Photo: Razvan Chisu

#WorkTrends: The Journey to a Great Employer Brand

#WorkTrends host Meghan M. Biro sat down with employer brand expert Susan LaMotte to talk about the power of great employer brands — and why every organization needs to assess whether their own employer brand conveys the essence or the eh of the company. Susan, the Founder and CEO of exaqueo, has worked with an incredible range of organizations, from chicken dinners (Boston Market) to communications (T-Mobile) to education (Princeton University) to the empire-sized CVS Health. With all, though, she guides companies to get to their heart and soul. Anything less isn’t going to attract talent or engage employees, she noted.

Companies spend incredible energy and people power on marketing, but CMOs and their teams are focused on customers, Susan said. And forging a great employer brand takes focusing on employees — but using some of the same strategies: research and more research. Learning everything about employee’s values, needs, behaviors, life in and outside of the workforce is all a part of it, and so is enlisting everyone, every stakeholder, to be part of the effort. And the most important part of the employer brand? “Consistency,” Susan said. “On the marketing side, we look at the attributes of a product and then we settle on the strongest ones that are most important to our customers to build our brand on. We should do the same thing on the employer brand side as well.”

“You hear that, everybody?” Meghan said. “That is absolutely the word of the day.” 

The two discussed the importance of listening — how it’s too easy for executives to overlook complaints or concerns from employees. They talked about candidate experience as well — and agreed that the candidate experience, in fact, is part of the employer brand. “We’ve got this continuous sense that everybody is connected to the lifecycle, the brand, the outcome, the rest of the world,” Meghan said, underscoring that brand meaning isn’t static, but dynamic. It’s every interaction, Susan concurred, even from the first time a candidate hears your brand name: That initial contact “gives them a perspective,” she said. “You’re branding from the first moment.” And as leaders, she added, “that’s what we have to pay attention to.”

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why aren’t some brands better at discovering their employer brand?  #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help organizations better create their employer brand? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders shape a powerful, authentic employer brand? #WorkTrends

Find Susan LaMotte on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Utsav Srestha

#WorkTrends: Email Still Matters: Etiquette for Today’s Users

Here’s a term for you: email brick. It’s that dense blob of text in an email that starts at the top and doesn’t come up for air until the end. No line breaks, paragraphs or bullet points, and often, no readers. We tend to avoid reading those emails, eyeing them warily and opting to get back to them later. Much of the time, we don’t. 

When #WorkTrends host Meghan M. Biro got to talking with email etiquette expert Bruce Mayhew, it was soon apparent that we’re emailing each other all wrong. Bruce is President of Bruce Mayhew Consulting (BMC), a corporate trainer, executive coach, expert on productivity and generational differences, and passionate advocate of emailing better.

90% of our communication is done by email, and the email brick is just one of many sins we commit. Others include incoherent subject lines, putting the main idea down at the end of the message and, on the receiving end, answering emails too quickly. On that last point, Meghan asked for a best practice. “I could spend three hours a day in constant communication back and forth, just trying to do the right thing and respond,” she said.

Don’t do it, Bruce answered. “If you train your audience that you respond to an email in 10 minutes,” they will start expecting it every time. “You end up playing Whac-A-Mole with your inbox.” Our time management gets derailed along with other priorities, too.

Problem is, we learned to write and then learned how to email, he noted, and these are very different forms. He shared three simple tips for writing emails worth opening: put your main point in the first sentence, use bullet points, and write a clear subject line with enough information to indicate exactly what’s going on in the message. 5-7 words usually does the trick he said. Don’t start with “Hey, quick question.”

The underlying reason to clean up our emails isn’t just housekeeping, it’s trust. Sending emails that hit the sweet spot boost personal credibility, he said. They set up a positive feedback loop faster than you can say dopamine high. The next time we see an email from the conscientious sender, we open it. We look forward to it, thinking this person knows what they’re talking about — which goes miles in improving that relationship. 

“Email still counts, and it’s the way we’re all communicating,” Meghan reminded the audience. Time to practice those bullet points.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are we failing at email etiquette? #WorkTrends
Q2: What techniques can help us write better email? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders help employees get better at emailing? #WorkTrends

Find Bruce Mayhew on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Miguel A. Amutio

#WorkTrends: Acing the Metrics: Reading the Data on Engagement

Sometimes a #WorkTrends episode answers a trending question so clearly it’s as if we never have to ask the question again. That’s what happened when Meghan M. Biro sat down with Leila Zayed of Best Companies Group to talk about measuring engagement. The January 31, 2020, #WorkTrends podcast quickly went from whether or not we should measure engagement to the best strategies and benchmarks for understanding your workforce like never before. 

Leila works with companies of all shapes, sizes and industries to survey their employees on engagement, and pointed out that you can’t tell if your employees are engaged if you don’t know what engagement is — and once you know what it is, you can’t find out if you’ve got it if you don’t know how to take measurements. Engagement, Meghan and Leila agreed, has to do with not only being satisfied with your employer, but really looking forward to going to work — with having a sense of meaning, purpose, and pride. “They feel you’ve created an environment where they can do their best, they’re willing to give extra efforts to see you succeed, and they plan on staying a while,” Leila added. Another sign of engagement they both agreed on: employees will recommend your brand to a loved one.

Meghan noted that Leila’s approach — measuring two sets of demographics — made far more sense than an all-in-one-bucket approach. Personal demographics include our individual identities and perspectives; workplace demographics are out of employees’ control, like department, brand and locations. The question came up about whether small companies can survey engagement effectively: “Talk to us about how this approach can work for organizations of any size,” Meghan said. 

Actually, Leila offered, it can, even with a company of 15 employees. 

Whatever the size, she said, the key is going outside your own company to compare yourself to other companies in the industry — or you won’t really know how you’re doing. And the more companies doing these engagement surveys, the more data we’re getting, and the more specific the benchmarks get. 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why aren’t we better at measuring engagement? #WorkTrends
Q2: What measurements work for assessing engagement? #WorkTrends
Q3: What strategies can help organizations better measure engagement? #WorkTrends

Find Leila Zayed on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Kevin Ku

#WorkTrends: The Human Impact of Data Literacy

Jordan Morrow joined Meghan M. Biro for this #WorkTrends podcast sponsored by Qlik. The topic: data literacy. It may sound simple enough, but it’s far from it.

Meghan notes that 60% to 73% of all enterprise data is never analyzed. “Data remains a value that’s trapped by our own lack of understanding,” she said as she introduced Jordan. As global head of Data Literacy at Qlik and Chair of the Advisory Board for the Data Literacy Project, Jordan has long been involved in studying data literacy and had a lot to say about why we aren’t using data the way we could — or should.

Citing recent findings from a Qlik/Accenture report on the human impact of data literacy, Jordan explained why organizations around the globe miss countless opportunities because their employees aren’t trained to better use data. The report found that just 21% of the global working population are fully confident in their data literacy skills. In other words, the data on data literacy is pretty clear. There’s a huge productivity gap caused by our lack of data literacy.

In part, Jordan pointed out, we don’t know how to use data because we either think it needs to be isolated from any human experience, or we’d rather just go with the human experience and leave out the data. The truth is, we need both, he said. “To realize true potential with data, you need to combine the human element with the data and technology element.” 

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Meghan said, and asked Jordan if our current state of data illiteracy surprises him. He said it doesn’t. He’s been watching this evolution for years, and he believes that we’re way behind in terms of how we educate our young talent, not to mention students in schools. And of course, both agreed that data literacy should be taught in schools.

In general, we need to stop worrying about people making mistakes as they learn to use data. Curiosity, creativity and critical thinking all have to be developed from a young age, Jordan said, and then we’ll be on our way.

“Let them muddy the puddle,” he says. It’s all part of embracing technology, embracing change, and becoming comfortable with this new way of approaching information. And it will certainly get us to the future of work faster.

What’s at stake?
[23:19] Data and analytics is not going to slow down. So companies that want to succeed in the future have to embrace data literacy. They have to, so you have to have those skills.

Listen to the full conversation. And don’t forget to subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast, so you don’t miss an episode!


You can find Jordan Morrow on Linkedin and Twitter

The Role of Artificial Intelligence in the Hiring Process

As artificial intelligence evolves, we’re going to increasingly rely on it for boosting the hiring process. In Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, author Max Tegmark asserts that the “rise of AI has the potential to transform our future more than any other technology.” So it is, as we already see in hiring. AI is already saving HR teams time and money while attracting the best candidates in these key ways:

Solving the Sourcing Process

A recent study found that 46 percent of companies struggle with finding and attracting the right candidates for their open positions. AI programs can search online resumes and social profiles to find the best candidates for each job based on specific traits. They can also relay personalized messages to promising candidates and do it in scale — something human recruiters could not do alone. 

AI is being taught to overcome human biases during sourcing and screening. The key is teaching the program on data that presents as gender-neutral and training it to ignore other identifying information that might trigger biased decisions. An organization may end up with a pool of applicants far more diverse than if the HR team itself had sourced them.

Enhancing Employee Experience

Once your AI program sources and contacts candidates, AI can lead them through the recruiting funnel quickly and efficiently, ensuring the candidate experience goes smoothly.  Recruiter chatbots can provide real-time answers to candidate questions, offer quick feedback and suggest next steps. They can provide links to promising job descriptions, clarify company hours and location, and schedule interviews. 

Having a good experience during this phrase is a big deal, as is borne out in a study by CareerBuilder: 58 percent of candidates are likely to have a negative opinion of a company if they never get a response to their job application.67 percent are likely to have a favorable view of the company if they get frequent updates after they applied. Instead of dead air, a chatbot fills the space — and furthers the process.

Screening Boosts

AI-powered conversational tools can also give the screening process a boost. Since these tools are always learning, they’re ideal for when going back for a second look at candidates who applied in the past. AI tools can store essential data on all applicants, saving time and effort when you’re ready to reach out to them again. Companies that use AI tools have reduced their cost per screening by 75 percent.

Using technology to screen talent also saves time and effort for candidates. When CVS Health began using the Virtual Job Tryout assessment, it was looking for an automated screening tool to shortlist candidates quickly. The company processes over one million applicants per year: saving time on the hiring process is critical to the recruiting team. 

By offering job simulation inside hiring platforms, CVS enabled  candidates to virtually try out some of the tasks in a potential position. Depending on their performance, they might be invited  go proceed to the next step in the recruiting process. Or they might decide the position wasn’t a good fit, saving themselves and the company time. CVS Health found this tool screened out half a million applicants right away, saving 40 years of hiring manager time.  The tool also brought a measurable improvement in performance, training, new hire retention, and operational outcomes.

Assistance with Interviewing

AI in HR provides a simple way not only to reach out to possible candidates, but also screen, rank, and shortlist their resumes based on the traits most relevant to your company. Then, once you have a list of people you’d like to interview, the chatbot can act as the scheduler.

Certain AI tools can also help you conduct a later-stage virtual interview before inviting a candidate to come in person. Conducting a video interview with preset questions, you can run an AI program to analyze candidates’ facial expressions, tone of voice, mannerisms, and word choice. 

This technology will make it more likely you’ll end up with new employees who fit your company culture, which is why major brands like Google, Facebook, and Apple have been using this technology for years. And now even more companies use it, including Capital One, Allstate, ThredUp, Hilton, and AT&T. 


AI is also improving onboarding procedures — by, for instance, automating repetitive or tedious tasks like conducting background checks, putting together documents about benefits, and creating offer letter templates. AI can also help organize, print, and deliver all onboarding paperwork. 

The same can be said of training documents — another time-consuming step when the HR team has to do it manually. Instead, AI-powered tools can ensure all new employees receive copies of the paperwork that spells out company policies and log-in information.They can track when documents have been read, prompt an electronic signature, and schedule meetings to go over the information further when necessary. 

And all can happen 24/7 from anywhere, which means employees can start training or getting answers to their questions any time and from any device. It also allows the HR department to focus on tasks that cannot be automated or done outside of business hours. 

Why Use AI in HR?

From sourcing and screening candidates to interviewing and onboarding, AI is undeniably changing HR’s capabilities. A report from Deloitte in 2017 notes that 38 percent of survey respondents believed AI would be widely used at their company within three to five years. In 2018, that number rose to 42 percent,. It’s still climbing.  

72 percent of executives believe AI will offer significant business advantages in the coming years, while a LinkedIn study found that 76 percent of hiring managers believe AI will be at least somewhat important in the future. As Eric Sydell, EVP of Innovation at Modern Hire, summed it up, “AI is a perfect way to recruit the best talent that will excel at your company, as it uses huge volumes of data to predict outcomes better than any person can. Not only does AI save HR departments time, but it also gives candidates some insight into whether they even want the job.” 





Measuring the Business Benefits of Flexibility: A Win for All Sides

As always, I’ve been following the trends that are really going to change the way we work. Among them: the need to continue evolving our concept of the workforce and the tools changing how, where, and when we work.

Generation after generation is moving closer to a completely digitally-enabled form of working. We’re now welcoming the first wave of Generation Z into our organizations. For these digital natives, tech is simply part of their world. It’s not a novelty; it’s not an “other.” Technology is fully integrating itself into everything we do. It’s reached the point where tech is advancing us well beyond the traditional boundaries of workplace and workday, allowing us to expand, scale, and ease up on the rigid definitions applied to how we work.

Tech is also unlocking a surprising key to engagement and productivity — flexibility. From the youngest working demographic all the way to senior leadership, we’re all learning that being flexible has tangible and mutual benefits. We don’t necessarily have to work in the same place, at the same time, or even five days a week to perform at our best. In fact, according to Citrix CTO Christian Reilly’s perspective on the recent ‘Future of the Working Week’ report (PDF), “A four-day week is not the only option for creating a shorter working week, and there is no one-size fits all solution. But it is the creation of flexibility and useful working hours that is key, in striving for a healthier work-life balance, and more productive output.”

Furthermore, the recent study by the Centre of Economics and Business Research (Cebr) (in conjunction with Citrix) spells out the benefits of flexibility by the numbers. The bottom line: flexible work models are a win. Companies that leverage technology to enable flexibility can better attract talent and increase employee engagement and productivity. They can also potentially boost the US economy by as much as $2.36 trillion a year. Yes, that’s trillion with a “T.”

Measuring the Business Benefits of Flexibility: A Win for All Sides 

An Untapped Pool 

Remote work enables companies to tap into new talent pools, filling their talent gaps with what’s called the “home force” — a great name for a potential goldmine of talent at a time when we’re greatly in need. In terms of a business case, tapping into this segment of the talent market has irrefutable benefits. The home force entails a whole range of experience and life stages:

  • upper-level talent who has opted for better work-life balance
  • new parents
  • parents trading off a year of office time for being home with the kids
  • caregivers with aging relatives

And those are just a few examples.

If you think this home-bound population comprises only a small segment of potential talent, think again. The Cebr survey found that more than two thirds (69%) of people who are currently unemployed or economically inactive would be encouraged to start working if they had the opportunity to work flexibly. That’s what drives a couple trillion in economic gains.

More than Just Balance

The Cebr study also found that 95% of the knowledge workers polled who are currently employed (again, these are not self-employed) would work from home 2.4 days per week if given the chance. 60– 70% of respondents would work from local coffee shops, shared workspaces and other locations at least one day per week. It’s more evidence that flexibility speaks to a desired sweet spot in our lives. It’s not enough to strike a balance between work and life — there’s simply too much happening in both realms to maintain a workable split.

Integration is another element to consider. It breaks the seams between each in a way that better fits our seamless, digitally-enabled ways of functioning in person and via digital workplaces, driving better employee experiences. There’s also a certain symmetry between the integration of the physical and digital world with the integration that flexibility creates between our work lives and our home. “The future of work is dynamic and decentralized,” said Donna Kimmel, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Citrix. “And businesses that create flexible digital environments in which employees can access the tools and information they need to perform at their best, from anywhere at any time, can deliver it today.” It’s clear why the company helps customers to better guide, manage and automate through a unified, secure and high-performing digital workplace with intelligent capabilities, known as Citrix Workspace.

Gallup found that workers who spend about three to four days of the week working offsite are substantially more engaged in their jobs than traditional counterparts stuck behind desks all day. Cebr’s study broke down the numbers to show just why we all stand to gain — and given the factor of financial stress in our lives, it makes sense.

The study found that flexibility and remote working can save many billions:

  • 5.8 billion hours annually saved by employees not having to travel to and from work.
  • $44.4 billion in savings on commuting costs.
  • $107 billion a year back in the pockets of US workers, given the savings in cost and time.

Engage Them or Lose Them

If you don’t build flexibility into your job offerings, you may lose great talent who prefers to work for an organization that’s more flex-friendly. In a little more than ten years, the number of telecommuters (not self-employed) has increased by 159%. Among millennials, some 76% of them would take a pay cut of 3% or more for a company that offered flexible office hours. And the Cebr study uncovered further incentive for leaders bent on improving productivity: 93% of respondents said virtual/remote working would enable them to manage their time more effectively and devote extra hours to work tasks. Read that again: your employees want to spend more time working. Working remotely would enable them to do so.

Which begs the question: what if you don’t give them the chance? Someone else will. We’re still at 3.6% unemployment. It’s not unusual for a company to poach its competitor’s workforce, and not just on the executive level. Organizations are trying to offer all the bells and whistles. But if flexibility is off the table, you may not get to an interview — so it’s a best practice to build the capability to provide it.

Tim Minahan, the Executive Vice President of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Citrix, pointed out that from a business standpoint, flexible and remote is a key way for leaders to not only expand the talent pool but also tap into their skills to “unlock innovation, engage customers and move their business forward.” I’d agree, and add that the operative word here is forward. Leadership consistently reports that a primary challenge is recruiting talent with the right skills — and flexibility eases some of that pressure. One of the top three constraints facing new businesses is being able to hire the right talent, according to 60% of SMB leaders surveyed this year. Usually, in HR, we reject the concept of a magic bullet. But in this case, if you’re looking for the magic bullet, flexibility and remote working opportunities may be it.

#WorkTrends: Taking Stock of the Global State of Work

Our guest on #WorkTrends today is Mr. Hung Lee, the co-founder and CEO of the recruiting firm He’s also the founder of the mega-newsletter, Recruiting BrainFood. We discussed the global state of recruiting and the workplace, how the upheaval of Brexit will affect European and British tech firms and workers, and my new favorite subject — the passion economy.   

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you never miss an episode. 

[02:44] Brainfood is a once a week curated newsletter I send out to a global audience. 
[03:29] It’s very clear that there are some universal challenges that all of us are facing.
[04:46] With Brexit, obviously it’s a hugely divisive issue, you know, people are losing friends, family, et cetera, as a result of all of this.
[09:56] A lot of the criticism that I’m seeing from recruiters about technology stems from an overestimation of the capability of the tech.

Today, we’re talking to Mr. Hung Lee about the global state of work. Hung Lee is the co-founder and CEO of the recruiting firm, but you may be more familiar with him as the founder of the weekly newsletter, Recruiting Brainfood.

Challenges in Global Recruiting

Hung wears a lot of hats at Workshape, from business ops to customer success and user support to making the tea. He’s definitely one to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty. But that’s also a reflection of his global, democratized perspective on the challenges we all face in HR. He’s based in London but says that given the fact that many organizations are global, we’re sharing the same issues — whether you’re in New York, Kiev, or Melbourne. People everywhere are struggling to interact with the highly skilled, he says. We’re talking about the in-demand talent, the ones who have digital skills, software skills, and data science types.

Realistic Expectations for Tech

Emerging tech in HR can cause controversy. We saw it recently in a story about HireVue, which has its own AI system that analyzes candidates’ facial expressions, word choices, etc. As Hung notes, “I think people are genuinely quite disturbed at automated decision making.” So, a lot of the criticism that I’m seeing from recruiters about technology stems really from an overestimation of the capability of the tech.” Setting realistic expectations will help in the acceptance of new HR tech, he believes.

The Impact of Brexit on Recruiting

The European Union and Britain are certainly at a crossroads, and Brexit has thrown everything off balance. Hung confirms that Brexit’s a hugely divisive issue: People are losing friends and family as a result, he says. It may also cut off recruiters in London from highly-skilled talent sources throughout the European Union. And this could have a crippling effect on a lot of tech firms in the UK.

The Explosion of the Passion Economy

I asked Hung to look into his crystal ball and give me his thoughts on the future of work. One of his predictions is the growth of the Passion Economy. “You’re going to see people that are very passionate about certain topics and produce some type of content, where their passion really is their competitive advantage and build a clear following doing it,” he says. 

We’ve all seen it: those creating online communities around their particular passion. They’re everywhere — on YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn. Hung describes this as the Tim Ferris or Joe Rogan business model. And, he predicts, the Passion Economy is only going to keep growing.

I think you’ll find Hung’s take on the global state of work as interesting as I did.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Hung Lee on Linkedin and Twitter
Hung Lee’s Newsletter, Recruiting Brainfood

Photo by Natasha Connell on Unsplash

7 Reasons AI Will Take Over HR — and 1 Reason It Won’t

Artificial intelligence has streamlined many human resources processes. These sophisticated computer programs excel at recognizing patterns, planning and adapting in ways that mimic human thought. Unlike people, however, who can grow tired or bored, or bring unconscious biases into their decisions, AI programs are fast, tireless and efficient.

AI is increasingly being used to automate many HR processes, and it appears automation is going to pay off big time. A study from McKinsey projects that AI will drastically change business, no matter the industry: “AI could potentially deliver additional economic output of around $13 trillion by 2030, boosting global GDP by about 1.2 percent a year.”

With that in mind, let’s consider seven ways AI improves efficiency in HR — and one reason why it’s not going to replace humans.

AI Can Sift Through Thousands of Applications Faster

Empty positions can exhaust your workforce and hurt company morale. So it’s important to quickly fill positions — but with the right person.

Sorting through incoming resumes is an arduous task that’s prone to error when left to human beings. AI can save HR departments up to 23 hours per hire by analyzing incoming applications and using algorithms to assess and evaluate the applicants’ experience, knowledge and skills.

It Increases Retention Rates and Productivity by Helping You Hiring More Qualified Candidates

Not only does AI speed up the candidate selection process and provide invaluable analysis, it also uses that data to help match candidates to the right jobs. AI algorithms can identify the traits of successful employees and look for candidates with similar characteristics for certain jobs.

It Reduces Hiring Bias

While discrimination in hiring is clearly against the law, HR personnel sometimes don’t realize they’re allowing personal biases to creep into the hiring process. After all, we’re only human. On the other hand, AI can disregard information regarding a candidate’s age, race and gender. It also doesn’t start with any biases for or against specific geographic areas, universities attended or organizational affiliations. These factors might play a subconscious role in hiring decisions when humans are reading resumes. Using AI can reduce hiring bias and help create a more culturally diverse workplace.

It Streamlines Employee Onboarding

New hires typically have many questions regarding benefits, paid time off and company policies. AI chatbots can answer these repetitive inquiries, freeing up HR personnel to handle tasks like training and office tours. AI can also assist with new-hire paperwork, helping employees get to work faster.

It Helps Employers Craft Job Descriptions

Today’s AI software can help recruiters craft the perfect job description. Programs like Textio recognize gender bias in ads, helping recruiters choose neutral language. Additionally, by comparing the language in an ad with previous ads that have worked well, AI software can help the writer craft prose to reach the desired candidates.

It Improves Employee Engagement and Builds Better Relationships

AI’s uses go beyond hiring. From scheduling meetings to coaching employees, today’s AI technology streamlines common business processes and all but eliminates the chance of human error.

It Helps You Save Time

AI helps recruiters and HR departments save time and increase efficiency. HR managers who don’t use automation for tasks such as payroll, applicant tracking, training, job postings and more say they lose an average of 14 hours a week completing these tasks manually. If your organization doesn’t use AI software to automate at least some aspects of HR, you could be losing time and money.

Why HR Still Needs People Despite These AI Strengths

AI excels at tasks that rely on data processing and pattern recognition, completing these functions faster and more efficiently than human beings can, making it a valuable tool for automating many aspects of HR.

But the “human” aspect of human resources shouldn’t be neglected. From making the final hiring decisions to finding creative ways to keep workers engaged, HR directors know their employees and their organization in ways AI software doesn’t. AI merely is a tool that can give HR team members more time to get to know employees, shape company culture and address issues that crop up.

Also, not every employee is comfortable adopting unfamiliar technologies. HR staff can ease the transition to AI, showing employees how using AI in HR can help nearly everyone in the workplace become more productive and efficient.

This article was originally published in 2017 and was updated in August 2019.

#WorkTrends: Why Wait? Mark Stelzner Says HR Should Change NOW

Change. Change. Change. Repeat. It’s the new normal for every organization, and it’s not going to end anytime soon. As HR leaders, how can we build teams that are resilient in the face of that constant change?

Mark Stelzner, founder and managing principal at HR consulting firm Inflexion Advisors, says the biggest mistake HR leaders can make is stopping and waiting for more change to come. Instead, he says, HR should lead the charge, updating the way our organizations work to survive and thrive in our new reality.

Listen to the full conversation below or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

What the Liquid Workforce Means for HR

We started our conversation by discussing the biggest changes in HR right now. One of the most prominent changes Stelzner sees is in how we view the workforce. “We’re talking less about employees and more about workers,” he says. “Now there’s this notion of a liquid workforce that is composed of individuals who occupy roles.” Many organizations, he says, are embracing the idea of a liquid workforce and using this concept to structure and staff teams.

Additionally, the rise of a more global workforce, coupled with its intrinsically liquid nature, means organizations will have to lean on service providers more for a significant portion of the talent life cycle. Stelzner offers a hypothetical example. “If your organization decides to enter Budapest tomorrow, do you know anything about Budapest regulations?” he asks. “You’ve got to find somebody who can hyperlocalize, can allow you to be compliant, but also allow you to thrive wherever and whenever you want to be.”

Why Wait?

Change is one of the primary constants in the workplace right now, but Stelzner says organizations need to stop waiting for change to come to them. “You shouldn’t wait,” he says. “There are incremental changes that we can take on at any moment in time. If you do wait, it’s too late.”

These changes don’t have to be big, he says, because small things can make a big difference. “Stop trying to boil the ocean,” he says. One small change he suggests is auditing your relationships with your team and your vendors. Ask yourself where your pain points are, and see what you can do to make things better. “These are incremental changes that will fundamentally change your cost basis and also make the life of you and your employees just a little bit easier.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends: AI for HR

As we in HR know, AI is more than just a topic Common raps about in Microsoft commercials. Ready or not, it’s the future of work — and it’s coming quicker than we think.

So how can your organization adopt and embrace AI solutions while also making sure that these technological imperatives don’t overwhelm your people or your bottom line? For the answers we turned to Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, an AI advisory and research firm that’s best known for its training series AI 4 HR.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Do Your Research

Even if we’re already living in an AI-driven future, it doesn’t mean your organization should rush to embrace all of the latest and greatest tools.

Meister cautions that just as organizations need to think methodically about the solutions AI can offer them, they need to do the same as they select the tools they’ll work with. She says organizations need to take their time researching vendors, especially their financial viability. With so many startups out there, finding a partner that will survive long term is especially important. “With the buzz, there’s a lot of venture capital dollars,” Meister says.

Organizations also have to do a deep dive on the algorithms their partners will be implementing. Meister uses the example of the promise AI has shown in eliminating bias in talent assessment. Organizations need to understand how the algorithms work, because there’s always the possibility that an algorithm may introduce more bias.

This research is just part of the process, Meister says. You’ll have to experiment and test to get things right, and you can only do that if you truly understand how your new tool works.

How to Keep Work Human

Becoming more reliant on technology in the workplace leads to the question “How can we keep our workplaces more human?” Meister says there are two critical things organizations can do to ensure that they don’t lose that essential human touch.

First, make sure to upscale key roles that are affected by AI, and that you’re figuring out new ways for workers to bring greater value to the organization. “McKinsey had an interesting prediction that said that 30% of all the activities and about 60% of all occupations could be automated,” Meister says. “Think of this — if 30% of the role of recruiting specialists or coordinator could be automated, that individual should be upscaled so that they can deliver more value to the organization.” After all, she says, it’s the humans who are handing out job offers.

Second, be more transparent in communicating your AI strategy to employees. “There’s fear,” Meister says. “You’re going to be asking yourself, ‘What does it mean for my job and the other jobs on my team?’ ” One way to better conduct yourself during this period of change is to create a corporate code of conduct for how you’re going to use AI. This will help employees understand organizational goals — and how their jobs will change.

What Happens When Workers Automate Themselves?

Yes, you read that correctly! For all of the fear surrounding AI, there are some who’ve taken it upon themselves to automate their jobs. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that Meister recently wrote about in Forbes.

The concept of self-automation throws off our expectations around implementing AI in organizational settings; AI is typically instituted from the top down. But self-automation is happening more than you think, particularly with programmers in IT departments, and Meister says it’s a trend that’s only going to continue. But it leads to other questions: What exactly should an employer do? Is this an ethical breach for an employee?

If you discover employees automating their jobs, Meister says not to react angrily. “If an employee is self-automating their job, we have to reward their agility and their curiosity for hacking how their job gets done,” Meister says. In fact, she says, this is a sign of enthusiasm — for a desire to get tasks done and also to think about completing these tasks in a creative way.

Now, is self-automation a skill for the future? That’s a question for another episode.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends:How to Make 2020 a Transformational Year

We talk often about the future of work here at #WorkTrends — and this week’s guest says the future will be arriving pretty soon. Brent Colescott is the senior director of business strategy and transformation for SumTotal, and he says 2020 is going to be a transformational year for the workplace. When a man whose job is literally transformation tells you that transformation is on the way, you tend to listen.

Colescott shared with us why he sees talent and development as the leading drivers of change in the workplace, and how you can prepare your organization for the coming revolution.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

‘The Inflection Point’ Is Here

We’re all expecting transformational changes in the workplace, particularly with regard to HR. Many of our guests — and myself — have been beating the drum for more focus on talent development, retention and the employee experience. Colescott says this thinking is about to hit the mainstream in a big way.

Colescott has traveled throughout the world over the past year, going to conferences and meeting with businesses. He says he has noticed that many organizations are truly beginning to see the importance of investing in talent development. “They realized that they can’t just kind of give this lip service anymore,” he says. “They realized the impact of what talent development from a broader sense means for their organizations.”

To Colescott, this means 2019 is the year for organizations to begin changing their processes and platforms to focus more on the employee experience, particularly in regard to skill development. “If they’re not doing that in 2019, 2020 is going to be a very difficult year,” he says. “I really think that this is now the inflection point of change that’s going to start happening.”

How to Transform Your Organization

Transforming your workplace for 2020 begins with a simple mantra: “It’s all about the employee experience,” Colescott says. And he says one of the primary focuses of the employee experience needs to be talent development.

To assess your organization’s focus in this area, he suggests a simple litmus test: If you’re working on a continuing education course and your boss walks past, do you minimize your screen or do you proudly own it? If you minimize your screen, your organization has a lot of work to do, and it’s highly likely that you or others in similar situations will look for jobs elsewhere — because talent development is not prioritized at your organization.

To create a development culture, Colescott advises organizations to encourage continuing education during working hours, and to provide guidance on development opportunities. He also says HR must ensure that there is a close relationship between training and performance management. If an employee wants to check on either, it should be as easy as using an Apple Watch to track the number of steps they’ve taken that day. “The approach that we take to our talent needs to align with the expectations that they’re having from everywhere else in the world,” he says.

Looking Beyond 2020

2020 is just the beginning of transformation, Colescott says. As organizations invest more in the employee experience, they’ll also be able to get better data to analyze and improve it. Colescott has a surprising analogy: “I think when we look at how HR is going to be dealing with things in the next five to 10 years, we’re going to start treating our employees like athletes,” he says.

The data-driven approach will drive the future of HR, just as “Moneyball” has driven the future of baseball. “We’re going to start measuring our employees in how they support our organization in the same manner,” he says. This data will help HR devise more innovative approaches to employee engagement, one of the most important factors in organizational success — no matter the year.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode is sponsored by SumTotal.

#WorkTrends: The Bridge Between Work and Technology

This episode is especially exciting for me. I love all of my guests, but it isn’t every day that I have one of my BFFs on the program. So I’m really pumped to have China Gorman back on #WorkTrends this week.

Among her many jobs, Gorman is managing director of UNLEASH’s U.S. operations, and this week she gave us a special sneak peek at UNLEASH America, which will be May 14-15 in Las Vegas. This year’s theme is “The Bridge Between Work and Technology;” we discussed how the convention will highlight the theme and Gorman’s own thoughts on the future of work.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

What’s in Store at UNLEASH 2019

UNLEASH has its roots in HR tech, but the conference is also devoted to discussing thornier issues. Perhaps the biggest topic UNLEASH will tackle is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. GDPR has forced organizations to examine their data privacy practices and has spurred a discussion on the place of data in our professional and personal lives. “Ultimately, what we need to wrestle to the ground is who owns employee data,” Gorman says.

Further emphasizing the conference’s willingness to “get real” is its final keynote speaker: Edward Snowden. Yes, you read that correctly. Snowden will beam in live from Moscow. “He’s going to talk sort of big picture about data privacy,” Gorman says. “So how do we know who owns what [and] how do we work so that people can control what they need to control in terms of data?”

Gorman says she’s excited for the discussion and the controversy Snowden can bring, believing it will help facilitate even more dialogue on the floor in Las Vegas. “That’s going to be a whole different take that should sort of spur the thinking and create some interesting juices for our attendees to marinate in,” she says.

How AI Has Affected HR

Since Gorman puts on events about the future of HR, it would be a little ridiculous not to ask what she thinks about that topic. Gorman was polite enough to let me grill her on how construction on “the bridge between work and technology” is going.

The first topic we discussed was how artificial intelligence has affected HR. She says AI hasn’t had quite the impact that many expected, with one exception: talent acquisition. “I think they’re going to lead the rest of HR in terms of the effective use of AI,” she says.

AI has given recruiters the ability to find more qualified candidates in less time, so positions can get filled quicker. And an AI should learn with each hire, so these systems will evolve and become even more efficient as they’re used more and more.

Why Data Will Drive Engagement

But Gorman doesn’t underplay the promise of HR tech or AI. She says that as AI is further integrated, HR will be freed from administrative tasks and will focus on the human relationships that drive the employee experience. “I think in their heart of hearts, that’s the business HR wants to be in.”

And the data HR can collect will help improve employee engagement, she says. “The opportunity there is huge to improve engagement,” Gorman says. Organizations will be able to use analytics to combat disengagement, and they’ll be able to use data to take actionable steps to improve the employee experience. “It’s just that simple,” she says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends: How to Build the Company of the Future: HR Transform

So what exactly is the company of the future? It’s something we’re all asking ourselves a lot.

That’s why HR Transform’s theme this year is “How to Build the Company of the Future.” The conference is one of my favorite events, and we’re very fortunate to have a sneak peek of this year’s event for you this week on #WorkTrends. We spoke with Samara Jaffee, co-founder and executive director of HR Transform, about the big themes of this year’s conference, and what exactly the company of the future might look like.

Then, we’re joined by one of the speakers from this year’s conference, Ron Storn, chief people officer at Zume. He’s helping build a company of the future right now, and he has some great thoughts on what you can currently do to position your organization for the road ahead.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.


What to Look For at HR Transform 2019

We talk a lot on #WorkTrends about this era of rapid change in the workplace. Sometimes, it can be difficult to imagine how the workplace will change even more. HR Transform, thankfully, is here to offer us some help. The conference will have four key themes that will help us think about just what’s coming up in the future, and Samara Jaffe joined us to break it all down.

The first theme is the balance between technology and humanity. Technology will give workers more time in the workplace, freeing them from repetitive tasks. It also will do something else, Jaffe says. It will “enable greater human connection to allow us to focus on the human gift that technology really can’t replace,” she says.

Second on the docket is diversity, equity and inclusion — something we all can agree we need more of in the future. Third is the identity of HR. “There are a lot of conversations around the role of HR and the strategic shift that’s underway, within that function, to ensure that there’s a voice of the people at the C suite and the board level,” explains Jaffe.

Last is the future of work. Talent pools are changing; more and more people are working as gig workers. The conference will also look at how employees can be re-skilled and up-skilled in the rapidly-changing workplace.

Hire, Grow, Keep

Ron Storn is one of the thought leaders that will be speaking at HR Transform, and it’s easy to see why. Zume is a great example of a company that is embracing many of the tenets of the future of work that HR Transform will be addressing.

Zume is an organization that brings automation to the food service industry — for example, their business uses robots to pull pizzas out of incredibly hot ovens, eliminating the potential for human injury. Storn describes Zume’s hiring and retention philosophy very simply: “Hire, grow, keep.” The company values opportunities to re-train employees when the need arises, so that it can keep them engaged within the organization.

The company’s focus on automation is not a focus on eliminating jobs, but creating more skilled ones. “It’s all about efficiency and creating more strategic work for individual,” Zorn says. A former line cook for the business now leads its customer support area, and the company has numerous other similar success stories.

“It’s more about the growth of the person,” Storn explains. “If they have this opportunity — and it’s within your company — you’re going to get more retention, and you’re going to get more engaged employees.”

The Future of HR

When asked to look into his crystal ball, Storn has great insights into the future of HR. He reminds us that for all of the holistic concerns we have in our function, that we have to remember the business side come first. “It’s basically about enabling, facilitating and accelerating the overall growth of the company,” he says.

HR has a great opportunity now to be at the forefront of bold, progressive business decisions, he continues. By using its new tools, HR can lead with data-driven, more efficient processes that will demonstrate the function’s increased value to the C suite.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends: The Evolved Executive

The way we work is leading to stressed-out employees, unfulfilled leaders and unhappy teams — and author Heather Hanson Wickman is adamant that there is a better way.

On this episode of #WorkTrends she tells us why she wrote her new book — “The Evolved Executive: The Future of Work Is Love in Action” — and why caring matters more than ever in the modern workplace. We also hear from a leader who is completely rethinking the way we work.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Toxic Workplaces

Wickman says she spent more than a decade climbing the corporate ladder in an effort to achieve a level of success that she thought would ultimately be fulfilling. The journey, however, left her questioning, in a fundamental way, how organizations treat their people.

“Unfortunately what I found, along with a lot of good learning, was a world of work that was full of toxic management practices to keep us in control, to keep our egos alive, to keep status in place in a workplace where we were spending so much time just covering up who we are, covering up what we thought our weakness is, than we were actually doing our work,” she says.

Toward the end of her corporate journey, Wickman says, she started to see these toxic management practices increasingly affecting people in physical ways, such as migraines that sent people to the ER, heart conditions and severe stress reactions.

“I just came to this feeling and realization that the way that we’re working isn’t working anymore,” she says. “In doing some of the research early on for this book, I found a stat that said basically many workplaces today are as harmful as secondhand smoke, and that really sent me back [to realize] we have to do something dramatically different here.”

After taking some time to re-evaluate where she was in her career and what she wanted to do in her life and work, Wickman realized she wanted to be a part of designing a different way of work, helping organizations evolve through better leadership practices.

What’s Love Got to Do with Business?

“Most of our management practices that we use today really are still rooted in this old paradigm of command and control,” Wickman says. “If we dig a little bit deeper in that space, command and control are all based in fear.”

She says if we want to overcome common workplace fears and create a new fundamental experience in the workplace, we have to look in the opposite direction, and that’s where loves come in. “I think about it in terms of embracing love, the beliefs that foster love, practices that embody love and the words that really share love, is the magic for building organizations of the future,” she says.

Wickman acknowledges that the word “love” can carry considerable baggage for some people, so she says some managers successfully employ the concept as “care” or “joy” — caring about their team or finding ways to infuse joy into workplace practices. What’s most important, she says, is to pull away from practices that promote fear.

Creating Change

Wickman says that love in action isn’t a soft, gushy concept, but a real and difficult challenge that leaders need to meet head-on with real effort and policies. “It’s about freedom and autonomy,” she says. “It’s about human connection. It’s about growth.”

She says there are plenty of steps the average manager or the average employee can do, but first they must be willing to experiment together, test new ideas and iterate as needed.

The first step she suggests managers take is to find small ways to give power and control back to team members. “If you’re the average manager and you have five team members, is there a decision you run into this week that someone else can take on … and maybe learn something from the process?” she says.

She says another simple but powerful step is to block out time to actually connect with your team on a human level. “We get so bogged down with emails and just constantly in our office with the door closed, so put your computer away and go out and talk to your team members without any expectation of asking them to do something,” she says. “Just get to know them. What are their passions, desires and dreams? It’s truly amazing how a team can come together when they feel really valued and cared for by their manager.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

3 Trends Affecting Global Mobility and the Nature of Work

In today’s dynamic and global marketplace, it’s more important than ever that organizations are agile — and they can get there by building adaptive and diverse workforces. That means companies need to be able to move people around the world efficiently to match skills to business needs and to build diverse leadership pipelines. The good news is that workers are jumping at the chance to relocate.

Global mobility enables an agile workforce. I co-founded Topia seven years ago to help companies move people more seamlessly, empower relocating employees and unlock the power of data and insight within mobility.

Agile organizations create more shareholder value because they quickly adapt to changing market conditions. Mobility plays a critical role in this through the access to a global talent pool and more efficiently moving workers into roles that engage them and maximize their skills. Workforce mobility is not some ancillary HR function aimed only at high-level executives, but is essential to every organization’s core business and future-of-work strategy.

We see three trends driving global workforce mobility and the future of work. Smart organizations already understand these dynamics and investing heavily to stay ahead of the curve.

Global Mobility Options Are Now a Must

Today’s complex, global economy makes workforce mobility more important than ever to achieve business objectives. First and foremost, mobility lets organizations access talent they otherwise would miss out on and retain top talent that is at risk of leaving for new opportunities.

We see time and time again in cities across the U.S. and the world that the type of talent you need to support specific functions within an organization may not always be readily available. You have to be flexible.

Mobility is also playing an growing role in attracting and retaining top talent necessary for an adaptive and diverse workforce. A recent survey from Topia and Wakefield Research found that mobility played a large role in persuading professionals to remain at an organization. More than 70 percent of professionals in the U.S. and U.K. said that relocating to another branch in their company would advance their careers — even if the move didn’t include a raise or promotion, the survey found.

Organizations are largely on board. Virtually all HR decision-makers (more than 99 percent) offer mobility options to their employees, the survey found. The problem, however, is that the message isn’t getting through to workers. The survey found that over 40 percent of professionals are not aware of mobility offerings within their own company.

Part of what is driving this disconnect is an approach by organizations to treat mobility as something that’s reactive and reserved for senior leadership. Mobility now has to be a constant when we’re thinking about recruiting, retaining and growing our talent.

Roles Are Evolving Almost as Fast as Technology

Increasingly rapid technology advances are changing roles across nearly every industry, and mobility will play an essential role in helping move the right people into those roles.

HR offers a good example in that it’s evolving into a more self-service function that’s more user-friendly, automated and technology-based — changes that are already the responsibilities that HR professionals deal with in their daily work.

The role of HR has now moved to be a lot more strategic versus tactical — which is a good thing — but it means that the skill set and the type of training that you’re going to employ for new HR talent or people who might have been performing more service roles would need to change.

Changing Demographics Are Reshaping the Workplace

The evolving demographics of the global workforce are creating skills shortages in certain markets and skills surpluses in others. Meanwhile, millennials want to switch jobs and roles more frequently. Both of these dynamics mean mobility will play a key role in how organizations adapt.

The Topia/Wakefield Research mobility survey explored the differences in opinions and perceptions between individuals within large organizations and leadership teams. It found that millennials and subsequent generations are much more likely to seek out global experience quickly compared with previous generations.

Younger workers are more likely to see a transfer as a career-development opportunity, which means they’re more willing to move to a new location without a promotion or pay raise.

Of those selected for transfers, millennials are more likely than other generations to have been relocated by their employer for work. This is true both in the U.S., where 54 percent have relocated at least once (compared with 43 percent for Generation X and 38 percent of baby boomers), and in the U.K., where 61 percent say the same (compared with 52 percent of Gen Xers and 43 percent of boomers.)

If they’re not offered these opportunities, they’re going to leave. The power really is in the hands of the organization, and, most acutely, in the hands of HR leaders in partnership with business leaders and managers, to be having these conversations and looking at career growth and expansion.

This post is sponsored by Topia. To learn more from Topia on the talent mobility disconnect, please visit

#WorkTrends: How the Workforce Is Changing

Alexandra LevitWhile Generation Z and an army of robots aren’t about to take over your office any time soon, who we work with and how we work together is still all changing very fast. In this week’s episode we talk to author and consultant Alexandra Levit about the major trends affecting the workplace of tomorrow and why it’s a competitive advantage to have a flexible and systemized contract workforce.

Levit works to prepare organizations and their employees for meaningful careers in the future workplace. The former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and writer for The New York Times, Fast Company and Forbes has authored several books, including the international best-seller “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College” and her new book “Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future.”

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Demographic Shifts

Levit says organizations are already being affected by the changing demographics of who is available to work, particularly aging baby boomers who are remaining in the workforce after retirement age — often on their own terms.

“They’re available to work but the model in which they’re available to work is slightly different,” she says. “Many organizations are not prepared for that because these are people who even if they worked 60 to 80 hours in their prime are not willing to do that anymore. We have to really think of ways to allow these individuals to continue to contribute in meaningful ways.”

She notes that the population in developing countries is growing much more quickly than the population in developed countries, which she says means nations such as India and China are going to be exporting more qualified workers in most professions. Consequently, more individuals will be available for virtual work and remote work, often while charging lower fees than similar professionals in the U.S. and European nations.

Automation and AI

When it comes to automation and artificial intelligence and their impact on the workforce, Levit takes a largely optimistic view. “Until machines develop consciousness, there’s going to be no real way for them to take over every aspect of a human role,” she says. “There are still very unique human skills like judgment, empathy, interpersonal conflict resolution, creativity, that are very difficult for machines to replicate.”

Rather, she foresees the rise of human-machine hybrid teams in which machines will take over tasks of certain jobs — and she says deploying and maintaining those tools will likely create new jobs.

“I know one organization that’s working on a chatbot for their onboarding function,” she says. “… This chatbot has involved no fewer than 15 to 20 human employees, so that’s a whole bunch of human people who now have jobs because we’re deploying a chatbot. This is going to continue to happen. As we try to figure out how to best use technology and how to best deploy robots, we’re still going to need a lot of people.”

Managing Contract Workers

To find and maximize talent, Levit says organizations need to systematize their contract workforce — and they need to do it now because the contract world is going to play an even larger and more complex role moving forward.

“The way that it’s happening in most organizations today is that there’ll be a manager from one team who brings in someone, there’ll be a manager from another team who brings in another person,” she says. “And there will be no rhyme or reason to how that person is recruited, how they are onboarded or how their performance is evaluated.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

#WorkTrends: The Global Workforce

People around the world are more connected than ever before, and workers are jumping at the chance to relocate. This week on #WorkTrends we’re joined by Steve Black, co-founder of the HR tech company Topia. He shares new research about the state of the global workforce and employees’ perspective on relocating. This episode is sponsored by Topia.

Black explains how he founded the company seven years ago with CEO Brynne Kennedy, and how the business was driven by their personal frustrations as expats as well as the challenges their employers at the time faced moving people around the world.

“Thinking about mobility from a corporate perspective is really about getting the best talent in the best seat regardless of where that is in the world,” Black says.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Generational Split

Black dives into a recent survey the company commissioned on mobility, exploring the differences in opinions and perceptions between individuals within large organizations and leadership teams.

Among the findings was an interesting generational split when it comes to expectations and desires regarding mobility. Specifically, millennials and subsequent generations are much more likely to seek out global experience quickly compared with previous generations.

“They’re looking at it as a career development opportunity rather than an income-generating opportunity,” he says. “They’re willing to move to a new location without a promotion or without a pay raise because they see the opportunity for career progression and growth.”

Gender Divide

Black says the survey data helped put hard numbers around workforce dynamics that had been generally recognized in the business world but not detailed. For example, the survey found that 57 percent of men over the course of their careers had an experience of mobility as part of their career, compared with 40 percent of women.

He says this divide is an important metric to explore as business moves toward more gender equity because a key criteria for representation in the C-suite and on boards of directors is often global experience.

“We’re in an interesting chicken-and-egg situation of until we solve the multi-gender splits within mobility, it’s going to continue to be a blocker and challenge down the road in terms of career progression,” he says.

Tech Solutions

Black says he’s seen organizations and their mobility teams struggle over the past decade-plus with carving out enough time to do the hands-on support, counseling and strategic planning elements of HR. The causes, he says, are often resource-intensive compliance tasks that are a part of mobility, such as manually creating documents and interacting with vendors.

“That balance has ended up with much of mobility being more of an operational function than many of the folks in it would like to be,” he says. “That’s where we’re really starting to see technology come into play and chip away at.”

Black says emerging technologies are automating mobility tasks, from assignment letters and repayments to complex cost forecasts for multi-year assignments around the globe. “You’ve eliminated hours of manual time spent gathering information and doing somewhat menial tasks,” he says. “And you’ve freed up time to counsel, support and talk to the rest of the business around outcome ability — and drive talent strategy rather than reacting to it in an operational way.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Thank you to Topia for sponsoring this episode of #WorkTrends.

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

What It Takes to Be a Global HR Leader

In a few weeks, some of the smartest thinkers and HR leaders will come together at UNLEASH America in Las Vegas. I’ve worked with HR teams and senior leaders at organizations around the world, and I’ve seen HR as a function completely transform over the past few years. HR is much more sophisticated and complex than when I first got involved. In 2018, running an HR organization takes a global perspective, a deep understanding of how technology is changing our work, broad experience in many different corporate functions and a focus on people.

A Global Perspective

In my mind, there’s no question — HR leaders need global experience. The best HR people I’ve met come from global backgrounds. That’s because most HR departments are no longer hubs of administrative work. Instead, the HR department has transformed into the talent department, and talent leaders need to know how to work with many different people, potentially spread over different continents.

A Deep Understanding of How Tech Is Changing Work

We’re living in a world of continuous change, and it’s essential that HR has a place in that. HR’s new role, along with culture and happiness, is future-proofing businesses. That means understanding the massive industrial change that’s coming.

We’re in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. The biggest taxi company in the world is Uber, and it owns no taxis. The biggest real estate company in the world is Airbnb, and it owns no real estate. We see disruption coming through these exponential technologies. HR has to stay very connected to what those exponential technologies are doing to the marketplace.

That will mean re-skilling the workforce. Presently, we’re kind of sleepwalking into disaster: Gallup released a report earlier this year revealing that 77 percent of Americans aren’t worried about losing their jobs to automation. So we need some serious education.

I talk to CHROs who are re-skilling thousands of people. They know their jobs will be gone in five years. I think it’s our responsibility to act now.

Broad Business Experience

I know many smart, savvy HR professionals who have always worked in HR. But I also know a lot incredibly effective HR leaders who worked all throughout organizations — operations, finance, sales, executive leadership — before they landed in HR.

Let me put it this way: The best way to get experience as an HR leader isn’t to take more courses and work on more formal certifications. It’s to get out there in the business, talk to more people and get a better understanding of how different departments work.

Today’s HR leader needs a broad understanding of how a business works, and how business decisions affect people.

They need to know how use HR technology to analyze employee data and create real-time reporting for leadership. They need to be able to use technology to read the pulse of the organization.

A Focus on People

Finally, HR people need to be — it seems crazy to even have to say this — good with people. We’re living in a world where most people are unhappy at work. Americans are working 80 hours a week for the American dream. Employees are looking for a better experience. Only HR representatives who understand people and care deeply about making work better can really make an impact.

Historically, HR would come into a workforce and immediately treat everyone like kids. “You get a 4 out of 5 on your performance review. You were a good boy or girl, so you get a bonus of 1%.”

At so many organizations, work is still a place where people are trapped in the chains of bureaucracy and endless administration. We’re trying to unleash people from all of that.

To continue the conversation about the big changes coming to HR, book your spot at UNLEASH America at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas, May 15-16, 2018. You’ll hear from speakers including:

Register here.

The Gig Economy: Distraction from a Real Problem or Disruption to the System?

Uber. Airbnb. TaskRabbit. Fiverr. These companies and many others like them have been recent harbingers of change in the business world. Known as the “gig economy,” this new way of working that allows people—with the click of an app—to earn a little money on the side, when and where they want, appears to be here to stay. In fact, a recent study showed the number of Americans benefiting from alternative work arrangements rose by nearly 10 million between 2005 and 2015.

That study revealed something else, which for “gig economy” naysayers was telling: The online, “app-driven” workforce accounted for less than one percent of the gig economy workforce in 2015. The majority of these “alternative work arrangements” were not digitally focused and app-driven, which is what most media reporting on the gig economy tends to focus on.

So, who are these workers? According to the report, they are on-call workers, temporary help agency workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers. Among them, the fastest growing group is contracted workers. And that’s a little scary. Where does that leave today’s job seekers? Are the halcyon days of company loyalty, full benefits, and long-term employment prospects over?

Has the Gig Economy Hurt the Workforce? 

However you slice it, the gig economy has definitely hurt the workforce. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor’s David Weil coined the term “the fissured workplace.” He also published a book of the same name and found there’s been a seismic change in the way companies do business, shifting from focusing on employee-worker relations to placing priority on “building a devoted customer base and delivering value to investors.”

The results haven’t been pretty, and they go a long way toward accounting for those high numbers of people I mentioned above—those engaged in the “non-digital” side of the gig economy. As Weil writes in his book “The Fissured Workplace,” “…large corporations have shed their role as direct employers of the people responsible for their products, in favor of outsourcing work to small companies that compete fiercely with one another. The result has been declining wages, eroding benefits, inadequate health and safety conditions, and ever-widening income inequality.”

Ironically, Apple, the very company that has been at the forefront of the rapid technological changes that have allowed this work splintering to occur, is one of the worst, employing fewer than 10 percent of the more than one million workers around the world who design, make, and sell their products.

This doesn’t bode well for new graduates entering the workforce. Nearly a decade after the last Great Recession, most Americans are still anxious about their futures, economic and otherwise.

The Impact of the Gig Economy

Economists tend to be our “canaries in the coal mine,” if you will, and many of them feel the gig economy and the resultant instability in the workforce due to increased outsourcing will have a huge impact on our economy in years to come.

“The general suppression of peoples’ ability to earn a good wage is part of what is leading to slower overall growth, what some people call secular stagnation… [and] it contributes to the ornery politics that we have now,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, in a recent Bloomberg article.

And while the U.S. jobless rate of around five percent looks good on paper, that number masks the fact that wage growth has stagnated, and a higher number of people than ever are working part time due to the overall decrease in full-time opportunities. If people can’t earn, they can’t buy. Nor can they invest in retirement and/or health care benefits for their families, nor help their kids with the costs of higher education.

Are We All Doomed?

No, of course not. The tech-driven gig economy has brought many new jobs to the table, and offers the opportunity to work remotely to people who can’t access more traditional 9-to-5 office jobs due to location or transportation issues. In fact, of the nearly nine-million-plus new jobs created in America since 2005, nearly all of them have been “gig economy” style employment. And job growth of any type is always good news.

There are, however, very real issues we have to face to avoid feeling doomed. The tidal wave of change in the way companies run their businesses is not going to stop. And this “flexible” work world we’ve created, with all its pluses and minuses, is not going away. There is an urgent need for corporations, governments, and society as a whole to adjust to these changes so workers don’t get left behind. As entire industries are transformed by the gig economy, and new “gigs” are created due to rapid technological advancement, people with the skill sets to fill those gigs will be needed.

Today’s flexible work structure has the power to fundamentally disrupt our place in the world. The next five years will reveal unprecedented upheaval for business. It’s up to us, as a society, to proactively get our arms around these changes and modernize training programs, regulatory policies, and employment laws so both businesses and workers benefit from the gig economy—truly the fourth industrial revolution, whether we like it or not.

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Transparency 4.0- Why AI in the Workplace Will Force Us to Tell the Truth

Are we ready for AI and robotics in the workplace? First, we need to be more aware of its presence and power in general, and then we probably need a major adjustment in our natural survival instinct to shade the truth when it suits us. We may be heading into the Workplace 4.0, but we’re still thinking in terms of us and that. But that has a binary relationship to facts: either it happened or it didn’t. It’s one aspect of the transformation we need to prepare ourselves for a lot more; we’re going to have to tell the truth.

I was considering this as I self-checked out of a big box store the other day. In front of me was a man wearing a Fitbit who was busy multitasking. He was coaching his kid on his smartphone on how to use Alexa, and without paying attention, he double-scanned a bottle of milk. When the clerk came over to cancel the transaction, the man claims he didn’t swipe it twice. “The scanner says you did,” the clerk said.

While we’re nearing the functional tipping point in using AI and automation, are we ready for the honesty shift? Recently, a fitness tracker and Alexa were involved in solving murders, surely an unintended consequence — at least from a consumer standpoint. A Connecticut woman’s fitness tracker gave police the evidence that backed up their hunch about the lying husband. He said they were struggling with an intruder, but the tracker proved him wrong: it had tracked her on that fatal day walking around the house. A man in Arkansas mistakenly asked Alexa some very incriminating questions about cleaning blood off an object after committing murder in a drunken rage. Alexa doesn’t just listen; she gathers the data. And the data doesn’t forget or lie.

The point is the devices are smarter than we think. They are designed not to lie — so while we can, let’s get better at telling them the truth. This is where the workforce is going to have to adapt the most. We’re going to have to get used to being honest, or we may lose our jobs in more ways than one.

According to McKinsey Global’s recent report, some 60% of occupations and 30% of tasks could be handed over to robots. The kinds of jobs we’ll likely see automation taking over from humans will be those that entail physical tasks in structured, predictable environments — such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and food service as well as those involving data collection and processing. Of some 2,000 job tasks we do globally, McKinsey found that nearly half — about $16 trillion in wages worth—could be automated using technology that already exists.

That probably means that certain single-skill jobs are going to go out the virtual window. It also may mean we will finally start to appreciate the other skills we tend to have, our soft skills — our social perceptiveness, empathy, and communication. We’re need to start understanding the value of natural intelligence differently. Same as we want organic produce, we may post job descriptions that specifically require “NI” versus “AI.” But certain ways we operate will be incompatible. The more interdependent we are with cognitive machines, the more exposed we are.  AI and robotics may free us to be “more human” in our jobs, and enable us to flex our soft skills more frequently, but it’s not going to give an inch where we live.

The new workplace is going to shift the concept of transparency to reality, whether we want it to or not. And this may change our work culture in ways we don’t yet understand, forcing some interesting management approaches.

Let’s think about this. Not only do organizations need to reconsider how they design jobs, structure work, and strategize for the future, they also should have a transparency policy that understands we’re only human.

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This article was first published on fowmedia.

Four Ways Tech Can Unleash the Power of Your Workforce

We often use the word Power to describe an innovation. Part of its power lies in its novelty — so when the newness fades so does our focus on something’s power. We’ve been focusing on tech for a good reason: Work’s transformation to digital is the essence of powerful. But our work depends on people: their ability to solve problems and innovate, to create, and to think about new tools we haven’t even heard of yet. A Harvard study found that human brains only stay focused on the present for about 53 percent of the time. So, let’s flip the script in the world of work and look at how to best leverage tech to unleash the brainpower of our people.

Why now? We’ve already entered what Deloitte calls “the big shift” and are about to transform again as a wave of AI and robotics hits. We’re going to need to fully understand the value of human capital — which we may start calling NI, as in natural intelligence. To do that, we’ve got to let free up some human bandwidth. Here are four suggestions for using tech to enable your people to use their brains:

Use tech to disconnect from tech.

It’s not counterintuitive: Ever-connected, ever-social Millennials, and Generation Z may need a cool app to reveal the power of disconnecting. I don’t agree that we all have screen-induced ADD or a shorter attention span than a goldfish. But more concentration time benefits everyone.

The new generations of project management and communicating tools have new shut-it-off options to stop push notifications for designated blocks of time, such as  Basecamp 3’s “Work Can Wait” and Slack’s “do not disturb” modes. Older workers may do a facepalm over the irony of using tech to create tech-free time. But disconnection is the new novelty now — it’s a powerful state of mind.

Use tech to tend the brain.

Some millennials prefer to be seamlessly tethered, even if the fitness tracker may turn out to be a time bomb. But exercise and going outdoors has proven benefits for cognition and productivity.

Employers can leverage the tech-body connection into fitness and wellness campaigns — using fitness trackers, mobile apps, or workplace rewards and recognition programs to catalyze lunch-hour yoga or team hikes. It may seem like a trivial pursuit to set up a powerwalk contest, but playing has been proven to be a potent mind-cleanser.

Use tech to let people go home.

We’re clearly over work/life balance as a new concept. The idea of either/or has completely lost its power. The new ideal is work/life integration — and tech is responsible. But this isn’t just a fad. It’s actually better for us than trying to balance between the two, according to research first published in the journal Human Relations and later reported in the Harvard Business Review. Of 600 employees, those with fewer boundaries between work and life maintained a higher level of overall job performance.

So let your people take that personal call, or work from home. Add remote conferencing or external access to your company intranet, and think about how to leverage any kind of performance and productivity tools to help everyone stay on track, no matter where they are. Get everyone in the habit of checking the workflow calendars frequently — in this case, push notifications are everybody’s new (and powerful) BFF.

Use tech to celebrate what tech is not.

Cognitive and AI is both exciting and scary when we start having robot-emotion fantasies. But for now, we’re still distinct in our humanity, in our behaviors, in our soft skills. Deloitte UK research looked at hundreds of job profiles and identified 25 critical “human skills” for the machine age. Social skills and cognitive abilities will become more and more important as technology evolves.

These skills are essentially human. So far, they can’t be automated. As automation enters the workplace, we need to find human talent using tools that help us better discern human qualities. Given the talent crunch, the intense pressure on recruiters, and the nature of work now, that means insightful pre-employment testing that doesn’t just check off a skills list, but can measure empathy, listening, communication, teamwork, prioritization, social perceptiveness. These tests don’t replace an interview. But they can be used to glean accurate profiles and measurements.

As our work and our lives become increasingly combined, and as work continues to transform — from centralized headquarters to a constellation of teams, from local to global, from brick and mortar to virtual — we have an incredible opportunity to re-connect with our own humanity. Different isn’t always better, but if we harness the tech that’s changing us, it will be.

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This article was first published on FOW Media.

The Future of Work: How the Workplace Is Changing in 2017

Technology is rapidly transforming the workplace. Some changes will create dramatic shifts in the long-term future of work. For instance, reports estimate that between 45 percent and 47 percent of current jobs could eventually be lost to automation, with seven percent of that job loss coming by the year 2025. These technology-driven workplace changes will continue to spread and accelerate in 2017.

Here are five key 2017 workplace trend predictions.


Automation helps the workplace become more efficient as companies adopt artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. One AI technology that is likely to see growing workplace popularity in 2017 is scheduling assistants. Programs such as Amy from free workers from the time-consuming work of sending multiple rounds of emails to schedule meetings with coworkers; a process that becomes more difficult as employees work remotely and in different time zones.

Another benefit of efficiency gains enabled by workplace technology is reduced errors. Workers spend less time on rework, and need to spend less overtime correcting mistakes. Automation can free up time for workers through efficient process design. Amazon used Kiva robot technology to improve warehouse fulfillment planning and speed by 400 percent. Thus, automated work can better support a healthy work-life balance.

As with many new technology solutions, these automated assistants are proliferating without clear winners yet established. Administrative automation will continue to evolve to encompass more functions and standards will develop around interoperability with other new technologies, as well as legacy systems. Additionally, programs and applications will need to be standardized across an increasingly distributed and mobile workforce, often working on their own versus company-issued devices.


Technologies in areas such as AI, automation, machine learning, and communication can boost employee engagement and thus productivity. When workers are better able to utilize their specific knowledge and skills, productivity is unleashed. For example, Nordic bank, SEB implemented Amelia, AI technology from IPsoft as an internal IT service desk. The result was the virtual workforce liberated the human workforce to focus “on more satisfying, higher impact activities.”

The potential drawback to these productivity gains in the changing workplace is that their benefits often accrue only to the employer’s bottom line and not to the workers themselves in the form of pay raises or time off. In the U.S., we’ve seen steady gains in productivity and profits without a corresponding rise in pay or vacation time.


One trend that some predict will flourish in 2017 thanks to technology advances is scheduling flexibility. Employers can use programs to automatically schedule hourly workers based on their availability or fluctuations in customer traffic. Software can also allow employees to self-manage trading their shifts.

Flexibility in work location is another option highly desired by employees and becoming increasingly feasible for employers to offer thanks to advances in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) security, increased compatibility of applications across devices, digital workspaces, video calling and conferencing, and cloud storage and computing. Not only is this the most desired job benefit for in-demand IT workers, enabling remote work allows companies to expand the talent pool from which they recruit.

Not all jobs can be performed remotely, however. Also, as the workplace is massively transformed by the impact of automation, new ways of working currently unforeseen might not lend themselves to remote work. Some industries could suffer from a reduction of innovation facilitated by face-to-face interaction among co-workers and teams. Employees who thrive in an office environment might find it difficult to collaborate with coworkers who work nonstandard hours or from remote locations. Despite these disadvantages, advantages like employee retention and becoming an employer of choice can outweigh them.


Long gone are the days when many workers used large, bulky, stationary machines such as desktop computers, cash registers, or printing presses. As the computing power of devices such as smartphones and tablets has exploded, workplaces have adapted to incorporate mobile technology. Rethinking the workplace for mobile consumption, use, and delivery will continue to transform companies across industries. To accommodate increased mobility, in 2017 businesses will increasingly turn to custom developed enterprise apps rather than leaving it up to employees to choose their own solutions that might not work together or be sufficiently secure.

Expanding the use of mobile devices poses challenges, however. Primary among those concerns is security. Portability, convenience, and ease of use all create avenues for competitors, hackers, and thieves to steal company data. Even without nefarious intent, employees can lose valuable information by, say, not properly backing up their work. These challenges exist with computers housed at a single worksite, but the portability of mobile devices increases these problems.


Perhaps the most widespread change in workplaces has come from technology used to identify, recruit, and screen talent. Despite the widespread adoption of automated systems to manage and review resumes, human talent will still be required to evaluate applicants beyond an initial pass at keyword matching. As social recruiting through platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn continues to gain traction, HR professionals can learn to leverage technology to identify harder to hire candidates in areas such as IT.

Jeff Mills, director of solution marketing for recruiting and onboarding describes how Success Factors/SAP technology can be used to target and build a talent community among job seekers who start, but don’t finish, an application on a mobile device. This type of HR automation combined with marketing technology potentially provides a far more robust approach to identifying and recruiting qualified candidates than manual follow up efforts.

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The Future of Work is Here Now – But Does Work Even Have a Future?

There are a ton of people who have dissected what the future holds for the workforce. An Oxford University study in 2013 suggests 47% of jobs in the US will disappear due to technological innovations. The OECD produced a more recent report that suggests only 9% of jobs globally will be lost due to automation. On sites like Willrobotstakemyjob people can check the automation risk level for many jobs.

But, what’s the truth? As ever, the answer lies somewhere in between the scenarios mentioned in the reports. But one thing is sure: automation will radically alter the nature of work; jobs will never be the same again.



Technology has moved at an awesome pace over the past several years and it often seems that tomorrow is here today. For organizations, preparing their workforce for the future is much more about being ready for the day after tomorrow than it is about what happens today or the next day!   As Peter Hinssen says of the tech revolution:

“Companies feel like inhabitants of coastal towns preparing for an oncoming hurricane, nailing wooden planks to their windows, but knowing that the tornado could just knock their entire house down if it happens to stand in the path of the oncoming storm. The Day After Tomorrow comes faster than ever before in history. Scary. But it seems like we’re still doing our Today and Tomorrow business like it was the 20th century.”

This is something echoed by social media and marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk. he was one of the first ones to take on social media as a marketing platform to grow his business. He harnessed the new tech for a benefit.

Gary has surfed the big waves and  brings this passion and experience to bear as he gets down to the hard core issues of adjusting to the market, consumer attention, and company culture in this ever-changing digital age.

Yet others have focused on how the future of work is really reimagining our conception of work. Vivek Wadhwa points to the reality that we can’t stop these innovations so we have to adapt or we will be unemployed and unskilled.

The fact is there are roles that will be replaced. We need to learn what to do as these positions are taken by automation. Where can those employees go? What new skill sets can they learn?

We need to be able to answer these questions along with the innovations in tech. The future of work is not replacing jobs with complete automation; it’s about developing new skills by enhancing our skill set through technology.

If you’re interested in the conversations surrounding the Future of Work and listening to some of the people mentioned above, then make sure you check out HR Tech World San Francisco on June 14-15 and get a ticket to the most happening place to be in the world of work.

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The New World of Work – Flexible Careers and Freelancing

Is freelancing the new black? It certainly seems that way—in fact, you might call this trend the new world of work. A new study by Freelancers Union and Upwork backs this up, finding that more people are freelancing by choice. Today, a little more than one in three workers in the United States are setting their own hours and being their own bosses. The findings of the study were interesting—here are some of the highlights:

“The majority (60 percent) of freelancers who left traditional employment now earn more.” Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they specifically left an employer in order to start working freelance. And while there’s certainly risk involved in dropping out of the traditional workforce to go solo, most of these new freelancers said that within the first year they were making more money than the more “full time” salaries they left behind. The data doesn’t indicate exactly where people are in their careers when they opt out of traditional employment, but my own anecdotal knowledge of the trend suggests many of these are folks mid-career or later, so it’s hardly surprising that they’re quickly able to maximize their incomes in this way.

“Technology is making it easier to find freelance work.” More than half of the respondents said they’d gotten a project online, which was up from only 42 percent last year. And those who didn’t source work online, and instead credited personal and professional contacts for their work success? Chances are, with social media, many if not most of those “personal” connections were certainly retained, if not gained, through online platforms. I believe the online-only component of this networking will continue to grow in the future, with even some of the most old-fashioned businesses being more open-minded about bringing on all manner of business partners and employees remotely. In the past, a business wouldn’t even consider an agency that didn’t have offices near enough to accommodate fairly regular face time, but in the age of video conferencing and cloud technology that makes connectivity and collaboration a breeze, this need is becoming obsolete. It’s no surprise freelancers are taking advantage of this openness, and it seems likely this trend will continue in the coming years.

“Freelancers, especially Millennials, are optimistic about the outlook for freelancing.” An impressive 83 percent of the freelancers surveyed said they think the best days are ahead for freelancing. And interest is growing even among those who aren’t yet working this way—most non-freelancers said they’d be open to moonlighting if the opportunity was available to them. The fact that Millennials—many of whom are well into their 30s and not exactly workplace newbies anymore—are especially optimistic about freelancing is an indication that employers are going to need to become more open-minded about allowing their employees to start a side hustle. They will need to stop thinking of their employees as property, and start understanding what the modern job economy looks like.

Pros and Cons of a Freelance Economy

Clearly, there are many components of this freelancing boom. One is the popularity of freelancing among workers who are looking for more flexibility, and achieve it through the switch to a freelance career. But there’s also motivation in the growth of freelance from the business side, as well. But there are some downsides to consider as well. Let’s take a look.

The Pros. There are economic factors at work when it comes to outsourcing. Some businesses find it economically smart to blend freelance talent with full time employee talent, thereby reducing costs of benefits that go hand-in-hand with full time employment. Utilizing freelance talent can also make it easier for businesses to adapt and pivot quickly, and allow them to scale up or down quickly. Recruiting and hiring full time employees can be a lengthy process, so keeping a cadre of reliable freelancers in the mix can help ensure you can deliver, in any circumstance. For businesses, that’s a big benefit. Likewise, when work slows down, you know that your freelance team members are already in a good position to step up their work elsewhere, because they’re in no way beholden to you, and have maintained connections and contracts. They generally have multiple revenue streams, so their business model isn’t wholly reliable on you. For businesses, this can be very beneficial.

Another positive, from the business standpoint, is that when you assemble a freelance team to work on a particular client account, you can bring in talent that is ideally suited to the needs of that particular client. When you go the full time employee route, sometimes you’ve got a body on the payroll who might not be the best person for a particular assignment, but it’s a hole you’ve got to fill and it makes sense to fill that with someone already on the payroll. I don’t always think this delivers the best value for clients, but it is the way of the business world. Or at least it has been the way of the business world for a very long time. I’m happy to see that beginning to change.

Realistically, freelance work is like entrepreneurship-lite—or entrepreneurship without all the risk or stress. Freelancers gain the flexibility of not having their fate tied to one single business, one single boss, one single relationship. They get to set their own work hours, choose where they want to work, the clients they want to work with and the kind of work they most want to do—and how hard they want to apply themselves. And while that freedom comes with a certain amount of risk, it’s nowhere near the risk that being involved in a startup business often brings. We all know of the staggering failure rate of startups, and how devastating the failure can be. With freelancing, especially the work-from-home kind, you generally don’t need to invest loads of cash, even worse, go into debt in order to get started.

Cons. Not everyone is wired to be an entrepreneur, and every freelancer is, most definitely an entrepreneur. Some people who opt to work from home quickly find they miss the interaction and sense of community that goes that’s an integral part of an office setting. Some find themselves less motivated when working remotely than in a traditional setting. Some have trouble finding clients and work.

For businesses, relying on freelance talent can be inherently risky. If they aren’t beholden to you by way of full time employment and the agreement of work for wages that’s a part of that arrangement, you might occasionally find your freelance talent less than reliable when you need them most. They might be juggling other jobs and other clients and your work will have to wait its turn, which is only fair.

All in all, there are good and bad things about this trend toward more flexible careers and freelancing, but I think the good far outweigh the bad. What do you think? What’s your experience been with working with freelance talent and/or integrating freelancers into business operations alongside your FTEs? I’d love to hear the challenges you’ve faced and what you think of this trend in general.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

The Business Value of Adopting Live Streaming Video Collaboration
Here’s Why the Freelancer Economy is on the Rise
How Millennials Are Reshaping Work
How the Rising Freelance Economy Will Change Talent Acquisition Strategies

This article was first published on FOW Media.

Taking a Look at The Workplace of 2017 and Beyond

The beginning of a new year brings with it a flurry of optimism: Will this be the year our business gets its big break? Is this the year we find love, or finally achieve that long-term goal? As 2016 has ended and we are well into 2017, I’d like to look back at the technology of 2016 and offer predictions about what we might see in the workplace of the future. What will work look like in 2017 and beyond? What challenges will we face, and what opportunities will we finally embrace? Here’s what I think we can expect for the future of the workplace.

Leverage Machine Learning for Maximum Efficiency

I talk about artificial technology a lot in my business, and I believe it’s time for mainstream adoption in the workplace. I’m not talking about the gimmicky, chatbot antics businesses have used in the past. Sure, chatting with a pumpkin spice latte on Twitter may be a source of entertainment, but it isn’t fully realizing AI’s business value. When I look at 2017 and beyond, I see a spike in machine learning that helps our workforce perform faster and more efficiently. Employees will no longer expend energy on menial or repetitive tasks; instead, they will be able to focus on jobs that require their specific expertise.

Many experts take a “doom and gloom” view of machine learning and the rise of robots, lamenting they will overtake human jobs en masse in the near future. I tend to take a more optimistic approach. Robots will help us do our jobs more efficiently, but there’s no replacement for empathy and genuine customer service. A business is only as good as its employees, and those employees will continue to be people.

Embrace Managed Services and Cloud Adoption 

If you’ve been thinking about using more managed services or moving your data to the cloud, it’s time to act. I see more companies in the future migrating their data and applications to the cloud, and working more with service providers. Technology moves so quickly that your IT departments are under constant pressure to keep up. Managed services help your IT departments work on more industry-specific troubleshooting and the development of processes that will make your entire enterprise more efficient. We rarely think of IT as the most important cog in our organizational wheel—but if our tech isn’t working at max capacity, the entire company suffers. In the future, I predict in-house IT will take on a more specific role as managed services handle the big stuff.

Cloud computing will take off in a big way, because we’re beginning to see an influx of cloud providers who offer hybrid solutions and maintain regulatory compliance for high-security fields, such as healthcare and finance. Our companies now generate huge amounts of data, and that trend will only continue. Instead of trying to manage our data on in-house servers, we’ll soon store it in the cloud.

Work from Home, Not an Office

Remote work is hardly a new concept, but we’ll see the number of work-from-home opportunities increase exponentially in the near future. A key driver for this trend will be employers leveraging the benefits of hiring freelancers rather than employees. Hiring freelancers gives employers access to a global pool of talent. There’s no lengthy hiring process, no benefits package to consider, no required health insurance to provide. Workers also have more freedom in their assignments, work hours, and office locations.

Are workers taking on freelance opportunities because they like the flexibility, or because they can’t find full-time work? Approach freelance opportunities in a manner that is commensurate with your company culture. Make your organization an enjoyable place to freelance, and you’ll get quality-outsourced work in return.

Improve Your Company’s Mobility

Lastly, we’ll see more mobility in the workforce. Again, this is not a new trend, and the BYOD movement has already experienced widespread adoption. I think we’ll see workplaces become more mobile as companies realize a physical office location is no longer essential. Video collaboration and digital workplace tools allow employees to work together to achieve business goals without being in the same room. Physical workspaces will slowly be replaced by digital spaces.

Predicting future trends is always entertaining, but none follow an “all-or-nothing” approach. While we will see an increase in digital workspaces, freelancing, and AI, I don’t expect these trends to overtake the workforce in the near future. I still see physical workspaces and human employees on the horizon.

This post was brought to you by IBM Global Technology Services. For more content like this, visit IT Biz Advisor.

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