#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

The Future of Performance Management

How could you get better at your job? What does your manager think about your performance this month? And what are your ideas about how your organization could do things differently?

For as much money as companies spend on performance management, most employees still couldn’t quickly answer those simple questions. When you only hear feedback once a year at a performance review, it’s hard to know where you stand and how you could continuously improve.

But a new wave of HR tech innovators are working on changing that. At HR Transform, I led a conversation with one of those trailblazers. Rajeev Behera is CEO of Reflektive, a real-time performance-management platform. We talked about why employee engagement is so low, how performance management is changing and how we can reframe engagement outside of HR to include everyone in the process.

Why Engagement Is so Low

We’ve all seen the depressing studies about low employee engagement. Gallup reports that 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their work. Behera says low engagement is the result of a divide between companies and employees. The two groups aren’t aligned on incentives. In other words, the company wants one thing, and they think they know what employees want, but employees want something different.

Before Behera started Reflektive, he was a game designer. While he certainly knew a lot about his role and his relationships, he didn’t know much about “engagement.” “Engagement isn’t very well-known outside of HR,” he says. Most people don’t think about engagement at all, or if they do, it’s an HR issue.

“We need to make engagement a more accessible term that’s relatable outside of HR,” he says. When you expose managers to their team’s real-time engagement numbers, and empower them to act on that, you turn engagement into a priority.

How to Rethink the Performance-Management Process

Here’s how Behera thinks about the performance-management status quo: Everyone has an annual review, with goals set from the top down. Goals are set at the company level, and then cascade down to every employee. “That’s very theoretical,” he says. That kind of top-down goal-setting sounds good when executive leaders are talking about how to get the most out of their employees. But in the end, “it falls flat in practice,” he says.

Reflektive surveyed leaders and their employees, and found that while 94% of leaders thought the performance-management process was working, only 35% of employees agreed. “Employees just don’t get enough out of it,” he says.

Behera says it’s all about employee expectations. Younger workers have grown up constantly sharing on social media and getting immediate feedback from the people they interact with. Then they report to work, and that steady stream of feedback cuts off. “They don’t get that feedback anymore, and they feel like they’re doing something wrong,” he says. “Eighty percent of employees told us they want more feedback.”

So companies like Reflektive are pushing for more continuous, real-time feedback and performance management. Behera suggests a combination of quarterly conversations, planned check-ins and real-time feedback on the fly.

Planning more frequent conversations gives employees the feedback they crave, and it opens the door for them to share their ideas and feedback for the company. Behera says those conversations are crucial: “Fifty percent of employees say they feel uncomfortable bringing up issues about the company’s overall strategy with their managers. We need to find ways to facilitate those uncomfortable conversations and signal to employees and managers that it’s okay to talk about that stuff.”

“There’s a big shift happening in HR processes, and it’s fun to be driving that changing behavior,” he says. “We get to see this big change happening at organizations, and it touches everybody. Performance management goes outside HR. Everyone touches it.”

The Future of HR Tech

In his role as an HR-tech leader, Behera is focused on providing more personalized experiences. He sees a future where feedback will be more accessible. Instead of locking away feedback in a clunky performance-management system you only see once a year, what if feedback was easy to see every day?

“How do you get people more engaged in the feedback process? The key is accessibility,” he says.