Digital Workplace

The Digital Workplace – What’s Ahead

The pandemic has affected the way we live and work and accelerated our transition to the digital world. In 2020, 30% of employees were working remotely, and 60% had the opportunity to combine remote and office work. Companies had to rethink their development strategies and create digital workplaces (DW) so that employees could work safely from home. Two years later, with vaccines helping to restrain the pandemic and offices reopening, organizations have to reimagine their digital environment to keep the office and remote workers connected.

So what is happening with the digital workplace in 2022 and how can managers adapt to the new realities?

The Concept of a Digital Workplace

This term has been around for over 10 years since DWG founder Paul Miller coined it. The businessman explained it as the virtual digital equivalent of a physical workplace.

It is also regarded as a business ecosystem of technologies and cloud solutions that:

  • Eliminates communication barriers between departments.
  • Provides remote secure access to corporate data.
  • Allows you to work remotely with documentation and easily share files.
  • Helps to communicate with colleagues who connect from different locations.

To build and use a digital workplace, you need a whole range of tools:

  • Business applications
  • Communication platforms
  • Personnel management software
  • Software for sharing documentation 
  • Cloud storage tools
  • Content management systems
  • Productivity tools and other technologies

Various programs and applications create the digital workplace infrastructure.

The concept of a digital workplace

Source: scnsoft.com

The digital workplace creates a virtual hub. Employees complete tasks, no matter where they are or what devices they are using. Expanding the boundaries of offices happens due to cloud platforms. They allow specialists to connect to their workplaces over the network.

Why Do You Need a Digital Workplace?

The digital workplace has become not so much a necessity, but a steppingstone for business development. The popularity of smartphones and the introduction of AI and digital tools have prepared people for a new format of work. There have appeared new categories of applications for communication between employees of distributed teams. The transition to the gig economy has made it possible for businesses to hire specialists from any location in the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated these trends. Consequently, businesses have had to scale up their digital workplaces at short notice. Some firms managed to reduce the transition from a couple of years to just weeks. The digital workplace has helped to keep businesses afloat amid isolation and social distancing. In a unified digital workplace infrastructure employees were able to quickly resolve important issues. They could:

  • Coordinate and store documents. Before lockdowns and quarantines, employees had to personally come to their colleagues to approve and sign documents. During remote work, organizations switched to online coordination via email, instant messenger, or through special software like Power Automate.
  • Schedule meetings. A unified digital workspace allows you to view the schedule of colleagues (vacation, business trips), coordinate the schedule for booking meeting rooms, and plan joint video meetings.
  • Manage corporate data. Software solutions provide synchronization of data and files used remotely by several employees. Platforms ensure that every worker has up-to-date information that they can access at any time and from any device.
  • Work on a flexible schedule. Fixed work hours are becoming obsolete. For enterprises, it is not the place and time of work that matter, but quality and efficiency. In the digital workplace, employees have 24/7 access to corporate tools and data.
  • Find the necessary information. Often corporate data and files are stored in different systems: in the cloud, or on a server. Employees have to spend minutes/hours searching for the right document. There are no search problems in the digital workplace. Separate tools like DokoniFind help them to find files of any format from different sources.

As a result, 44% of employees began to work faster, while maintaining an optimal work-life balance. According to Statista, business leaders plan to keep at least 10% of their employees “in a remote location”. This is not surprising, because businessmen see the economic benefits of this format of work. According to the survey, 72% of US managers plan to invest in virtual collaboration tools to support hybrid workflow.

What Organizations Achieved in 2020-2021

The pandemic has forced companies to either build digital workplaces from scratch or upgrade the old ones to carry out the transition to remote work. And in 2020-2021, organizations performed a large-scale transformation of jobs. They:

  • Implemented a model of work “from anywhere”. Many enterprises did not have a ready plan for how to go remote. But they quickly found point solutions on how to support hybrid workflow.
  • Moved to the cloud. When the majority of employees needed to go remote, organizations had to migrate to the cloud. Specialists could not access corporate data if the data center was in the office. The cloud guarantees that employees will work smoothly: the server will not fail, and the data will not be lost.
  • Expanded options for using virtual desktops (VDI). While individual contractors used VDI before the pandemic, more organizations paid attention to this service during the quarantine. Companies considered it the best option for quickly launching a remote work format. At the same time, an employer retains control over data and devices.
  • Implemented tools for video conferencing. Video calls via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Cisco Webex platforms replaced traditional meetings. The culture of video communication has spread everywhere.
  • Used collaboration platforms. Firms found ways to connect remote workers without sacrificing productivity or quality of work. Communication tools Trello, Slack, and Smartsheets have become an integral part of the digital workplace.

In 2020, companies implemented temporary solutions and created “drafts” of the digital workplace. By 2021, organizations had improved the format of remote work and selected the best technologies and tools. By 2022, enterprises had faced new challenges: how to improve and automate well-defined processes, taking into account the fact that employees are returning to the office.

What organizations achieved in 2020-2021

Source: axians.com

The Digital Workplace in 2022 

Over the past two years, people have become accustomed to the digital format, so many of us perceive returning to offices as leaving our comfort zone. According to a survey by the employer platform GoodHire, 68% of employees prefer to work remotely. Gartner found that companies risk losing up to 40% of their talent if they return to a traditional physical office. Therefore, 2022 is in search of a balance between remote and classical ways of working.

1. Organizations are Introducing Hybrid Work Models

In 2020-2021, organizations were creating digital workplaces so that employees could continue to work safely during the pandemic. In 2022, managers are trying to support DW so that employees can opt for a hybrid work schedule, combining work from home and the office.

Gartner researchers advise rescheduling work for a hybrid model, taking into account the following points. It is important to:

  • Give employees more freedom and flexibility so that they can maintain a balance between work and leisure
  • Offer specialists several schedules, taking into account their preferences
  • Manage employees based on empathy

Digital workplaces support hybrid workflows through conference room booking tools, meeting platforms, or collaboration apps.

2. Companies Launch Employee Development Programs

The pandemic has taken many organizations aback as employees were not technically prepared for digital workplaces. Firms had to quickly train specialists so that they could continue to work remotely. Therefore, in 2022, companies are helping their employees to remain flexible and adapt to changing market conditions. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation notes that 13% of Americans do not have the digital skills needed for the 21st century. 18% of people have limited skills. Therefore, organizations need to improve the skills of employees according to corporate programs.

3. Businesses are Strengthening their Cybersecurity Strategies

A centralized digital workplace makes it easier for employees to work but leaves the organization vulnerable to cyber threats. DW has many access points that hackers can use to steal corporate data. Remote tracking of devices is difficult, and remote workers are less protected from phishing and social engineering attacks. Therefore, organizations are strengthening cybersecurity strategies by improving such features as encryption, two-factor authentication, access control, and AI-assisted threat detection.

4. Managers are Looking for Ways to Increase the Engagement of Remote Workers

When, with the onset of the pandemic, employees switched to a remote format, they began to lose contact with their colleagues and felt disconnected from the organization. Despite all the benefits of the digital workplace, the advantages are leveled if the employee’s interest falls. Therefore, in 2022, managers are looking for options on how to strengthen healthy relationships with remote workers. And this is important because an engaged specialist will not quit and work 21% more productively. The digital workplace should be organized in such a way that people communicate seamlessly with colleagues using different services.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, in an interview with Recode, noted that by 2025, about 70% of employees will work remotely for at least five days a month. Therefore, the introduction and development of DW become not a tactical, but a strategic decision. Market Research Engine predicts the digital workspace market will reach $39.60 billion with a CAGR of 30%.

Conclusion

In 2020, we witnessed the historic transition from traditional work culture to a digital workplace. It has brought mobility to the lives of employees, helping them to maintain a comfortable work-life balance. For organizations, this means more productive employees who are free to adjust their schedules. Businesses should continue to invest in the digital workplace because it is an important part of any business development strategy.

Background Screening – What you Need to Know

Podcast Sponsored by: Accurate Background

How is background screening impacted in an increasingly remote-first world of work? No doubt, the pandemic has reshaped the workplace. And in many ways, it’s here to stay. A report by Ladders revealed that by the end of this year, 25% of all jobs in North America will be remote. With that in mind, employers need to adapt their background screening practices to the new normal of remote work.

Our Guest: Chief Compliance Officer at Accurate Background

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with an experienced industry professional and SME on background screening, drug testing, and HR Technology from our special guest, Accurate Background. We asked him to tell us the basics every employer needs to know about background checks. He explains:

The best way to open the conversation today is to remind employers that background screening is heavily regulated. We’re talking about federal laws, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and state laws. These are in addition to the responsibilities that employers have under their federal FCRA and even local laws.

The Range of Background Screening

Both employers and candidates must understand the background screening basics and the different types of background checks.

There’s a wide variety of things that employers utilize throughout the screening process. Criminal history information is one. A subset that we call verifications is another. Verifications range from professional life license verification, employment verification, and education history. And then there are things like drug tests, credit reports, and driving records.

Consent – Yes or No?

Background checks are employers’ principal means of securing information about potential hires from sources other than the applicants themselves. Therefore, we asked if obtaining consent from the candidate is required before conducting a background check.

Oh, it’s required, and it’s required, and it’s required again. So employers, beware. Your disclosure is really a critical piece of the background screening process. If you’re going to do a credit report, tell them you’re doing a credit report. In some states, you also have to tell them why. Criminal history checks, personal or professional reference checks…all need consent.

What if a candidate refuses?

Most employers are conducting background checks contingent on an offer. If the candidate doesn’t want to authorize the background check, they don’t move forward with the process. And employers are well within their rights to leverage that, but they should certainly state it in their policy.

Social Media

Social media sites may seem like easy-to-access information about a potential job candidate. But is it acceptable or ethical for companies to scrutinize social media? What are some of the pitfalls that employers need to avoid?

Employers, hear me now, do not go on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok or even LinkedIn and look at your candidates yourself. That’s a big mistake. You want to engage with a professional organization that is doing this in a manner that is consistent with EEOC guidelines.

A professional social media screen will bring back information about whether or not a person is engaged in activities that could potentially present a risk to the organization. Information to help you make a decision that is ultimately about the true risk to the company and not just a personal opinion or unconscious bias.

The Marijuana Culture Shift

Recent years have seen a significant culture shift in how the use of marijuana is viewed. It’s legal in some states and becoming legal in many others. So what should employers be cautious of here?

There are still federal laws and federal mandates in place for drug testing, where it doesn’t matter what the state law is. Under any law where marijuana is legal, an employer does not have to accommodate use in the workplace. There are a lot of emerging state laws or laws currently in place related to whether or not you can test for marijuana pre-employment. Or whether you can use a positive test result for marijuana in an employment-related decision. But each one of those also has exemptions.

Adapting to the Remote Climate

Background screening shouldn’t take a back seat in this remote work climate. It’s important to understand the risk profile of someone who will be generally unsupervised yet still representing your company.

Take some additional due diligence to ensure that you know who your candidates are, that they’ve done what they say they have done, and that there’s nothing within their risk profile that will be destructive to your company’s reputation.

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. For more information on candidate screening and background check solutions, visit Accurate Background.

And, please mark your calendars! On Wednesday, May 25th from 1:30pm – 2:00pm ET, our #WorkTrends Twitter chat focuses on Background Screening in the Hiring Process, sponsored by Accurate Background.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Be sure to follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on LinkedIn and Facebook, too, for more great conversations!

Mentoring

Mentoring and the Employee Connection

Podcast Sponsored by: Together

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, experts believe that high levels of loneliness and disengagement at work caused by the pandemic could be addressed by mentoring. Additionally, surveys have shown that more than 90% of professionals who work with first-generation college students through mentoring and career development programs believe their experience as a mentor has helped them become better leaders or managers at work.

Our Guest: Matt Reeves

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Matt Reeves, CEO of Together, a software platform focused on enabling companies to run best-in-class internal mentorship programs. Together Software helps organizations run internal mentorship programs that intelligently match every employee with the best person for them to learn from. We asked Matt to tell us what a mentorship program is. He explains:

A mentorship program within an organization is where you’re pairing two colleagues together, usually a more junior employee who’s the mentee with a more senior employee who’s the mentor, for career development and career guidance. Typically, these employees meet on a particular cadence like once a month over a year or even more.

Mentorship programs are becoming more and more in demand by employees who crave a better employee experience and career guidance. In addition, mentorship programs can help companies with employee retention, which helps drive bottom-line results. But, programs are evolving as the workforce changes. Matt:

We’ve seen companies breaking the mold and experimenting with different types of mentorship programs with the common thread being helping their employees learn from their colleagues through conversations.

The Flavors of Mentorship

There are different types of mentorship approaches. Some are more traditional, and some are more out of the box. The best match for a company depends on the needs of the employees.

The traditional approach is a one-on-one program. You have a more senior mentor mentoring a more junior mentee for a specific period. Certainly, peer programs are very common, as well as reverse programs where you have a less senior employee who’s perhaps more experienced in a particular topic mentoring a more senior employee. And then where we see many organizations have a lot of success in breaking the mold is on the duration piece of the program and adding flexibility for the participants.

Benefits for the Mentor and Mentee

Both mentor and mentee have different reasons for wanting to participate in a mentorship program. Matt explains:

I think most people understand why a mentee would want to participate – to learn, develop and progress in their career. I think they want to participate on the mentor side because they are more senior. When you’re more senior in an organization, you are expected to be a people developer and culture carrier.

This is also something participants can bring to performance reviews and use in conversations around promotion and compensation as part of a company’s overall performance assessment of their employees.

Technology and the Mentorship Experience 

Our final question to Matt – we asked him his thoughts on using technology to keep mentors and mentees connected. He answered:

From an administrative standpoint, it significantly reduces the workload. From the employee standpoint, there is a much-improved employee experience. For example, a manual program can take time to match mentor and mentee. Not a great experience if you’re paired with someone who has left the organization. Something easily avoidable if you’re using technology.

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. For tips and ideas on what a mentorship program could look like for your organization, go to togetherplatform.com.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Be sure to follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on LinkedIn and Facebook, too, for more great conversations!

Workforce Expectations

New HR Processes to Meet Workforce Expectations

The Great Resignation was a very real and present concern for HR professionals in 2021. In December alone, 4.3 million workers left their jobs. As the labor pool shrunk and companies faced skill shortages, there was a palpable power shift among employees. Workers knew they were in demand and could ask for more: more flexibility, more money, and more perks. Average hourly earnings have increased 4.8% year over year as a result.

Companies were already faced with competition for talent before the pandemic. This threw HR professionals in even more of a tailspin when they had to find new ways to meet these workforce expectations while developing work-from-anywhere policies practically overnight.

Although the labor force participation rate shows signs of bouncing back in the coming years — in fact, employment is estimated to increase from 153.5 million to 165.4 million by 2030 — HR must come up with innovative ways to attract and retain talented employees if they want to keep up. That means changing their HR processes to meet workforce expectations.

Meeting Workforce Expectations With New HR Processes

With a tight talent pool, HR professionals have to get creative, embrace new technologies, and find fresh ways of attracting and retaining talented employees. To do this, HR teams should stay open-minded to more progressive employment arrangements. This could include using contract, contingent, and gig work. In some instances, they should even consider employing robots, automating HR processes, and reskilling employees. 

As workers’ expectations change regarding work flexibility and other norms, the onus is on HR leaders to update the following HR processes:

1. Productivity Measurement

Gone are the days when measuring employee productivity meant simply looking at an employee’s time card or hours worked. In a work-from-anywhere environment, managers must shift their mindset to managing employees based on results rather than on time spent sitting at a desk.

It’s up to HR to teach managers how to measure and monitor employee productivity without physically seeing them in their chairs. To accomplish this, HR must clearly define job descriptions. Additionally, managers must communicate expectations. Most importantly, HR should encourage managers to let employees have the autonomy they need to do their jobs while still providing coaching on timelines, issues, and opportunities.

2. Pay Practices

Employees want not only the flexibility to work remotely, but also more flexibility as to when they work. Although 70% of executives want to return to the workplace, only 40% of workers do. Organizations that have embraced a remote environment to meet workforce expectations are now faced with the “work from anywhere” problem. Sure, it’s wonderful that employees can live anywhere in the country — or even the world. But, most HR teams are not set up for payroll, benefits, compliance, or taxes everywhere to support this. This can be a major roadblock when it comes to attracting and retaining talented employees.

In addition, HR leaders have to get ahead of questions from employees about cost-of-living adjustments for cities with higher costs of living. What is your philosophy and compensation structure? Does it allow you to attract talent across all markets nationwide? For example, consider tech companies based in San Jose, which is a tech industry hotspot. Should employees get paid more because that’s a high-cost-of-living area? Or not because they have the option to move? These questions can get quite philosophical and are up to your HR team and other company leaders to decide.

3. Onboarding Solutions

For new employees, the “computer setup” checkbox for onboarding has evolved over the years. Just a few decades ago, someone from IT came to connect the new employee’s system and set up their email at their desk. Now, it’s a UPS package delivery. Then, a two-hour phone call where IT instructs the employee on how to set up and configure settings for their workgroup. The employee needs to learn the ins and outs of how to use the collaboration tools and where to find the information needed for the job.

In addition, new employees might never even meet their HR representative in person to complete paperwork. These situations open up a need for remote onboarding tools. Tools that offer e-signature capabilities and advanced cybersecurity to prevent private information from being breached. They also require a solution for remote I-9s. (Current USCIS guidelines still require a person to provide HR with original ID documents to show proof of eligibility to work in the U.S.) Above all, you should determine how to integrate current tech tools with these new tools to make onboarding remote workers smoother for all involved.

4. Career Growth Opportunities for Employees

Even before the pandemic hit, employees looked for development and growth opportunities in their roles — particularly Millennials, who are known to leave jobs that lack such opportunities. HR can encourage employees to stay with the company longer by offering new forms of recognition and benefits, like upskilling.

Now, more than ever, employees want to know what competencies they need to learn to grow in the organization. They also want to know how these skills will benefit them in their future careers. To meet this need, work with managers to understand the competencies required for each role. Outline a clear path from one position to the next on the hierarchy.

Workforce Expectations for the Future

Meeting changing workforce expectations to mitigate the labor shortage requires updated HR processes that follow new trends in HR practices. Although this HR transformation process can seem overwhelming, the benefits will pay dividends in attracting and retaining talented employees — and securing your company’s future growth.

     

Unification of HR Systems

Unification of HR Systems – Set Up for Success

Podcast Sponsored by: Tydy

Considering a new HR system for your company? Finding the right HR system has become a critical piece to a successful, thriving business. In order to support a company’s talent strategy, there are several distinct types of HR systems available. It might seem difficult to select which one is best for your organization. This is a critical choice because HR systems that contribute to a good employee experience are 1.3 times more likely to perform better. And, who doesn’t want their business to perform well? 

Our Guest: Kiran Menon

In this episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, we unpack the important topic of HR systems with Kiran Menon, the CEO, and co-founder of Tydy. Tydy is an employee experience solution that connects, unites, and automates HR processes and technologies. During his 17 years of experience in consulting and sales, he has worked across multiple locations, leading teams in Europe, the US, and Asia. Kiran states:

“Tydy actually started from an onboarding perspective. What we are doing is we really went out there and reimagined onboarding and redefined what onboarding meant for large enterprises. Our focus is on employers with about 5,000 plus employees. Tydy moved them from cumbersome weeklong processes to quick, simple, and verified onboarding in seconds.”

How Has Technology Impacted the Way HR is Managed?

In the last two years, companies have faced an increased need for better software and improved processes throughout the digital space. With many work teams working remotely from a variety of places, there has been a surge of software options to optimize and manage complex HR procedures across businesses. Kiran explains:

“There’s been a huge proliferation of multiple apps in the workplace. Suddenly post-April 2020 companies globally scoured everywhere to look for different types of applications that could digitize processes and deliver a digital-first experience. What’s really happened is there’s been a sudden influx of too many apps and too many systems. This overcomplicates the process. Technology has impacted HR pretty massively, but also, it’s brought about a lot of concerns, issues, and frustrations.”

HR Systems and Onboarding

One of the most crucial functions of an HR system is the onboarding process. The importance of this process going smoothly directly correlates not only to a company’s success but also to its financial health. Kiran states:

“We work with companies where day one of an individual joining and getting started is billing day, right? This means that the moment the person starts, you actually want them to get onto the floor and start becoming productive. That’s billing hours in whatever that industry may be. Now, if your onboarding system does not enable them to do that, you are actually losing revenue when your assets like your laptops are not ready until day five, or day 10 in some cases.”

With all the benefits of a unifying HR system, are there any drawbacks? Kiran explains some of the challenges:

“One of the biggest questions from an ownership perspective is when you’re thinking about onboarding, who owns asset allocation. Is it HR? And until you understand the plan that ticks off all these boxes, it becomes very tough to think about unification. 

Managing HR in the Future

With all of these quick shifts regarding HR systems, will there be any more major changes in the way that HR is managed in the future? Kiran gives us his prediction:

“You still have about a good decade to two decades of innovation in front of you. We haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how data could be used. Or, how you could potentially automate verification systems, or automate even career mapping from a data perspective. So I think there’s a lot more that needs to be uncovered and developed from a future perspective.”

I hope you’ve found this recent episode of #WorkTrends helpful when considering an HR system to elevate your company’s onboarding and overall organization. To learn more, contact Kiran Menon on LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Be sure to follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on LinkedIn and Facebook, too, for more great conversations!

How Small HR Teams Can Punch Above Their Weight

How Small HR Teams Can Punch Above Their Weight

Small but mighty HR teams are under increasing pressure to perform with fewer and fewer resources. Typically, small budgets mean that functions like payroll, time and attendance, benefits administration, HR compliance, and more have to be done manually or with spreadsheets. This stifles smaller HR teams’ ability to consistently punch above their weight.

In a recent survey, GoCo found that 74% of HR professionals feel more pressure from senior leadership to hire and retain top talent amid The Great Resignation. 

And with the arrival of COVID-19, these pressures have only been exacerbated. HR teams must now also deal with the digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic. In fact, according to McKinsey, 85% of companies surveyed are increasing digitization during the pandemic. 

Large companies typically have access to ERP and enterprise-wide technology solutions, supported by large team headcounts. This equips them to handle rapidly evolving future-of-work considerations such as digital transformation or remote work policies. But what about small HR teams? How can they tackle the same issues that large HR teams face with significantly fewer resources? One answer is automation: Leveraging digital tech reshapes how small HR teams function.

Automation technology is increasingly being utilized by small businesses to power their HR functions and to deliver the prowess of a large HR team. 

Streamline HR Work for Efficiency 

When teams are small, it’s critical to optimize efficiencies and reduce errors. Often, small HR teams rely on highly tedious and time-consuming processes for benefits administration or payroll. They tackle complex functions using manual processes. More often than not, this leads to errors or simply monopolizes HR’s time with administrative work. This makes it difficult to tackle new pressing challenges facing HR leaders. Additionally, it becomes nearly impossible for them to take on strategic initiatives. 

Implementing automation technology streamlines core HR functions. Work can then be completed quickly and with significantly fewer errors. When HR practitioners have time to focus on caring for employees and supporting people functions, they provide much-needed value to their organizations. Automating time-consuming and repetitive tasks boosts the productivity of your HR team. An overlooked benefit of HR technology is that for small HR teams, the right tech can alleviate the need to check work or ensure the accuracy of reports. With fewer errors to fix and less paper-work to process or reconcile, small HR teams can flourish.

Staying Compliant

One of the most crucial responsibilities of HR teams is to ensure organizations, big and small, remain HR compliant — adhering to layers of government regulations and financial requirements. A business’s size does not exclude it from compliance requirements. And failure to comply can result in costly penalties at the state, local, and federal level.

Paperwork and manual processes are often the enemy of staying in compliance. Document-focused compliance processes will inevitably result in human error. Small HR teams can succeed at compliance work — but going digital is a crucial step in that journey.

There are many complex moving parts to HR compliance. Small HR teams have a lot to keep up with. Staying aware of constantly evolving and changing regulations when it comes to payroll, hiring, and benefits can feel daunting in one-person or small HR departments. This becomes only more complicated for companies that employ a mix of full-time, hourly, and freelance workers. Adding multiple regional or geographic locations adds further complexity. 

HR automation technology easily streamlines HR compliance and helps them punch above their weight. It improves accuracy and frees up HR to focus on emerging priorities such as employee well-being, hiring, and onboarding new employees.

Flexibility in Tech Is Key

Most small HR departments straddle the world of analog and digital — meaning even when they deploy tech solutions, they still rely on a mix of software, paper systems, and spreadsheets. It’s often a transition from paper to software to cloud-based systems. So, software that has the flexibility to align with how an HR department already operates eases the burden of learning and implementing a new system. Done right, technology can step in to automate certain HR processes to create efficiencies and then leave it up to each unique HR practitioner how they best want to track specific HR functions. 

One of the common obstacles in the way of HR departments that want to go fully digital is the lack of flexibility in many of the tech solutions out there. HR pros spend years, maybe even decades, perfecting processes like onboarding and offboarding. They don’t want technology that’s going to force them to change all of that. So it’s important to find tech that doesn’t force you to conform to a particular process. Rather, look for solutions that trust you to define your own workflow, and that are flexible enough to support that. 

And as small HR departments scale with the growth of their companies, so too must the technology. Platforms that only offer out-of-the-box solutions often have difficulty in scaling with a company’s growth. Flexible systems better match things like headcount growth and complex processes like running payroll in different geographies or supporting multiple EINs.

Optimize and Improve With Data 

When used strategically, HR automation technology is a powerful tool for small HR teams who want to have a big impact. It’s not enough to automate; there’s a growing expectation to leverage people data to make better business decisions. As more and more HR data is stored, modern HR systems can extract useful people insights. These insights drive outcomes such as reduced turnover, better onboarding, and increased productivity.

Small businesses and their HR teams can make better business decisions and improve employee experience with the reports that core HR technology generates. With technology, small HR teams can deliver high-impact, strategic work. Having better data covers compliance, better supports people, and empowers company leadership with key people insights. Small HR teams can be just as integral to business success as large HR teams — when they harness technology.

digital skills

Digital Upskilling to Close the Generation Gap

The enterprise and the workplace are increasingly influenced by technology and technology-driven processes. With digital upskilling becoming an increasing priority, this often comes with a new level of competency and a shift in demand on the skills required to fulfill the needs of a job.

This is particularly true in the insurance industry, where we are seeing a confluence of events. Such as accelerated digital transformation, rapidly-changing customer demands, and the migration to hybrid work models.

This has a direct effect on talent and the workforce.

As a result, many companies are increasing their investments in digital upskilling and reskilling their employees to prepare staff to capitalize on this golden market opportunity.

Building a Digital-Ready Workforce

With new digital tools, connected technologies, and better access to real time data, there is a balance between tried and true insurance methods. This includes new ways of analyzing information and insuring risk. Using new digital tools eliminates or automates repetitive tasks to free up talent to analyze and interpret client needs.

Reskilling, upskilling, and training employees is crucial for companies to build digital-ready workforces to carry their businesses into the future. This will lead to industry modernization and inspire teams to develop solutions that meet evolving customer needs.

Adopting Unique Learning Methods

According to Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends Insurance Industry Outlook, insurance companies are 1.5 times more likely than other industries to develop skills related to innovation and adapting existing products. Additionally, insurers look to drive digital innovation and enhance the user experience to meet evolving customer needs.

This is great news for both current and budding insurance professionals. It is also a warning signal for carriers that are not investing the right time and resources in their talent.

New technology integral to the insurance industry presents an exciting ground for recent graduates. This is also true for employees from other fields looking to make a career transition. To take advantage of this opportunity, both employers and employees must take on a proactive learning mindset.

But appealing to everyone and their preferred way of receiving tools and technology training is a huge undertaking. When it comes to learning and development, teams have to think how to engage generations in the workforce today. While older generations are used to classroom learning, Gen Z and Millennials prefer YouTube videos or snippets of learning available. Companywide training programs incorporate different learning combinations, such as lecture, demo, and hands-on lab exercises.

Training to Suit All Ages

Incorporating the following steps, insurance industry leaders can train different generations across the tools required for learning and technology.

  • Determine the organization’s digital workforce goals: Identify the benefits leaders can expect from their digital upskilling investments and the steps that will be critical to the team’s success.
  • Connecting with the whole organization: Reskilling is not an individual project. Make sure training is available to staff across all levels and incorporate different learning styles to stay in tune with how everyone learns.
  • Provide recognition: Learning additional skills on top of an existing workload is not something that should be taken lightly. Rewarding staff for upskilling will help with employee morale, retention, and engagement.
  • Measuring success: Employees must embrace continuous learning so that reskilling does not fade. To mitigate this possibility, a digital workforce strategy must extend beyond learning and development to influence culture and ways of working.

Finding out which skills are missing across your organization and within specific teams will help you create a stronger workforce.

Embrace the Diversity of Different Generations

Having a range of ages on your staff adds value to the organization. As the age of retirement rises, companies need to explore adopting more inclusive policies to accommodate an older workforce.

Younger employees are more accustomed to rapidly developing technology and adapting to the changes it drives. Similarly, more mature employees have knowledge from the duration of their experience that can guide decision-making.

Creating an environment where all generations can learn from one another allows for mutually beneficial mentoring opportunities. When you have multiple generations in the workforce, those with more years of experience can advise younger employees on career development. Additionally, cross-generational mentoring will allow more junior employees to educate mature workers due to their familiarity with current trends and technology.

When it comes to reskilling and upskilling, it is not only about the generations already in the workforce, but companies also need to provide tools for those reentering the workforce. Reentering the workforce includes re-training of both technology and basic workplace skills.

Digital Upskilling is Here to Stay

As technologies evolve, the need for digitally skilled talent is not just for the short term. Insurers must foster a culture of innovation to develop skilled professionals internally – a culture that attracts them from the outside and helps retain them for the long haul.

One thing is certain: the insurance industry will continue to digitize to meet productivity goals and provide customers with an engaging experience. If companies can proactively address digital upskilling; customers, employees and the overall organization all benefit.

employee experience

Re-designing Employee Experience Around Well-Being

Amid the unique shockwaves sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, HR tech has found itself at a turning point. Mostly, two major trends have brought on this critical phase in HR technology today. Tangible assets such as human-made codes and patents represent 90 percent of the value of the S&P 500 companies. This has increased the strategic position of Human Resources within companies for the past years now. The smaller trend sprung from the COVID-19 pandemic with 70 percent of employees stating they want hybrid work options to stay in place. The need to offer an online employee experience has given way to major investments in HR technology. Companies heavily count on these investments to support the growing demand in office vs. work-at-home experiences.

With digital taking over, a new approach is emerging in terms of Employee Experience (EX). EX today is transformative in the sense of bringing about sustained cultural change. This purposeful change will empower people to be at their best and foster overall health and well-being. Therefore, as companies are adapting to the new realities of the post-pandemic realm, re-imagining work and well-being experience becomes critical. We need to re-architect well-being experience to bring out human strengths such as creativity, connectivity, and innovation to the fore.

The impact of remote and hybrid work on employee experience

Professionals expect the new working models to stay even in a post-pandemic world. Among many others, Josh Bersin, the president of Bersin & Associates, believes that the future of work is remote. Microsoft researchers point out that “work will likely be a fluid mix of in-person and remote collaboration.” We are yet to see whether the downsides of remote working at scale will come to outweigh the positives. Yet, the tech-enabled wellness solutions will certainly be the lifeblood of the HR Tech market to support employee well-being.

Eighty-nine percent of employees in a February 2021 global Harvard Business Review study said that their work-life was getting worse. More statistics from the same study: 85 percent said that their well-being declined and 56 percent said that their job demands increased. Many people are reporting a range of mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout. More, 94 percent of workers in the U.S. and the U.K. feel stress at work, while more than 50 percent experience sleep loss. Within such a climate, people are looking for more balance and a life with lower levels of conflict and stress. This necessitates that holistic well-being programs be embedded into employee experience management. With this in mind, by adopting holistic employee well-being programs, organizations make a commitment to helping people lead more fulfilling lives.

Key features of a thriving employee well-being program

There is no “one-size-fits-all” well-being solution because every culture and individual is unique. However, the basis of every good wellness program is behavior change. So, what should organizations look for in well-being tech and projects developed by corporate well-being vendors? Further, how is it possible to redesign well-being into the work itself? There are many practices that organizations can take part in to create an impressive well-being experience. For example:

  • Utilizing solutions designed to provide usability, mobility, and accessibility
  • Using gamification to motivate and engage employees to create positive behavioral change
  • Taking a proactive approach to wellness that inspires action through challenges, micro-content, and smooth integration with wearable technology
  • Harnessing the power of friendly competition to build healthy habits, as collective efforts greatly help well-being behaviors “stick”
  • Asking the employees what their well-being needs today are, and empowering them to take their own unique well-being journey
  • Investing in multiple dimensions of well-being.

Strong cooperation between leadership and HR for holistic employee well-being

The dominant view is that HR is the primary responsible party for well-being within an organization. However, it is up to the contributions of the whole organization to promote a culture of well-being. Such collective efforts will create more engaged employees through a transformative employee experience. Richa Gupta reminds us that paying attention to the types of employees you have on staff is key to ensuring a healthier and engaged workforce. In this sense, organizations must commit to well-being programs as a business priority. Leaders should lead by example by creating awareness in areas including mental health, diversity and inclusion, and hybrid work challenges.

In a pandemic-stricken landscape, we find ourselves in a moment of reflection. Thus, ensuring employees remain safe and well-cared-for is vital to deliver a great employee experience. With this in mind, organizations that acknowledge this fact will navigate hard times and emerge stronger in the future. During COVID-19, we have witnessed that fragmented well-being programs fall short of addressing new circumstances. When treated as band-aids for short-term concerns, they cannot provide a whole-of-life experience. It is essential to implement a holistic well-being program integrated into the fabric of organizational culture.

Talent Acquisition

Talent Acquisition 2021 Recap and Forecast for 2022

The pressure is officially back on for talent acquisition teams to engage the right employees and help businesses stay competitive.

Early on in the pandemic, millions of workers were laid off in a race to downsize. Economists predicted a grim year of people scrambling to get their old jobs back—except, that isn’t quite what happened.

Instead, Americans have started leaving their jobs (and not coming back) at historic rates. In fact, according to Lawrence Katz, the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard, “we haven’t seen quit rates this high since 2000, when the BLS started recording the statistics.”

For businesses with an eye toward the future, it’s time to learn from the mistakes of 2021 (like why employees aren’t in a hurry to come back to work) and use that knowledge to stay ahead. When you’re vying for the same talent in a seller’s market, reaching the right candidates and making the right offers once you find them are critical to your success.

Our Guest: Michael O’Dell, Talent.com

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Michael O’ Dell, President of Talent.com. With over 20 years of experience in the recruiting and digital talent acquisition industry, Michael became president of Talent.com in January 2020 where he has been spearheading their rebranding and overseeing U.S. sales operations. He’s also the host of his own show, the Workscape podcast, where guests join him in analyzing trends and the future of the labor economy in the U.S.

When asked how the business of recruitment marketing has changed with fewer people looking for jobs, Michael suggests that there might not actually be fewer people.

“I think it’s a different set of people and a lot of the same people over and over,” Michael says. “Maybe it’s the great reshuffling. It’s a musical chairs of professionals.”

The move to remote, hybrid work from home has also been a major shakeup for those in the recruitment advertising industry – with remote jobs going from being a small part of the ecosystem to an important part of the conversation.

“For the longest time, remote jobs have been part of our ecosystem, but it’s been a very small part,” Michael says. “But come last year, it was like 4% of our jobs had a remote or work from home location. And that I think went up like 20x in a three or four-month period.”

For Talent.com this actually meant changing their search algorithms to make sure that they aren’t just matching the right job to the right person in the right place:

“When you have three major inputs in a search and one of them is finite, i.e., location, you have some pretty nice guardrails. Now, we have to just be better.”

The Big ‘R’: How to retain your top talent

Paying people their worth, being a good human, and paying a living wage are a no-brainer when it comes to retention, but what more can employers do?

“Go and have a conversation with your people,” Michael says. “If you value them, if they’re good, if they’re good to you, be good to them.”

Michael points to a recent LinkedIn survey that shows people are starting to leave for different industries. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be a one-way street. He discusses how different industries are starting to look for skill sets that they may not have considered before, which is putting increased pressure on recruitment advertisers.

You’re looking at competition from different industries,” Michael explains. “So, you do have to be better. You have to be quick. If you think you can put jobs out there or source candidates and engage with them for three or four days, you’re going to lose that person.”

A mass exodus in the workforce

There are also those leaving the workforce altogether. Michael has some interesting research about the differences in why some age groups, working groups, and genders are deciding to resign. Baby boomers, he says, have benefited from the stock market over the past couple of years and seen their retirement funds grow, causing many to take a step back and retire.

“And then you have the other side,” he says. “We have some of the lowest labor participation from younger workers now than ever.”

He also notes that some young men are realizing they can work part-time at different jobs and make as much or more than they did full-time at another job, while female workers struggle to find a job that accommodates the fact that they have a proportionally larger share of elder and childcare. Interestingly, people with disabilities are benefitting from the move to remote and hybrid work from home.

“There’s a lot of organizations that have always looked past working from home, regardless of who it is,” Michael says. “And now folks with disabilities have tremendously more opportunities to work in an atmosphere that is comfortable and productive for them.”

I hope you enjoy this special podcast of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Talent.com. You can learn more about talent acquisition 2021 recap and forecast for 2022 by reaching out to Michael O’Dell on LinkedIn. And, in case you missed it, listen to the podcast here.

modern technology

Using Modern Technology to Create Better Workplaces [Podcast: Part 2]

Organizations are heeding the call to transform their work culture in the new remote-first world. They are taking immediate action to better serve employees, and finding ways to maintain a sense of community while working hybrid or remote. To no surprise, embracing modern technology solutions is often the first big step to staying connected.

With that being said, when it comes to maintaining a healthy workplace balance, there is still a disconnect between managers and employees. According to McKinsey, more than three quarters of C-suite executives expect employees to return to the office for the majority of their work week. Yet, most employees prefer to work from home for the majority of their work week. Embracing new technology can offer an alternative, hybrid work balance that suits both employers and employees alike. 

Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on Workplace Technology Innovation

On the latest episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, we welcome returning guests, Citrix’s Christian Reilly and Maribel Lopez to discuss modern technology in the workplace.

When asked how organizations could best adopt digital transformation to keep up with the changes in work culture, Christian highlights that the succession of digital transformation in the workplace is dependent on a company’s lifespan and modernity:

“When you’re thinking about hybrid or full-time remote work, it becomes extremely cumbersome to pretend that the technology platform you use inside an office is the same as what you would use outside an office.” 

Making the move to cloud services and software as a service (SaaS), and digital workplaces are all strategies to ramp up IT modernization. Christian shares a new discovery of Citrix research, “The Era of Hyper Innovation,” and discusses the knock-on effects modern technology can have on employees.

“93% believe that increased digital collaboration has led to more diverse voices from across the organization being heard and a greater range of ideas for innovation actually being surfaced.”

Accessible and Individualized Technology will Empower Employees

In this new era of work, many organizations have quickly embraced change. Others are a bit slower to act. According to Christian and Maribel: If your organization isn’t agile, your competitors will eat your lunch. Fortunately, Maribel believes that technology can provide a powerful opportunity to level the playing field among organizations of all sizes.

“Every organization on the planet has access to amazing technology at a fairly affordable price,” says Maribel. “If you’re willing to adopt technology, then it becomes more about your product, your servicing, and your ability to understand customer needs.”

We’re also seeing greater democratization via technology. Maribel says today’s employees enter the workplace with fewer constraints. At one point in time, employees relied on their expert colleagues to help them do their job (such as typing pools – for those old enough to remember them). Now, technology empowers employees to do this themselves.

“Now every individual is empowered to take control of how they work and they have the tools to do so,” Maribel comments. “We have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us to use technology for good.”

I hope you enjoyed this 2-part discussion on #WorkTrends, sponsored by Citrix. To learn more about using modern technology in the workplace, contact  Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on LinkedIn.

And, in case you missed it, check out Part One of this podcast here.

modern technology

Using Modern Technology to Create Better Workplaces [Podcast]

The workplace is becoming more diverse as organizations offer remote and hybrid work options and build a global workforce. With these big changes comes a call for a change in work culture. Employers need to ask themselves how they can create an inclusive, productive, and social atmosphere without the convenience of an in-office environment. The answer to this conundrum? Embracing modern technology.

By staying agile and open to the technological tools available, organizations can not only increase communication and collaboration across teams but promote a healthy and inclusive workplace for everyone, no matter where they are in the world.

Our Guests: Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly, Workplace Technology Innovation Experts

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with workplace technology innovation experts Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly. Maribel founded Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that researches artificial intelligence, mobile, and hybrid work transformation. Maribel is also the author of John Wiley & Sons book Right-Time Experiences, a contributor to Forbes, and host of the podcast Reimagine Hybrid Work. Christian Reilly serves as VP of technology strategy at Citrix. He leads the organization’s long-term strategic technology decisions across the business and ecosystem. He is also a global keynote speaker and is widely recognized as a technology industry thought leader.

On the podcast, I asked them to share advice on how to help hybrid and remote employees feel more connected at work. The trick to achieving this, Maribel says, is using modern technology to remove communication boundaries.

“On a technology level, people need to be able to seamlessly communicate,” Maribel says. “They have to be able to connect with everybody in the organization and figure out who those people are. Basically, boundary-less communication and collaboration are key.”

Also, Maribel adds, organizations need to understand that if there’s an issue with communication, it may not be an employee’s fault. This is especially true if the tools are counter-intuitive. If organizations want to get employees excited to adopt modern technology, they need to make the tech user-friendly.

“When organizations make workplace tools more intuitive and easy to use, employees see value in them,” Maribel says. “If tech makes their jobs easier, they’re much more willing to embrace it. The biggest mistake organizations make is to hang on to legacy tools that aren’t modern.”

Getting Creative with Modern Technology Adoption

When it comes to employee adoption of technology, it’s different strokes for different folks. Some organizations are going to thrive with simple modern technology adoption, while others may thrive with something more complex.

“If we make modern technology simpler to use, then, of course, we’re going to see adoption rates increase. However, that’s not always the case,” Christian says. “For example, one organization used gamification, where employees tried to win badges for using the tech. I think there’s a fun element to that.”

When designing these systems, creativity in thinking around DEI should be a priority. Organizations must keep in mind the cultural sensitivities of employees from different backgrounds and locations, especially as the workforce becomes global thanks to remote work. Organizations can really shine here by thinking outside the box with how they show employees they care and want them included. Technology can help organizations adjust to individual working styles by offering translation transcription services, recorded meetings, and more.

“Not everybody is a native English speaker. When we think about different teams in different parts of an organization, giving them the opportunity to watch video recordings rather than be present at a live meeting allows them to work at their own speed,” Christian says. “This technology is simple to implement, but very impactful because organizations are recognizing cultural differences and that people thrive at work differently.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Citrix. You can learn more about using modern technology to create better workplaces by reaching out to Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on LinkedIn. Also, this podcast is part one of a two-part series, with the next episode coming December 3rd, 2021. So stay tuned!

 

data literacy

Why Data Literacy is the Future of Work

Many questions remain in the aftermath of COVID-19, with some of the biggest ones relating to the economic recovery. When will the economy rebound and, if so, how long will it take? What skills are needed to ensure the next generation is capable of recovering from the next pandemic? And, are those skills applicable to other black swan events? It is equally as important to ask this question: What role will data play in not only predicting but preventing future problems?

These are all important questions. But, we must reflect before we can use data to unlock a longer-term economic recovery. We should, in effect, examine who will be doing the unlocking: the students of today. The pandemic disruption to their education has been profound, and its impact may be long-lasting.

In the days leading up to World Youth Skills Day, the United Nations shared data highlighting the impact on global education. Between March 2020 and May 2021, schools were either fully or partially closed for more than 30 weeks. Nineteen countries still had full-school closures by late June, impacting nearly 157 million learners. This was in addition to the 768 million learners who were affected by partial-school closures. Another study by Bellwether Education Partners estimates that three million already underprivileged students stopped their education during the pandemic. This widened the gulf between them and STEM careers.

Although the pandemic may have thrown existing plans off course, education is a lifelong journey. It is now time to get back on track. We can start–and come out stronger than ever–by learning how to read, understand and work with data. In other words: we can become data-literate.

Data Skills Are Vital for Any Career

People don’t often think of data as an HR tech tool. But, if we are to overcome the economic challenges of the last year, we have to think outside the box. We will need to have the skills necessary to quickly interpret and act on information as it’s delivered. In order to do that–and become a society that’s led by data, not assumptions–change is in order. Most notably, educational, business, and governmental institutions will need to take a closer look at data literacy.

Data literacy has become a core skill that everyone needs in the modern workplace, not just analysts or C-suite executives. Every individual–from those who are still in school to new recruits and beyond–must be prepared. They need to be able to comprehend the power and potency of working with data. Without that knowledge, they won’t understand the scope of the challenges and opportunities in front of them. And no amount of HR tech tools will change that. They need to know how to digest the numbers, argue with the results, and put data to use. In doing so, they’ll be able to solve problems, invent new solutions, and uncover ways to be more productive.

This is no small matter, and achieving a high level of data literacy will not be an easy task.  Research shows that less than one-third (32 percent) of C-level executives are classed as data literate. Less than one quarter (24 percent) of business decision-makers are confident in their ability to use data effectively. Data literacy is even lower for 16- to 24-year-olds; only 21 percent are able to effectively use and work with data.

Closing this gap will require that data literacy training is embedded in schools and workplaces. And, most importantly, that it is available to everyone throughout their careers.

Career Progression Depends on Data Literacy

Students and young professionals may not yet understand the importance of data literacy. However, if they don’t learn now, it could be too late. Businesses already need and benefit from hiring people who are data literate. They increasingly rely on HR tech tools to ensure the hiring process is as smooth as possible. But, these skills will be table stakes for the jobs of the future. This is why a growing number of universities, colleges, schools, and educators are taking action.

Ensure That Data Literacy Is Part of the Curriculum

Data literacy should not be limited to students in math or analytics-related programs. It should be part of every curriculum, no matter the subject or desired career. Just as English and basic math are essential to virtually every profession imaginable, data literacy has become a must-have skill. It will provide great value to current and future workers. Data literacy will make candidates more attractive and allow those with this skillset to excel with any employer.

Upskill the Masses With Continuing Education

Although it is important that future generations are prepared for the data-driven economy, existing workers don’t get a free pass. They must also possess the skills necessary to read, comprehend and use data to make informed decisions. And, for that, continuing education is a must. Whether delivered by employers, at school, or in a virtual setting, data literacy has become a vital skill set. The Data Literacy Project offers free resources that can help individuals, enterprises, and institutions get started.

Rise Above the Economic Downturn

Data is an essential component of every organization. We need it now more than ever. As we look to rise above the economic downturn, organizations will rely on HR tech tools to find new talent. From automakers and financial institutions to consumer packaged goods and beyond, they’ll be looking for people who are data literate. Businesses have found that they can make more intelligent decisions when relying on accurate information. Data can be the difference between success and failure, especially when a business fails to turn information into actionable insights.

However, most information still goes to waste. A report by IDC shows that organizations use just one-third (32 percent) of the data available to them. Make time to grasp the importance of data literacy to reduce waste. This eliminates guesswork and leads to productive employees and more successful enterprises driven by data. And, that will allow us to come out of the pandemic with an economy that’s stronger than ever before.

HR automation

How AI-focused HR Automation Is The Future Of Work

The HR department can be thought of as the company’s core. It is where the primary resources of your company—your employees—are selected, managed, and retained.

Meanwhile, consider what would happen if the company’s core did not execute at peak levels. Workflows would slow, and employees would quickly become dissatisfied with their circumstances. It could lead to decreased efficiency, fewer sales, and ultimately, decreased revenue.

Fortunately, today, we have the option of leveraging HR automation to free up time for focusing on the most crucial functions. Moreover, we have the option of eliminating repetitive, time-consuming, and strained workflows.

Most HR functions would have been further impacted by the sudden and unplanned shift to remote work in 2020 if companies had not adopted new digitalization practices.

So, while the future of work has been discussed and debated, everyone can agree on one thing. Automation and digitalization are inevitable in the post-pandemic world, particularly when it comes to HR functions.

The Age Of Digital HR And Its Challenges

Namely, more than 80 percent of CEOs say HR has played a leading role in responding to the impact of COVID-19, proving the C-suite depends on HR to rally the workforce through disruptive times.

The new digital HR is a value driver. But with the double-edged disruption of automation and remote-working, today’s digital HR professionals face new and unpredictable challenges.

Redefining Roles

With the rise in HR process automation, many HR roles must also be redefined as well. Meanwhile, a lack of technology skills among non-IT staff can be a critical challenge for digital HR teams.

Employee Training 

There is a significant disconnect between current HR skillsets and the internal digitalization of HR teams. But the learning and development-oriented training required to bring HR teams up to speed are typically outdated and ineffective.

HR Automation Affects The Entire Workforce 

Automating HR functions is easier said than done. Many HR functions are actually HR Delivery Services. These services are how an HR team interacts with and provides services to the rest of the workforce.

When it comes to automating these HR Delivery Services, the rest of the workforce must go through proper training.

Implementation Takes Time

Digital HR transformation necessitates rethinking and rewriting the rules of people management, performance management, leadership, recruiting, and many other areas.

Onboarding these new approaches will require considerable time management, resources, and experimentation.

How AI-Based Solutions Simplify Typical HR Functions

Undoubtedly, AI or artificial intelligence is the next big driver of transformation. AI is already changing HR operations by making them more efficient, allowing for better decision-making, and automating routine tasks.

Accordingly to a 2017 KPMG survey, 56 percent of respondents expect to see an improved performance due to HR automation. Meanwhile, 54 percent believe that sophisticated algorithms will free up people for more strategic tasks.

AI, cognitive processing, advanced analytics, and digital applications are all transforming how HR teams operate. Here are a few ways through which AI-based automation could simplify your people processes.

HR Chatbots Help Streamline Communication

Cognitive automation uses NLP (natural language processing) to interact with employees through HR chatbots. Think of it as an HR cloud-based digital assistant. It handles things like general inquiries, routine transactions, time-off requests, and payroll management.

AI Makes Recruiting Easier

Automation makes sourcing talents much simpler yet less biased. AI-based hiring tools can efficiently filter CVs, shortlist applicants, schedule interviews, collect interview data, help streamline the employee onboarding process, and manage new hires.

Cloud-based AI tools are used to compare job candidates to employees who have excelled in similar roles within the organization.

AI Enhances the Employee Experience

HR professionals can enhance employee experience by harnessing AI-based automation and digital tools on employee-centric programs.

These programs can range from rewards and recognition, employee benefits and compensation, employee surveys, and more. Automation of such programs ensures that engaging people is a continuous, timely, and measurable business process.

AI Aids In Decision-Making

AI-based tools empower HR leaders to make intelligent and faster decisions through tracking employee trends, insights, and data. Non-human involvement also attributes to fewer errors.

Additionally, discussing the complete role of AI in simplifying business processes is beyond the scope of this article. But what we will be discussing is why HR leaders must focus on going digital as soon as possible.

Does HR Automation Truly Drive Better Business Performance?

Digital-first human resource management focuses on innovation and automates everyday administrative tasks. Meanwhile, HR professionals can focus on doing priority tasks. Measuring and improving productivity, understanding talent needs, designing the future workplace, and more.

Here’s how AI-based automation will help them do so.

Workforce Insights 

Data is the new currency of today’s world. Without it, you might very well be shooting in the dark. That stands true for HR too, as attracting and retaining talent is a crucial function of HR.

With the implementation of AI-based tools, collecting, assessing, and acting on data-driven insights becomes a lot easier. It answers some vital questions like, “What benefits do employees really want?” and “Why is the turnover rate higher than last year?”

Competitive Advantage 

According to a Unit 4 survey, office workers spend 69 days annually on administrative activities. Ultimately, it ends up costing businesses $5 trillion each year.

Automation software will streamline HR functions, increasing employee productivity, efficiency, and engagement. Thus, if a company continues to rely on manual workflows, it risks losing its competitive edge.

Employee Experience

In the 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report, 80 percent of HR and business leaders responded that employee experience was “important” or “extremely important” to them.

It reflects how today’s leaders understand that keeping their workforce happy is vital to “future-proof” a company.

AI and automation software can help you design the perfect employee experience through the timely collection, analysis, and monitoring of employee-centric data. This data can include metrics like engagement levels, onboarding data, exit data, and so on.

How Will HR Automation Affect Your Workforce?

One major upheaval that will come with HR automation is the eventual need for workforce shaping.

Workforce shaping is the process of redefining employee roles and responsibilities to meet the demand of a digitally transformed workplace. It means that no job role is a fixed one. An employee can have a completely different job role by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the job requirements will change, and the pool of candidates will get more diverse.

It will be easier than ever to use HR automation software to improve the employee value proposition. The employee value proposition refers to the benefits you provide an employee in exchange for their performance.

HR professionals can use AI-based HR tools to focus on the critical factors of making an employee feel engaged. Specifically, these factors include performance-based recognition, compensation, employee benefits, career development, and more.

Key Takeaway

In conclusion, HR automation represents the inevitable digital transformation shift that experts long predicted.

It may be difficult to manage a mostly remote workforce–but only until HR teams become accustomed to the digitization of their day-to-day operations.

gdpr

GDPR and the Future of Remote Work: What HR Needs to Know

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of the most comprehensive and impactful cybersecurity laws today. While this EU regulation passed in 2018, companies today would benefit from reevaluating their compliance. As remote work becomes the norm, the GDPR and HR’s relationship is back in the spotlight.

Many companies may be complacent about the GDPR, assuming all their operations and partners are already compliant. However, Amazon’s recent $887 million non-compliance fine highlights how these assumptions may be inaccurate. In the move to a more remote-friendly work environment, businesses have also introduced new risks and considerations.

Three years after the GDPR’s passing, compliance is perhaps more important today than ever. Here’s what HR professionals should know while preparing for the future of remote work.

The GDPR is becoming increasingly relevant.

Amazon’s record-breaking fine demonstrates how crucial GDPR compliance is, even for non-EU companies. These regulations carry fines of up to €20 million per violation, enough to put a smaller business in financial ruin. Additionally, many companies that once fell outside of GDPR jurisdiction may now find themselves in it.

Digital adoption leaped five years in eight weeks amid the initial COVID-19 outbreak. Consequently, more businesses are collecting more data than ever before. It’s highly likely that U.S. companies now collect or store data in the EU, putting them under the GDPR.

Since businesses are embracing digital transformation so rapidly, HR departments may not have had time to catch up. Regulatory compliance has likely lagged behind the shift to new technologies and processes. As a result, companies that were GDPR compliant last year may not be any longer.

Perhaps the most impactful of these shifts is the one to remote work. A late-2020 survey of 1,200 global companies revealed that 72 percent of their workforce now works remotely. Furthermore, most companies plan on expanding their remote workforce this year, raising concerns for the GDPR and HR.

Remote work introduces new data security concerns.

The relationship between the GDPR and HR becomes more complicated with a remote workforce. Some rules become more challenging to enforce. For example, companies must notify authorities no later than 72 hours after a breach, but remote communication can be inefficient. Understanding what happened and informing all potentially affected employees may take longer.

Similarly, ensuring employees follow the proper device and network security steps can be challenging with remote workers. One survey found that 76 percent of remote workers have accessed work files with non-protected devices. When employees are on their own, using personal devices on home networks, ensuring compliance is far from straightforward.

Remote work means companies, including their HR departments, are more reliant on digital communication than ever. Consequently, they’re at greater risk of non-compliance from hackers, user error, or non-compliant third-party services.

Since HR is often responsible for companies’ regulatory compliance, they bear much of the responsibility for the GDPR. Additionally, HR departments handle some of a business’s most sensitive data, like employees’ personally identifiable information (PII). Managing that data in a digital, remote environment makes it more susceptible to a breach.

What can HR do to ensure GDPR compliance?

In light of these growing concerns, HR professionals must become familiar with the GDPR. As they shift to remote work environments, they should reassess the steps they take towards compliance.

Remote monitoring software can help reduce security-jeopardizing user errors, but HR should balance this protection with privacy. The GDPR allows monitoring, but only in some contexts, requiring businesses to have legitimate reasons, among other considerations. Generally speaking, it’s best to use as minimally intrusive measures as possible and be transparent with workers about it.

If companies change what employee data they collect or how they use it, HR should inform workers. Worker consent and their right to be informed are crucial aspects of both the GDPR and HR’s responsibility. Similarly, HR should ensure any process or technology changes uphold employees’ right to delete their personal data.

Hiring a data protection officer is one of the most helpful changes a company can make. The GDPR requires this in some organizations, but even those that don’t need one should consider it. By creating such a position, HR can have a go-to contact for questions about cybersecurity regulatory compliance.

Cybersecurity is a crucial part of HR today.

Cybersecurity might not typically be something people expect of HR, but the two fields are inseparable today. HR plays a critical role in protecting employee data and meeting relevant regulations. As such, HR professionals must prepare for how the shift to remote work will impact their GDPR compliance.

As cyber threats rise and remote work introduces new risks, the GDPR must become a point of focus again. HR teams should work with IT departments and management to reassess and adjust their GDPR compliance. Failure to do so can result in massive fines and the infringement of employee rights.

ethical ai

Using Ethical AI Technology to Champion DE&I Efforts

Anyone can launch a DEI initiative. The big challenge is to succeed.

What’s the biggest roadblock? Human unconscious biases.

Psychologists have shown over and over in research studies that our biases are ingrained and automatic. Even if we think we’re champions of equality, the associations are likely still there. For example, studies show that it’s not just men that associate being male with being smart. Women do it too.

Why do we have unconscious biases? And why is it so hard to shake them?

Biases are shortcuts. They are quick ways to make choices. That doesn’t make them good ways to make choices. They just help us navigate our world quickly in a way that feels good. These biases become particularly prominent in situations where we have to make a high volume of decisions quickly. There is simply no time to be thoughtful in these cases.

In the world of HR, the steady stream of resumes and constant pressure to hire is the perfect setup for unconscious biases to have free reign. Recruiters hire candidates that feel like the “right fit” and base these choices on biases. There is really no other way for the human brain to process that volume of information in a more effective or objective manner.

So how do we move towards hiring equity and remove these biases? Embrace AI technology.

Using AI technology in HR can be off-putting for two reasons:

  1. Some feel concerned about the “ick factor” of having not enough humanity in the HR process. In other words, who are machines to tell us how to hire?
  2. Others feel concerned about having the worst of humanity hard-wired into the HR process. They wonder: What if the technology learns our bad choices and implements them more broadly?

In either case, the AI technology underpinning any HR solution must stay ethical. In the HR space, there are many AI solutions. But not all of them are created equal. To ensure the technology you’re selecting is part of the solution and not an unethical part of the problem, you must be an active consumer of these technologies.

How to find the ethical AI technology for your team

To keep AI tech providers honest and their solutions ethical, you’ll need to avoid the following common pitfalls:

  • Baked-in biases: Unethical AI can embed inequity into the HR system itself. Make sure you are not codifying biases in hiring and making them more pervasive.
    • How to avoid them: Start with good, bias-free data. Be choosy with the data that your AI learns on. Bad data is worse than no data.
  • One-size-fits-all approaches: Unethical AI tries to be the universal solution for everything. AI doesn’t work well when its expertise is spread too thin.
    • How to avoid them: Narrow your AI’s focus. AI is at its most powerful when targeted to a specific space like human resources. This keeps AI-driven answers fast and accurate.
  • “Black box” systems: Unethical AI lacks transparency and may have unclear or opaque scientific methodology and/or output. This can lead to legal defensibility issues.
    • How to avoid them: Create a feedback loop where the humans that make up your HR team and the AI tech they rely on can learn from each other. Make sure you understand both the science behind the technology and its output.

How to partner with AI technology

We shouldn’t be using AI tech to replace humans, but to augment them. AI can radically alter how work gets done and who does it. It can help humans amplify their strengths, extend their capabilities, and free up their time.

But humans also need to do their part to support AI in return. They need to:

  • Help AI train to perform its tasks
  • Be able to explain these tasks to relevant stakeholders (which sometimes includes the AI itself)
  • Have a level of oversight to make sure these tasks are being completed responsibly

Creating a collaborative process where AI plays an objective gatekeeper role that is focused and transparent will help HR personnel feel confident adding ethical AI to their processes. It will also reassure HR professionals that the humanity of Human Resources will remain intact and can even be enhanced by incorporating AI. When AI and humans stay in the lanes that they excel in, everybody wins. AI gets to do what it does best, and so do humans.

Make sure to keep the lines of communication open between your AI technology and your human team. When AI and humans learn from each other, the people that you hire will feel the difference. And you’ll be confident you’ve hired the best person for the job–bias-free.

digital technology

How Digital Technology is Changing the Structure of HR

The Human Resources department is one of the essential departments in any company. It is responsible for a number of activities. Some of them include managing the staff, hiring and training new employees, and dealing with employment-related disputes.

This department has evolved over the years due to digital technology. The transformation of HR’s structure has been greatly felt during this pandemic when many companies were forced to embrace remote working. There are several different ways that digital technology is changing HR’s structure.

Online recruitment

Before the Internet era, companies would post job openings in the newspapers or used posters that were placed at the main entrance of a building. The downside of this is that a small number of people would notice the job advertisements and the employers would take a long period of time to select a suitable candidate for the job.

Due to the advancement in technology, this process has changed. Companies have been posting job openings online and job seekers apply for the openings by sending an email or filling an online application form. This process is effective because many job seekers notice the advertisements and apply for the job within a short period of time. Additionally, online recruitment systems have a filtration tool that allows the companies to shortlist the most competent candidates.

During the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing is encouraged, employers interview candidates on various platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. This system is here to stay since some companies have permanently adopted remote working.

Managing employees and employee performance

Managing employees, especially those who are working remotely, can be an uphill task. Supervising the activities that individuals carry out during working hours is not easy due to the lack of one-on-one interactions. As a result, some employees become lazy and fail to complete tasks on time. Obviously, this will have a negative impact on the company. So, what is the way out? What can the HR department do?

Well, digital technology has eased this process. Employers and supervisors can monitor employees’ performance wherever they are. There exists employee monitoring software that allows managers to monitor all work that is carried out by the employees every hour. Consequently, employees will continue working as efficiently as they did when working in the office. Another advantage of the employee monitoring software is that the HR department can monitor a large number of employees at the same time.

Due to digital technology, the HR department can also handle the benefits that employees enjoy using benefits administration software. If this is a new concept, there are online tutorials that will help supervisors to learn how to use it.

Communication systems

Proximity is no longer a concern when it comes to communication in the office. You can pass information from one individual to the other in a matter of seconds with digital technology. This can happen via phone calls, text messages, emails, and online forums like Skype and Slack. Meetings also take place on online platforms. This has encouraged the HR department to employ individuals from all over the world for remote work. As a result, the most skilled individuals can handle specific tasks.

Conclusion

The roles and responsibilities of the HR department have changed due to digital technology. The good thing is that many of these changes are positive. As such, it is easy to embrace them. We can thus conclude that digital technology has changed, is changing, and will continue to change HR’s structure in different ways.

HR tech

5 Mistakes Companies Make with HR Tech Adoption

The HR industry underwent massive shifts over the last year. The pandemic reframed the role of HR to focus more holistically on employee experience, and emerging tech has become mission critical.

As a result, HR teams’ tech stacks continue to grow. According to Sierra-Cedar, the average HR organization has 11 systems of record, with 10 for recruiting departments and almost 203 for L&D departments.

And demand is growing. Sapient Insights Group reports that 28 percent of organizations plan to increase investments in nontraditional HR technology areas like remote-working tools and infrastructure.

While the excitement and need for HR tech remain essential for supporting agile and resilient workforces, the influx of new tech and systems doesn’t come without pain points.

Here are five common mistakes companies make with HR tech adoption (and how to avoid them).

Purchasing Vertical Solutions for Each Pain Point

We get excited when we have the opportunity to buy a beautiful tool that gives us a laser-sharp focus on a pain point—be it improving employee engagement, payroll systems, recruitment, and more.

But here’s the rub: when you have several platforms and systems of record working at once, it’s nearly impossible to extract related data into a single view. Data becomes siloed, and we end up taping together each solution without the ability to look at the information in context.

I was once in this spot, and I had to ask my Excel-wizard colleague to help me each time I needed to look at data. This is not sustainable when you consider the complexity of data and how many work technology solutions we use in today’s business, not to mention how difficult it is to keep up with data in companies experiencing rapid growth or change.

Thinking the Technology Will Do the Work

Maintaining your tech stack takes time. Whether you use one tool or 100, your HR team must spend considerable time updating, maintaining, and correcting data.

To add another layer of complexity, insights are not always cut and dry. Say you’re in the middle of your compensation planning cycle. You’re prepared to reward your high performers and make recommendations to those who haven’t hit their targets. Sounds easy, right?

In reality, what constitutes high achievement is not always clear. For example, if a candidate achieves four out of five of their KPIs and really struggled on their fifth, you might be compelled to give them glowing remarks. But when you dig deeper, you find that this person’s fifth KPI was actually the most directly relevant to their roles and responsibilities. Beyond that, the person also received some pretty negative 360 reviews on their management style. What now?

Ultimately, it’s best to contextualize data within your org’s mission and goals. HR teams need to make sure they have the clarity to connect data points to real action and solutions.

Acting as Data Gatekeepers

To foster strategic decision-making throughout the org, HR needs to make data accessible. This doesn’t mean posting every team member’s personal files on your org’s intranet. It requires strategic thinking about what data people need to do their jobs and what data can be too distracting.

For example, 60 percent of employees spend five hours or more per week waiting for information. HR teams are often main sources for answers to questions like:

  • How many people are currently on the engineering team?
  • I just opened a new position for a marketing manager; what is our compensation range for that role?
  • Can you send me a copy of my last performance review?
  • And many more

Centralizing and increasing access to information can be a huge time-saver and productivity booster for your entire org.

Using Technology to Be Reactive vs. Proactive

Too often, we use data to respond reactively to isolated issues. That’s a problem.

Let’s say your company has a DEI issue. You look at the numbers and see that Black people make up only two percent of your workforce. You conclude there’s a need to direct attention solely to your applicant pipeline. After tapping into new applicant pools, you increase that percentage to 15 percent. Congrats!

Flash forward to a year later. You look at your numbers and find that you’re back down to two percent. What happened?

All those people you hired left.

That’s because your team doesn’t have a recruiting problem; it has a culture and retention problem. Improving workplace culture and inclusivity involves its own dedicated stream of data collection, programming, and initiatives.

Putting your data insights in context and strategically identifying the root causes of issues gives you the tools you need to plan proactively.

Failing to Train Key Users

When you get a new tool, you may be struck with a newfound zeal to get things up and running. You just made a significant investment, and you’re ready to prove your ROI.

Yet, even the most simple tools require time. Rather than immediately jumping in to configure your accounts, take a moment to learn:

  • Review tech onboarding files to understand everything that’s possible with your new software.
  • Tap into customer communities and reviews to see how others have leveraged the platform.
  • Make sure to connect potential outcomes with the original intent for purchasing the tool.

Then when you’re ready to use your new tech, you know exactly how to get the most bang for your buck.

Better Tech Adoption for Strategic Planning

If we’ve learned anything this last year, it’s that HR teams need the ability to anticipate, adapt to, and react decisively to change. To do so requires thoughtful investment in resources and tools that give teams the upper hand.

The challenge is that different tech means that data is often housed in multiple applications, obscuring the “real” truth and insights needed to make complex decisions.

But don’t let that overwhelm you! With patience and the right mindset, you can make sure that your team is effectively leveraging new tools and tech to support your org and its people.

culture of cybersecurity

Create a Culture of Cybersecurity: Teach Employees to ‘Catch a Phish’

In 2020, 74 percent of U.S. organizations said they succumbed to a phishing attack. As today’s news cycle fills with ransomware headlines and remote connectivity continues​, it’s increasingly essential for companies to implement action plans for cybersecurity awareness. Phishing can get both people and businesses into all sorts of deep water.

The word “phishing” is commonly used as an umbrella term for a variety of attacks, though the overarching category that phishing falls into is called social engineering. Social engineers prey on human nature with the intent to manipulate a person to take a specific action. Phishing refers to the most common type of social engineering: fraudulent emails sent to many people.

The idea is to cast a wide net with simple bait—fake communication that often impersonates an individual or brand. Phishing works because it taps some of the most basic human traits (curiosity, carelessness, fear of missing out), and scammers know how to use those traits to their advantage. They hook you with an email, text message, phone call, or social media message. Then, they lure you in with a malicious link or attachment and then make the catch–: stolen login credentials or a compromised system.

Many companies attempt to create a culture of cybersecurity and phishing awareness by using scare tactics. These can make employees annoyed at your IT team—or worse, resentful. They may even feel so anxious about phishing that they won’t click on any link or attachment—even important ones. At the end of the day, negative emotions won’t help you build an effective culture of cybersecurity awareness. HR departments should make it their goal to nurture a blame-free, empowering security culture where all employees feel they are contributing to a shared goal.

Create a culture of cybersecurity.

In a well-functioning culture of cybersecurity, employees understand their roles in protecting your company’s data and IT resources. They are active participants in ongoing security conversations. Also, they have the tools they need to maintain good security habits without impeding their work. A blame-free culture doesn’t mean a lack of accountability. Instead of using a punitive model, however, find other ways that motivate employees to follow policies and strong security habits. For example:

  • Don’t instill fear in employees with threats of termination for repeatedly falling for simulated phishing.
  • Do implement a buddy system that appoints a peer to be a team or department’s cybersecurity expert.
  • Don’t require employees to reuse or write down their passwords.
  • Do provide appropriate resources and tools, such as password managers, so employees can use and manage strong passwords.

A recent Dashlane and Harris Poll survey found that 79 percent of employees take at least some personal responsibility for their company’s overall security. Employees want to be part of the solution, and companies need to show them how they can do that.

Implement a cybersecurity education, training, and awareness program.

Phishing trends sound unsettling—but by educating and training your employees, you will empower them with the knowledge to avoid taking the bait. A successful cybersecurity education, training, and awareness program should answer why security matters to your company. It should communicate to employees why they should care about security. Additionally, it should explain how cybercriminals target and attack businesses and what actions employees can take in the course of their day to enhance security.

Conduct simulated phishing campaigns.

To help employees recognize phishing and risky actions through first-hand experiences, use a “show, don’t tell” approach with simulated phishing tests. Phishers may not always have perfect spelling, but they shine at psychology and human behavior. And they’re meticulous researchers. By conducting regular mock phishing campaigns, you can turn employees from a weak link in company security to points of strength.

In addition to serving as practice for employees, the phishing tests measure how many people open the emails, click on the links and attachments, and complete the final action (such as entering their login credentials). You can use these metrics to track the effectiveness of your program over time and identify areas that need additional education and awareness.

Boost phishing defenses with additional tools and processes.

Education and awareness are empowering, but you still need to provide tools and implement strategies that support and promote secure practices. Train employees on how to identify and report suspected security incidents and threats, including phishing attacks. Consider creating a special email or channel for employees to reach out to.

Specifically, businesses must also train employees to recognize phishing attempts and social engineering. In addition, they need to adopt a password manager and multi-factor authentication to improve digital hygiene and security. Cybersecurity is as much about people as it is about technology. Businesses need to educate their entire workforce and provide them with tools they will actually use. Doing so makes their lives easier, both at work and at home. Some quick tips for catching a phish include:

  • Check the subject line of an email for a sense of urgency, scare tactics, or an enticing offer.
  • Ensure the email address matches the sender’s name and/or company.
  • Before clicking, look out for poor spelling and grammar, or unusual/awkward use of language.
  • Don’t be fooled by personalization because scammers can also learn your personal details.
  • Adopt technologies like endpoint security, password managers, and email security.

Many businesses are improving their security technologies and processes to make it harder for phishers to hook their employees. But phishers will continue to find novel, unexpected ways to lure people with social engineering. Your best defense is planning for the unexpected and empowering employees with current knowledge, appropriate tools, and ongoing awareness. Companies can only achieve a culture of cybersecurity if everyone is engaged. Cybersecurity is not something only IT and tech-savvy employees can care about. HR departments need to remember that promoting positive cybersecurity awareness will lead to a culture of security––not scare tactics.

accessibility best practices

Accessibility Best Practices for Remote Workplaces

The sudden rapid transition to remote work has brought about many benefits for employers. Among these benefits are happier employees, greater cost savings, and access to a more diverse talent pool. However, remote work also comes with its own set of challenges, one of which is digital accessibility.

In the United States, one in four adults lives with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, and these laws extend to remote workspaces.

The following accessibility best practices for remote workplaces, while not exhaustive, will help you create a work environment where everyone can benefit equally from digital products, services, and content.

Choose accessible remote work products

Audit the tools you currently use for remote work and become familiar with their accessibility features. The following remote work tools are a good place to start:

  • Audio and video conferencing (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
  • Document management (SharePoint, OneDrive, etc.)
  • Email (Google Workspace, etc.)
  • Project management and collaboration (Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, etc.)
  • Office suites (Microsoft Office, etc.)

When evaluating a new remote work product, confirm that the tool supports commonly used assistive devices, including screen readers and refreshable braille displays. Also, look for built-in accessibility features; for instance:

  • Keyboard accessibility
  • Display preferences, such as resizable text and color filters
  • Speech-to-text capabilities, such as real-time captioning and live or automatic transcription

Many top vendors, like Zoom and Google Workspace, provide documentation about native accessibility features, as well as how to integrate their products with third-party accessibility tools.

If you need a feature that isn’t built into the software you currently use, check to see if there’s a compatible third-party app. For example, Krisp is an AI-powered app that removes background noise during virtual meetings.

Host accessible virtual meetings

Virtual meetings, while convenient, come with their share of technical challenges. A bit of preparation can go a long way in ensuring that your meetings adhere to accessibility best practices.

Before the meeting, determine what your staff needs to participate equally. For example, will you need an ASL interpreter? Some conferencing tools, such as Zoom, can be configured so that interpreters are always visible.

Also, provide instructions to staff on how to adjust conferencing settings, including video, sound, chat, and display options. Let employees know who to contact if they have any technical difficulties during the meeting.

Limit meeting attendance to key stakeholders and give staff the option to call in instead of using their computer. The moderator should ensure that only one person speaks at a time, that all other mics are muted, and that everyone identifies themselves before they begin speaking.

If you’re sharing your screen, describe the content on the screen for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Instruct staff on how to access closed captions, live transcripts, and/or subtitles during the meeting. If your conferencing solution doesn’t provide for real-time captioning or live transcription, consider using a third-party app like Web Captioner, which offers free real-time captioning in over 40 languages.

Always record live events and have them professionally transcribed afterward so you can share the recording and transcript with your team.

Create accessible content

Use the following tips for accessibility best practices.

Documents

Use heading styles in Microsoft Word to create subheads (instead of bolding text and increasing the font size, for example). This helps screen reader and braille display users understand the hierarchy of the document and navigate it more efficiently.

Microsoft provides an Accessibility Checker tool for making sure your Office content, including Word documents, spreadsheets, and email, is accessible to people with disabilities.

Video and audio

When creating audio and video content, use professional recording equipment and record in a quiet location. If you must have background music, keep it at a low volume for the benefit of people who are hard of hearing.

Transcribe, caption, and/or describe audio and video content. Poorly done captions are just as frustrating as no captions at all: For audio with multiple speakers or any background noise, it’s best to hire a professional typing company instead of using an auto-transcription tool.

Images, graphics, and presentations

Alternative text should be provided for descriptions of images, which can be read using screen readers.

Use good color contrast for the benefit of visually impaired and colorblind users. Make use of whitespace and proximity to help users understand the relationship between elements of the content. Ensure that the text in charts and graphs is large and clear enough to read.

Avoid the use of flashing, strobing, or flickering content, which can trigger seizures in people with PSE.

Social media

The major social media platforms are continually evolving to make sure their platforms align with digital accessibility best practices. For example, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have an option for adding alternative text to your images.

Additionally, many social media sites now let you caption video content by uploading captions as a sidecar file (that is, separate from the video itself).

Website and email

Use a responsive design for your website and emails and test them to make sure they function as intended on mobile devices and screen readers. Choose clean, easy-to-read fonts of adequate size and line spacing, and use good color contrast throughout for the benefit of people who are colorblind or have other visual impairments. Provide plaintext versions of emails for people who use screen readers.

On your website, make use of HTML markup like headers, which can be read by screen readers, instead of simply styling the content–for instance, by bolding text or increasing the font size. Whenever possible, use HTML to create charts and lists instead of posting them as images. If you use images to complement the text, provide alternative text using the HTML alt attribute. Choose semantic HTML elements that describe the content (e.g., <table>) instead of non-semantic elements (e.g., <div>).

For more information on how to make web content accessible, review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, which is the universal standard in web accessibility.

Accessibility best practices will evolve along with your business and workforce. You can streamline the process by creating a simple system for your employees to put in requests or give feedback on your current tools and procedures, as well as by providing digital accessibility training to staff. As more software developers and vendors adopt accessible technologies, businesses will encounter fewer challenges when creating an accessible remote workplace.

future of remote work

Image by Polina Zimmerman

Tech, HR, and the Future of Remote Work

Remote work is here to stay. In light of estimates that around a quarter of Americans will be working from home in 2021, human resource departments have to be aware of the tech and trends that can support these workers. For every able business, offering remote work brings certain benefits. With indicators that remote work leads to increased happiness and productivity, providing these options to workers has become not just a perk but a necessity. As companies adapt their remote work policies, HR departments need the tech and solutions to take them successfully through the future of remote work. Here’s what you should know about the advancing working world. And the means to promote remote worker success for years to come.

How Remote Work Changed the Playing Field

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the working world shifted quickly. Organizations rapidly threw together approaches to provide remote work options to employees and support safety and social distancing.

This sudden shift enables a host of positive factors in supporting workers. But depending on how they’re implemented, remote workers face unique challenges. For example, some managers fear that their workers will not be working if they’re not in a physical office environment. So they have mandated things like always-on video conferencing.

To mitigate the problems of coordinating an effective remote work approach, HR departments are vital. Your HR team helps support remote work policies that offer the benefits needed to reduce burnout and promote success. A useful approach to remote work means tech-supported flexibility that helps rather than monitors workers. Remote workers especially value flexibility and freedom making them more likely to experience a negative attitude towards their work if they feel they are micromanaged.

With all kinds of opportunities open to a global workforce connected virtually, the playing field has changed for the future of remote work. With workers facing burnout while attempting to juggle work-life balance, HR departments need the tools and resources to prevent problems.

For example, due to COVID-19, one in four women are looking to quit their jobs or reduce hours to manage the strain of a heightened workload. Balancing a host of concerns and responsibilities while working remotely can take its toll.

Fortunately, HR teams can use tech to improve the work experiences of all remote workers.

How HR Can Use Tech to Improve Work Experiences

The shift to remote processes in a digital world means that HR teams have the potential to offer benefits previously impossible. Advancing technology is the reason for these benefits. With comprehensive platforms for tracking, monitoring, and promoting employee success, HR professionals can apply both automation and self-serve options to support their workforce.

In addition, synchronized cloud technology enhances the ability to communicate with workers from wherever they are. As high-tech systems like artificial intelligence become increasingly accessible, businesses can streamline their approach to assisting their workers.

Here are the technologies that will define the future of remote work for HR:

Enterprise Artificial Intelligence

Enterprise AI involves the use of smart algorithms to make large-scale business decisions. These tools are transforming the field of HR, leading to innovations in everything from proficiency tracking to recruitment improvements.

AI is made accessible through Software as a Service (SaaS) options. These help HR teams automate a host of tasks that take up much of their daily time. For example, with the right AI system, HR managers can automate the initial sludge through stacks of resumes and match potential employees through semantic language pairing. As a result, they can more conveniently narrow down their search to candidates with an ideal resume.

At the same time, payroll solutions are possible through the tracking of hours, benefits, PTO, and more. A smart system will be able to perform self-audits and catch more problems before they hit an employee’s paycheck.

Cloud Solutions

But these AI innovations would be difficult to pull off without the help of cloud data systems. More companies are realizing the benefits of a cloud data service that can safely protect their information over a highly encrypted and backed-up network. In the remote working world, this frees up time for developing high-security practices while improving the ability of employees to communicate digitally.

For example, a cloud system can allow a team of workers to communicate and brainstorm in an effective digital space that is synchronized to account for time zone differences. With the help of tools like these, you can improve your brainstorming sessions with digital whiteboards, collaborative editing tools, and group documentation all on a secure platform.

Virtual Spaces

Virtual spaces are the future of remote work. Your ability to keep your teams connected and address worker concerns will come down to how you can interact with one another. HR might feel a bit displaced without in-person, face-to-face interaction with co-workers. But virtual spaces may offer the solutions you need to support remote workers.

From virtual reality (VR) to mobile applications that keep remote workers informed on the go, there are more options for connecting in virtual spaces than ever before. Remote teams can use everything from common instant messaging and work collaboration platforms to virtual offices.

AI, cloud systems, and virtual spaces continue to adapt. HR can innovate with these tools to promote supportive employee solutions. This can mean streamlined payrolls, worker flexibility, and enhanced communication.

The Future of Remote Work

With the right tech strategy, HR departments can close the communication gap to engage a remote workforce. In turn, these teams can save time typically eaten up by extensive data entry and system management concerns.

Remote work is the future. And the future of remote work is dependent on human-centric tech solutions that promote a better working experience. Give your team the flexibility of cloud solutions and allow them to communicate through secure virtual spaces. As a result, you can better address concerns and reduce burnout.

 

employee experience

6 Ways Existing Tech Can Improve Employee Experience

Questions of “experiences” in business often focus on those of the customer–and not without cause. The ideal customer experience makes it easy for consumers to learn about your company and access its goods and services. The same logic applies to the employee experience as well. After all, you want to remove as many barriers as possible between your workers and the essential tasks they need to perform.

The smoother the employee experience is, the more efficient, effective, and satisfied your team will be in the long run. While every office will have different areas in need of improvement, here are six easy ways to improve the employee experience with tech you likely already have available to you.

Smoothing Out the Onboarding Process

The onboarding process is the first real taste of your business for employees, and that taste is rarely as sweet as many wish. This is due in no small part to the dearth of resources and personnel devoted to this critical process. According to a survey conducted by payroll services provider OnPay, over 60 percent of small businesses have their HR handled either by the head of the company or by an employee who also juggles other responsibilities. That means employee onboarding can–and too often, does–take a back seat to other duties.

Thankfully, the right tools can help facilitate onboarding without making any greater demands of your existing team members. Some automated HR platforms, like PulseHRM and Namely, can help set up direct deposits and deploy mechanisms to ensure compliance with company policy. Relying on automated onboarding processes will let you focus more of your energy on the more human elements of the process, such as acquainting them with office culture.

Streamlining Communication

Anyone who’s ever even set foot in an office knows just how critical good communication is to the work environment. But it’s not just the efficacy that’s at stake here. In a 2019 survey from employee experience platform Dynamic Signal, 80 percent of the American workforce reported feeling stressed because of ineffective company communication. With numbers that high, your business simply cannot afford to ignore whatever communication issues might exist.

Every business has a whole suite of communication tools at their disposal—Slack, Teams, email, Zoom, and so on. But the key here is not to let your employees get stuck in the cracks between them. Choose one or two platforms and stick to them. Hopping around between different platforms is a surefire way to put the burden of communication management on the workers who can handle it the least. Whatever software you opt for, opt for it all the way. In the end, simplicity and efficiency are your team’s best friends when it comes to communication.

Facilitating Collaboration

Collaboration may go hand-in-hand with communication. However, work teams must tackle these two soft skills on their own terms. Effective communication platforms are vital for keeping an office running smoothly, of course. Simultaneously, collaboration tools like ClickUp and Asana are an absolute must for ensuring projects are completed on time and with care. With remote work promising to have a permanent impact on the way companies operate, collaboration-enabling tech is a must for just about every business.

This far into the pandemic, this shouldn’t be new news to anyone. In fact, Salesforce reports that 86 percent of executives identify ineffective collaboration as a major cause of failure in business. So there should be no hesitation when it comes to embracing tech that makes collaboration easier. Of particular interest should be platforms that help facilitate collaborative equity. For instance, tracking the volume of tasks and amount of time each worker spends on a specific project ensures that no employee’s experience has to come at the expense of another’s.

Compliance

“Meeting with HR” has long been a specter of the modern office, a dreaded event no matter what the reason. Thankfully, service providers have flooded the market with technology that ensures worker compliance through digital means instead of requiring endless strings of face-to-face meetings. HR platforms like Oasis Advantage and ComplianceHR ensure that employee paperwork is always in good order. More are starting to crop up that make it easier for workers to report incidences of misbehavior without the potential snag of an in-person confrontation.

Overall, leveraging these digital platforms makes it much easier to guarantee a safe and satisfying employee experience for all.

Offering Flexibility

Flexibility may be the single most significant gap between the attitude of employees and employers in the world of work. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, some 96 percent of US-based professionals want flexibility in their work. And yet, only 47 percent of workers actually have that flexibility. This is primarily due to the long-subscribed-to logic that an out-of-office worker is a less productive one–a myth that the COVID-19 crisis all but shattered overnight.

Modern project management software and digital communication tools like Monday.com and Slack allow employees to fully plug in no matter where they are. For some workers, this could mean greater travel opportunities. For others, it could allow for more time with loved ones at home. Regardless of why an employee desires flexibility, the right tech can help facilitate without a blip in productivity.

Dynamic Training Systems

Job descriptions constantly mutate as businesses themselves grow and evolve. A couple of decades ago, professional retraining was a long, laborious process involving months or years on a college campus. Today, there are more virtual courses and mini-degrees available than any one person could possibly manage. You can take a look at Lynda.com and Open Culture to get an idea of what’s available. The opportunities for succinct, targeted training are greater than ever before. This also means that workers can grow and expand their skill sets. And they can do so without significant interruptions to their careers, facilitating the employee experience in a big way.

Employee experience is the single greatest contributing factor in determining employee satisfaction. By working to make your workers’ lives easier, they’ll work to do the same for you. A happy employee is a productive one. And by ensuring the former, you can all but guarantee the latter.

So, with the sole focus of improving employee experience, leverage existing tech. Your team members, and your bottom line, will thank you.

tco

TCO: The Hidden Costs of HR Technology

Over the past year, the pandemic forced most organizations to re-evaluate their HR technology to better support their workforce in a new work environment. It’s easy to see how these solutions impact expenses, regardless of whether your organization has grown or downsized and whether you’ve implemented one, two, or more new technologies. But upon further examination, you may find additional costs that you don’t see on a balance sheet. These downstream costs come in the form of voluntary turnover, disengaged employees, and a poor employee experience caused by disjointed systems. All of these add to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your HR technology stack.

Don’t get me wrong, these shiny new systems have the best intentions and also hold the potential to streamline processes and improve efficiency. However, they can cause confusion, digital fatigue, and an overall negative employee experience when brought together. This article will examine the cascading costs caused by competing HR technologies and shine some light on the TCO of those platforms, tools, and programs.

Multiple Buyers, Multiple Priorities

HR technologies span a broad spectrum of applications. PwC’s Human Resources Technology Survey estimates the total value of the HR cloud solutions space at a whopping $148 billion. You have solutions for time and labor management, talent development, benefits administration, payroll, HR administration, and the multiple use cases that fall underneath each of these. Filling the needs presented by your organization can result in a slew of point solutions patched together, ostensibly to support the employee experience. But are they actually improving the employee experience?

The problems often start with having multiple buyers working to get these solutions in place. Too often, organizations arm each buyer with a different agenda and different initiatives. Each has a keen eye on their own goals and what technology they are bringing in-house. But with multiple buyers in the mix, the bigger picture is often overlooked. And the bigger picture can be what makes or breaks the employee experience.

What is the bigger picture? It’s the TCO of the whole HR technology stack and how these solutions work together.

Too Many Channels, Not Enough Bandwidth

Throughout the workday, employees change directions more than a weathervane in a tornado. They constantly switch between systems to communicate, track time, view benefits, take a survey, complete a learning module, and—yes—even get some work done. It’s simply exhausting. Also, that only covers a few of the functions within the sprawling HR tech stack. Thinking about it gives you a headache, doesn’t it? Or perhaps, that’s digital fatigue you’re experiencing.

Moreover, we’ve seen (and continue to see) a race to upskill and re-skill, a trend that has created the need for even more learning and development, coaching and mentoring, surveys, and other tools meant to support employees. The increase in the number of people working remotely and forcing interaction with these disjointed technologies from home has exacerbated the situation. Also, while pushing forward with upskilling and re-skilling, only 12 percent of employers plan to reward employees’ skill acquisition. The current rise in voluntary turnover is kind of a no-brainer. People work harder and longer at home. They stretch themselves to learn new skills and take on new roles–for no reward.

The Effects: By the Numbers

We know the competing HR systems and the subsequent chaos they cause result in a poor employee experience. But what exactly does that mean for your organization? And what does that cost? Now we’re getting to the TCO of HR technologies.

Burnout

Experts estimate that the healthcare costs of job-related burnout are between $125 billion and $190 billion. Once employees reach burnout, it’s often difficult to hit the reset button and get them back to their optimal performance engagement. Thus, voluntary turnover is often what lies next.

Voluntary turnover

With the average cost of hiring a new employee at $4,129, and onboarding averaging roughly $986 per new hire, organizations lose $5,000 each time an employee leaves. That doesn’t even account for the costs of the skill sets you’re losing, and the loss of the intrinsic value an individual brings to your organization. You can’t afford to lose your employees to something so preventable as integrating HR solutions.

Disengagement

Disengagement costs companies between $450 billion and $550 billion each year. Yikes! And considering one-third of most employees consider themselves disengaged, organizations must work to boost engagement. Among the several levers you can pull to boost engagement, streamlining your technology is a relatively easy move.

Management tax: Add it to the tab

The struggle of dealing with too many solutions is not one-sided. While employees grapple with multiple systems each day, managers work to pull data from each of those systems, manage vendor relationships, and learn each solution from top to bottom. Managing a sprawling tech stack is a huge distraction and can easily be minimized by combining point solutions to a larger platform.

Streamlining HR technology will make life simpler—and more productive—for managers and employees. Of course, bringing these solutions together can also be more cost-effective for an organization. Which means you don’t need to eliminate existing systems altogether. Just simplify your systems. How? By integrating and combining forces. A lot is riding on this—more than you see when usually assessing TCO.

With this in mind, adopt an integrated approach that combines talent functions to create a more fluid experience for your people. Do it for the employee experience, higher productivity, and a better bottom line. When evaluating the number of technologies in your organization, less is more.

digital transformations

Image by Gerd Altmann

4 Ways HR Can Help Accelerate Digital Transformations

Companies worldwide are launching rapid digital transformation strategies. Their goal: To keep pace with the increase in customer demand for seamless delivery of products, services, and experiences. So in many circles, the question becomes: How can HR help accelerate digital transformations?

To meet these lofty goals and expectations, departments within these organizations need the right technology and the right people. Otherwise, they might miss the opportunity to discover new ways of doing business and innovating through increased digitization. This means human resource departments have a significant role to play in digital transformation.

HR leaders must work alongside IT leaders to accelerate digital transformations and coalesce around priorities. For leaders to succeed in digital transformation, they must be on the same page while removing the barriers of a top-down, hierarchical approach. Leaders must work together to best reallocate resources and spread work and management of work across teams.

Plenty of well-intentioned companies nail the details of digital transformation. Details such as knowing what makes a good user story, understanding the difference between product and project, and finding opportunities to automate deployments whenever possible. The challenges arise with people, culture, and scale. That’s where HR can play an important role.

As many leaders have already learned, digital transformation affects everyone in an organization. Because they are so focused on the daunting task in front of them, this can be difficult for transformational leaders to think about. Proactively communicating with existing teams about how digital transformations will positively affect them and why it’s best for the organization, though, helps everyone.

Because in the end, digital transformation is as much a cultural transformation as it is a business and technology transformation.

Look No Further

The ongoing pandemic hasn’t slowed digital transformation. Despite layoffs and deep budget cuts at countless companies, a large majority (70 percent) of CIOs say their budgets and staffing numbers underwent reductions of less than 10 percent in the aftermath of COVID-19. The top priority of budgets in 2021? Digital transformation, of course. In fact, 77.3 percent of CIOs ranked this endeavor as the most pressing concern this year (ahead of cybersecurity).

So why should HR departments step in as a source for solutions to these problems? Well, the momentum from IT departments toward digital transformation is significant for HR. The reason is simple: Technology alone cannot make for a successful digital transformation. It’s a total team effort in which HR has a big role to play.

Yes, IT can take care of the technology side of the digital transformation equation. However, HR has a shared responsibility. Attracting, retaining, and reskilling the human actors who understand how to both derive value from technology and innovate new ways of doing business digitally is another piece of the puzzle. Without the right talent, even the biggest transformation budget won’t succeed. Teams need the right human resources in place.

Easier for Everyone

Here are a few tips for HR leaders who aspire to work in tandem with IT to accelerate digital transformation to achieve the ultimate goal of building products that customers want to buy and increase revenue.

1. Talk it out

Communicate with IT openly about the culture change and plan to distribute the emotional load. And start those conversations early. Hold discussions about how the culture might change and how some employees might not love the process of digital transformation. HR, technology, and product teams can also share the responsibilities to make sure digital talent and older business lines work well together.

2. Embrace change

Gain a solid understanding from IT on how roles will change as a result of accelerating digital transformation. As the stewards of human abilities within an organization, HR needs to know what qualities to look for in the next generation of talent. This talent pool will have new skills every year or so, making skills secondary to learning ability and work ethic. As an HR leader, you can help find the next generation of digital talent. Start by changing job descriptions to reflect digital values, such as adaptive learning and grit, rather than hard credentials.

3. Promote retention

In many organizations, HR controls (or has a lot of say in) promotion decisions. Digital transformations are a serious uphill battle for product and technology leaders everywhere. And one of the biggest momentum killers is top digital talent leaving an organization. This is especially disheartening when they leave because they feel transformational work is not rewarded or appreciated by the culture. Work with technology and product teams to rework incentives. Ensure the company rewards digital talent. And keep your focus on retaining the talent required to ensure enough forward progress.

4. Prioritize education

Develop new training programs with IT that promote collaboration, prototyping, and decision-making alongside technical skills. You can also help by preparing digital talent in cross-functional environments. As you do, know that maximizing teamwork will likely achieve better results than maximizing individual performance. Companies can expect to see more success in their digital transformations by training UI/UX designers, product owners, scrum masters, and engineers together. That way, students can practice the handoffs and negotiation skills required in a digital world.

It bears repeating: Accelerating digital transformation requires a cultural shift just as much as it does a technology or business shift. When IT and HR work together, they can create a more stable environment that makes digital transformation easier for everyone.

3 Days, 3 ThinkPad X1s: Test-Driving the Lenovo Fold, Yoga and Nano

3 Days, 3 ThinkPad X1s: Test-Driving the Lenovo Fold, Yoga and Nano

Editor’s Note: This post, sponsored by our friends at Lenovo, represents the authors’ views.

There’s no question that work, especially since the pandemic began, has become multifunctional. Like so many people I know, I’m continually moving between meetings and research, emails and team collaborations, running webinars, brainstorming, and so much more. In addition, my remote team members and I switch functions constantly. As a result, I now realize that while I do have an office, it’s no longer my professional hub; it isn’t the center of what I do.

Now, more than ever, the work happens wherever I am.

This reality means the quality of my work depends on the technology I’m using. So when Lenovo approached me about testing three devices from their ThinkPad X1 line, I jumped at the chance. After all, I’m a firm believer in enabling people to function at their highest level. And we can’t do that unless we provide the right equipment and platform. You can’t lead if you’re constantly dealing with tech hiccups or having to make awkward shifts between platforms.

HR’s Role in Facilitating the WFA Future of Work

I’ve also been having many conversations about how best to facilitate remote, physical, and blended workforces. Business leaders and common sense dictate that HR take on this role. Of course, while filling that role, they must be capable performers themselves. Having worked with many innovators in the HR tech space, I know the best iterations of technology respond to needs and shifts in the workplace.

Among the factors Lenovo considers when developing products for the ThinkPad line is how we work, an understanding that is gained through in-depth research and customer feedback like that which is presented in the Lenovo Future of Work study. Its findings reflect the profound transformation the workplace has gone through recently. Not just in how we’re working, but what Information Technology Decision Maker’s (ITDM’s) must focus on as a result:

  • 89 percent of large companies currently use collaboration software to enable their work.
  • 88 percent of employees prefer to continue to work from home at least some of the time.
  • Half of ITDMs say their budget for software and tools grew during the pandemic; 41 percent expect growth next year.

With all this in mind, portable devices will remain a staple in the future of work. We can’t live without them, let alone be productive and collaborative. But keeping up with how we work isn’t enough; today’s technology platforms must make work easier. Based on my experience with the ThinkPad X1 line, this alone makes Lenovo a strong HR partner.

The Power Trio: Lenovo’s Fold, Yoga, and Nano

The three ThinkPad X1 products provided by Lenovo included two Intel Evo vPros — the Nano and the Titanium — and the Intel Hybrid Core Fold. I have to say that, in general, all three devices blew me away. Each delivered an outstanding digital experience packed into a sleek, intelligent design. In the end, each device made me think even more about how we work today — and tech’s role in the future of work.

Ultimately, while exploring the three Lenovo devices, my own goal was to test all three, then pick the one that best met my requirements. In the end, my choice surprised even me. The bigger surprise? How each of these B2B options presented themselves as viable business solutions for today’s workplace.

Day 1: The ThinkPad X1 Fold   

I’ve been in the tech space for long enough that I don’t look for novelties in my hardware. Instead, I look for sturdiness and dependability. But I was certainly excited to have a day with the first foldable display PC, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold. Novel, to be sure, but the unit is also remarkably — maybe even surprisingly — sturdy.

First Impressions

Upon starting my day, I immediately noticed the Fold has a work from anywhere feel. Running on Intel Core processors with hybrid technology, it seemed compact but very powerful. The Fold’s brilliant 13.3-inch 2K Flexible OLED display also caught my eye.

While this device felt like a hardcover book in my hand, it acted like a rocket, with very fast connectivity no matter where I was – best on its Wi-Fi 6 and 5G-ready support. The sound delivered from its Dolby Atmos system was far more than I’d expect from such a small package. During the series of hectic video calls that came next, the four microphones certainly helped.

As my morning progressed, I noticed both the wirelessly chargeable keyboard and the stylus pen attach to the Fold. Because I didn’t need to backtrack and figure out where I last left them, I found this very helpful.

Intelligent Design

In the afternoon, while convening with my team on some complicated projects, the split-screen functionality became a huge plus. It was easy to be on a call and look at documents on the bottom in landscape format. Apparently, I was multitasking more seamlessly than usual because a colleague asked about the tech in use during the meeting. The stylus also made it extremely easy to express ideas visually, something we too often lose when remote working. It added a level of creativity that we all found inspiring — and energizing. Within a short while, I felt like I’d picked up a new way to work. I love technology that triggers positive new behaviors — that’s the essence of intelligent design.

Thinkpad X1 Fold: A Game-Changer

After a dinner meeting, I took another research dive. Again, the machine seemed to make the work as easy as possible, intuitively. As I moved from room to room, portability was again a plus. To my pleasant surprise, so was the all-day battery — which really was all day. Hours into a day of super high use — conference calls, research, streaming and writing — the battery was still going strong.

As I entered the evening hours, I discovered an after-work bonus: Reading an e-Book on the Fold really does feel like reading a hardcover book! That’s a remarkable sense of evolution — recreating the feeling of reading to its original form, but in digital format. If it hadn’t already, the Fold completely hooked me now.

Day 2: The ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga

Full disclosure: I love yoga. I’m all about flexibility in any form, and this premium convertible laptop was a joy to use. I’ll start with its 360-degree rotating hinge, which enabled me to turn the laptop into an easel, a tent, or a tablet. It just so happened that Day 2 was a very intense, stay-at-home day of reviewing documents and research, back-to-back video calls, and serious ideation sessions with my team. To get through that day, I needed equal amounts of form and function.

First Impressions

In many ways, this laptop feels familiar: It’s that dignified titanium gray that says it’s all business. But it’s also quite sleek in a way that promises versatility and power. It’s one of the thinnest laptops I’ve held yet, but its features give it substance. The 13.5” 3:2 screen is a neat feature: The taller, tablet-format height means you don’t have to scroll constantly. As I enjoyed a green tea, I took comfort in knowing the Yoga is spill-resistant and rated military grade. I set the Yoga up in tent mode — which quickly became the preferred position.

Speed and Security

For anyone looking for something powerful and fast, this fits the bill; it’s a speedy machine, to be sure. The Intel® Evo™ vPro® platform is impressive — it boots up lightning fast with superb connectivity and offers an incredible array of choices and compatibilities. The touchpad was super responsive and intuitive, a welcome alternative to using a mouse. I grabbed the pen and joined my team for a super cool brainstorming session, making the whiteboard one of my favorite features.

The security system — Lenovo ThinkShield — felt outstanding and well-thought-out. The platform has features designed right into the hardware to protect against any attacks — including a thumb-print security feature.

Overall, the Titanium also has a whole range of hardware, software, and services to keep business secure. For those of us working on sensitive materials, traveling, or working from anywhere, these are vital features.

Performance

Like the Fold, the battery life on the Titanium is fantastic. I barely stopped working and never had to worry about racing to plug it in. All in all, the Titanium felt like a turbo-charged combination of business-, IT- and creativity-oriented features. And the Dolby Atmos Speaker System and Dolby Vision were a great reward at the end of the day — with vibrant colors and sound for games and movies. We chilled out on the sofa and watched a great film. It felt like we were in a mini-movie theater.

Day 3: ThinkPad X1 Nano

By the time I switched to the Nano on the last day, the ThinkPad X1 line had me talking about these devices with friends. Then I got my hands on this sylph of a laptop (it comes in at two pounds or 907g — the lightest of the ThinkPad line) and I was even more impressed. On a day of comings and goings, I could slip it into my bag without feeling any weight. I loved the portability.

First Impressions

Like the Titanium Yoga, the Nano is phenomenally functional. In terms of the operating tools offered by the Intel® Evo™ vPro® platform, it’s a heavyweight. Lenovo engineered the 13” screen for maximum scrolling and eye space: the display has a 16:10 ratio and an attractively narrow bezel, so you can see more at one time and don’t have to scroll. This feature was perfect for a day when I had to check various materials as they came in and discern what was needed quickly.

Features Galore (Including Human Presence Detection)

On Day 3, I ran from my home office to the car to my office in town — and then made four different stops on the way back. So throughout the day, I appreciated how the Nano’s HPD (Human Presence Detection) enabled me to jump back on. With instant responsiveness that works in conjunction with its camera, HPD scans to see if people are present. When the laptop owner approaches, the Nano wakes up.

Another plus: The Nano has Rapid Charge, meaning when I did finally run down the battery after some very heavy-duty streaming, it didn’t take long to be back in business.

The most surprising aspect of this machine, though? It is so light; according to Lenovo, the most lightweight laptop ever made. In that way, the Nano felt very much like the future. There is no doubt: This would be an excellent laptop for staying agile and productive no matter where you are.

For Me: The Fold, Titanium, or Nano?

So what’s the verdict? Which Lenovo Thinkpad X1 best met my needs?

I appreciate the power and solid feel of the Nano and the Titanium. And the multifunctional ease of the Evo platform thoroughly impressed me. And yet, I found myself gravitating towards the ThinkPad X1 Fold. I loved the foldable display, which broke me out of the flat keyboard and vertical screen configuration just when I needed it the most. Granted, the day I used it was the most collaborative day of all. But when it came to brainwork, I found myself innovating and reacting faster with the split-screen. All in all, the Fold made me think of just how much I’ve conformed the work I do to the tools I’ve had at hand — not the other way around.

For me, the Fold felt right.

For HR and Recruiting Teams

If I were advising an HR or recruiting team on the best equipment for how we’re working now, though?

I’d likely recommend the entire Lenovo ThinkPad X1 line. Each has tremendous merits; each pushed the envelope on portable PCs in a new way. It was a blast to use each device. And that speaks to a new culture in which the match between people and technology is more important than ever.

During the pandemic, we saw a rise in the number of frustrated employees; disengagement caused by technical problems grew dramatically. As HR facilitates the further transition to remote, physical, and blended workforces, we must level the playing field. In many cases, that means providing — or suggesting the purchase of — the technology that best matches the needs of our WFA people.

These three days convinced me: the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 line should be at the top of the list for any company considering upgrading their devices.

Learn more about these Lenovo ThinkPad devices here.

 

Five Remote Work Productivity Tools You Didn’t Know About (But Should)

Image by Sarah Pflug

5 Remote Work Productivity Tools You Didn’t Know About (But Should)

The COVID-19 pandemic severely wounded the traditional workplace, causing an even greater need for productivity tools. Even when the pandemic recedes, the workplace will not go back to what it used to be. Employers have a huge task to create an environment where your employees are happy and productive. Undoubtedly, recovery and renewal will require significant innovation. Thankfully, much of that innovation–in the form of remote work productivity tools–already exists.

There are many already known tools out there; each promise to change the world of work. But what about those not mentioned as much in leadership and HR circles? No worries! Here we have a list of some of the productivity tools that you might not have heard about–but you should.

10to8 Meeting Scheduling Software

Scheduling activities and meetings with either employees and clients/customers contribute to improved output. That’s why the first on our list is 10to8 Meeting Scheduling Software! When it comes to arranging meetings, daily standups, or weekly team meetings, this is the right tool for you.

In cases where a team is spread worldwide, the time zones are not a problem for 10to8. But the ability to integrate other existing calendars I have created in Google, Outlook, or Exchange is what I like the most about this tool. When you want to talk to your colleagues, you don’t have to ask them when they are free. Instead, you can check whether they are available at a specific time in their booking calendars. Another welcome feature is the hardworking reminders, making it nearly impossible to miss a meeting.

Communifire by Axero

Enhancing communication not only improves the productivity of your employees but the credibility of your company. A well-streamlined communication system helps decrease unmet expectations, reduce stress, and boost morale. An intranet, a centralized portal that ties together communication and enables people to send files so employees are all on the same page, is a must-have communication tool for remote-based businesses. Most users can tailor intranet software to meet your organization’s unique requirements while promoting transparency and eliminating communication bottlenecks.

Communifire by Axero is one of the most easy-to-understand intranet software choices around. Each department within your company is provided separate sections for supplying and updating communications; however, Communifire allows sharing information between all groups. Each team can add articles, blogs, wikis, photos, videos, and everything else relevant to work for teams. What I found especially useful with Communifire is the many options for customization–an essential element of any intranet platform.

Mattermost

The chances are that many of your employees will continue to work from home well after the COVID-19 crisis is behind us–which means group messaging tools will remain important to work teams. Mattermost promotes collaboration among your employees, enabling work to get done efficiently and effectively with a short turnaround time. In many ways, Mattermost replaces internal emails and substitutes messages in an inbox with a more agile and tool.

This digital space helps teammates communicate with each other, share ideas, comment, or give feedback as if it were happening in person. It offers threaded discussions and supports more than a couple of different languages, making it very useful for global teams–and a worthwhile competitor to the more well-known Slack. Like Slack, Mattermost’s freemium pricing plans for small teams feature unlimited message history and integrations.

Celoxis

A year-plus into the pandemic, companies are still looking for a way to collaborate effectively with others on project-based tasks through productivity tools. To fill this void, the tool we recommend most often is the all-in-one platform Celoxis.

This software provides updates to all relevant users about anything related to a specific project. Through timely prompts, it also urges users to complete their tasks on time. Celoxis has a range of useful project management functionalities, such as allowing project mapping via Gantt charts. With its project planning and project tracking feature, it offers automatic scheduling, multiple resources per task. Celoxis is very easy to use and affordable, making it a perfect choice for businesses still struggling to find just-the-right remote PM platform.

Scoro

Because of more flexible working conditions, many remote workers find themselves struggling to stay focused. They just aren’t getting enough work done–and we can’t blame it all on Netflix. Maybe it is time to employ time and work management software like Scoro.

Industries like advertising, consulting, and information technology are just some of the sectors drawn to Scoro. Time management and work automation, collaboration, scheduling, quoting, sales support, and billing are just some of the features Scoro offers. The platform even provides a project management component, like Celoxis. The control hub from which users obtain customer account information, key performance data, and calendar events are one of the main benefits of using this comprehensive platform in your arsenal of productivity tools.

Invest in Remote Work Productivity Tools

The longer the pandemic lingers, enabling higher productivity among employees is increasingly necessary. Introducing these tools to your employees will help them stay focused and engaged–and will undoubtedly help your business achieve its goals. Yes, there is a learning curve associated with any new technology. And, yes, the benefits of utilizing these tools may not be immediate. But, your investment in these platforms–and your people–will pay off in the long run.