cathryn: Yeah, absolutely. If we reviewed this list at the end of the year, Perry, where do you expect most progress to have been made?

Perry: I think the heat really is on things like GDPR definitely. I think surprisingly, we might find a few more of them raising themselves up the list because they’re too important to human beings to not tackle. So I think we’ll get some pressure on things like sexual harassment and fair treatment and so on. So I think they might go up. But I guess that some of the human things will find their way into success measures. And so we will report on them and show the impact of them.

Cathryn: Okay. Thanks so much. Kathryn, where would you hope or expect us to make much work?

Kathryn: Yeah. I would echo what Perry said. And there will be some compliance boxes which are ticked. But for me the real opportunity is all about the humanization side of things. And ultimately, I think if we can all end this year having created organizations which are delivering more [inaudible 00:51:54] at the same time, it will be better for the people who are working within them. Then we can make a huge step forward into what I believe the future of work is going to become.

Cathryn: Yep, let’s hope so. So, sadly, we’ve reached the end of our broadcast today so it just remains for me to thank Kathryn and Perry for such an informed and informative discussion today. Thanks also to HR software providers [inaudible 00:52:16] and experience experts Benefex for co-hosting this webinar. And finally a big thanks to you, our audience, for tuning in and sharing your comments and questions with us. We hope you’ve enjoyed the past hour and it’s given you some food for thought for the coming year. If you’ve got any feedback for us, we’re all on Twitter. So, do get in touch. Our handles are on the screen. Thanks again for tuning in and have a great day.

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