back to the future

New Day HR Drives the Next Gen Fire

“Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Doc. Ah…Are you telling me that you built a time machine…out of a DeLorean?”

“The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

youre firedOn October 21, 2015, Marty McFly and his girlfriend Jennifer will travel back to the future together to see themselves married with children. They’ll be shocked by their own Gen X aging and adult foibles, and then Jennifer will witness older Marty, still easily set off when challenged, engage in an illegal transaction with a colleague. He gets immediately fired via a video conference call from his boss because of his idiotic action. HR was nowhere to be found in this exchange.

Marty and Jennifer will also see their future children – shallow, nerdy, wimpy and smart-alecky digital natives, flippant Millennials who don’t seem to have a clue or promising future. Actually, these are stereotypes of Millennials before we really had Millennial stereotypes. But the universal “work sucks ‘cause we suck” mantra has unfortunately never gone away, and like the movies, further paradoxical hijinks ensue week after week. However, progressive HR and business leaders are doing their best to combat both these days in the real 2015.

Today’s HR ecosystem and the hiring economy are both highly complex, confusing and competitive. They aren’t the highly advanced and exclusive Tesla battery-powered luxury cars (unlike the DeLoreans of old). No, they’re more like a classic high-performance engine we keep tinkering with, tuning up, swapping out old parts for new, with a lot of sweat and tears, through every boom and bust cycle, especially the latest.

And the complexity is killing us. According to ManpowerGroup’s 10th annual Talent Shortage Survey, 43 percent of U.S. employers say talent shortages are having a negative impact on their ability to meet client needs. The consequences include:

  • Reduced competitiveness and productivity (41 percent)
  • Increased employee turnover (32 percent)
  • Higher compensation costs (32 percent)
  • Reduced employee engagement/morale (32 percent)

And even though according to Gallup Research the percentage of U.S. workers engaged in their jobs rose from an average 31.7% in January 2015 to an average 32.9% in February 2015 (and held steady through April 2015), it’s really only an incremental increase from where it stood in February 2014.

Human resources and the work workplace have got their work cut out for them. According to the latest Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM®) Workplace Forecast (The Top Workplace Trends According to HR Professionals), more than one-half of HR professionals think that retaining and rewarding the best employees (59 percent) and developing the next generation of corporate leaders (52 percent) will be the greatest challenges over the next 10 years.

But how to deal with these challenges? Over the next 10 years HR professionals feel the solutions include providing flexible work arrangements (40 percent) and a culture of trust, open communication and fairness (37 percent). One-quarter said offering a higher total rewards package than competitors and providing career advancement opportunities (26 percent) would be most effective.

And that’s the thing, you know? Industry experts and the media always talk more about what keeps business leaders up at night and less about actionable strategies that enable positive change and help them sleep. Change isn’t easy, especially when being applied to solve business problems, but new HR initiatives are important, organization-shifting moments for a company.

When CHRO’s and their business leader counterparts consider a change for their organization, those who think beyond the ordinary get sustainable business outcomes, this according to TalentCulture #TChat Show guest Mark Stelzner, founder of IA HR, a consulting firm that helps HR leaders transform their complex organizations with confidence.

“Sustainable change also requires empowerment – no one person owns change, we all do,” Mark shared with us all. This was illustrated by his story of Williams-Sonoma hiring a graphic artist to literally illustrate the current process of organization so all the players engaged in the change management could visualize where they were and where they needed to go, making it accessible and adoptable for everyone in the organization.

They ended up drawing three-headed monsters and people pulling their hair out and deconstructing all the business processes into what really worked and what didn’t. The results included everything from greater HR technology adoption to improved employee engagement and other positive outcomes because the changes they made weren’t top-down theoretical; they eventually reflected the day-to-day realities of the organization.

No matter how intimidating it is for HR and business leaders to change in our ever-changing hyper-flux-capacitor economy, something as simple as this example becomes quite a catalyst for transformation for the entire organization and every generation employed.

Laugh if you want, but when Marty McFly traveled back to the future in 1985, Whitney Houston released “Greatest Love of All” that opened, “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way….”

Those children today make up over half the workforce – and they are more than empowered. And sometimes the future appears brighter than maybe it actually is, and that’s okay for this aging Gen Xer. I recently interviewed two Millennial HR professionals (Chanel Jackson, HR Business Partner, Honda of America Mfg., Inc., and Callie Zipple, PHR, HR Rewards Analyst, Zebra Technologies) for a special preview of an upcoming live TalentCulture #TChat Show at the SHRM 2015 National Conference & Exposition.

Their refreshing yet guarded optimism still flooded me with enthusiasm for “New Day HR” – to take policy and process risks that will empower the workplace and drive future business outcomes (without compromising the organization legally or opening it up to an audit – none of us can get away from that). They were all about social adoption and flexible workplaces and everything that wiser sages than me have been advocating for over a decade.

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Actually Doc Brown, we still do, but New Day HR drives the next gen fire of empowerment and that’s a future I look forward to, today.

Special Note: If you’re a Millennial, please take the PeopleFluent Next Generation in the Workforce survey. Your anonymous responses will provide valuable insight for employers as they consider how to hire and develop their next generation of employees. The survey has up to 26 questions and will only take approximately 4 minutes to complete. Upon completion, you will have the opportunity to enter to win one of several randomly drawn prizes, including Beats by Dre headphones. Thank you!

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