Mark Feffer: Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer. My guest today is Mark Vickers. He’s the Chief Research Analyst and Data Wrangler at the HR.com Research Institute. He oversees and edits the primary research that HR.com conducts on its own and with partners. We’re going to talk about the trends he sees bubbling up in HR as we move beyond the pandemic all on this edition of PeopleTech, brought to you by Indeed.
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And now, Mark Vickers. Welcome. First, can you tell me about the HR.com Research Institute? What do you do? What is it? What was its Genesis?
Mark Vickers: Yeah, well, luckily it’s kind of named for what it is. We just do a ton of research on a wide variety of HR related issues. So anything from very functional issues like comp and benefits, what have you, to a more over arching issues, more social issues like toxic work environments or changing work arrangements, that kind of thing. So we kind of cover the gamut from very functional stuff to a little more wide ranging, semi philosophical stuff.
Mark Feffer: You have a really interesting perch, I think, looking over HR, recruiting, talent acquisition, technology, because you guys do an awful lot of research. It seems like you’re publishing several reports every month.
Mark Vickers: Yeah.
Mark Feffer: So the last 18 months have been kind of crazy for obvious reasons. What are some of the most notable trends that you’ve seen in HR since the beginning of the pandemic?
Mark Vickers: Yeah. A lot of it is stuff that you would expect. Some of it’s stuff you might not quite expect as much, like right now I’m editing a new report on performance management. And I was just looking at the question on how the pandemic has changed performance management and you would expect it to change it in some companies, not others. In fact, we found that 84% of these organizations responded and said they changed something in their performance management routines, initiatives, practices, and most commonly they’re doing it remotely, which you would totally expect since a lot more people were working remotely, but they’re also doing, they’re taking advantage of it by doing some other things. They’re going more digital, for example. So they’re using, they’re adopting certain technologies for performance management that they might not have been using. So they’re not just doing it via Zoom.
You know, they’re actually instituting some new processes. The rest of changing sort of the philosophy of the way they’re doing performance check-ins. For example, we’re finding that quite a few organizations just said, “Hey, we’re not just talking about performance management during these conversations anymore. We’re also doing check-ins with people. We’re seeing how they’re doing. Their wellbeing, ,their attitudes or mental health. We’re just sort of checking in with people and having conversations.” So my take on this, it’s a little less than the performance management field, a little less formalized, more conversational. So sort of ironically, in many cases, it’s made the performance management process a little less formal, a little more human, even though we’ve really, using technology, sort of divide humans in some ways, cause they’re divided through social distances. But I think it’s brought us together in certain ways as well.
So it’s a little paradoxical in some areas is what I’m saying. We’re also focusing, a lot of companies are focusing, on things like development, which they didn’t necessarily have time to do at the beginning of the pandemic. But now things like individual employee development are coming to the fore, which is interesting. I think maybe that’s part of, because as the pandemic recedes, they’re afraid a lot of people are going to jump ship. You know, they don’t have to work remotely, or they can maybe work remotely for a greater number of companies. A lot more companies are talking about hiring people that aren’t just in the local vicinity, so it’s changing hiring practices as well. So there’s so many things that are changing as a result of the combination of the pandemic and technologies to go along with it. Does that help answer your question?
Mark Feffer: Yeah, it does. One thing that I’ve heard a lot about is experience. That there’s been a, I think, a surprising emphasis on employee experience throughout the whole pandemic.
Mark Vickers: Yeah.
Mark Feffer: Can you talk about that a little bit?
Mark Vickers: Sure. Yeah, we’ve done two surveys on this and they both found that employee experience has become considerably more important over the last few years. I think we were looking back four years ago. Not only has it become more important to HR professionals, but it’s expected to become more important yet. And it’s interesting because what is experience even mean? We’ve tried to tease out what it means and obviously it’s a wide variety of issues. Everything from my relationship with my boss, to the technologies I’m using, to whether I’m given the resources I need, to my comradery within the workforce. All these types of issues are important to the employee experience. So it’s a big mandate to say, “We’re going to boost employee experience.” Bigger than, for example, boosting engagement. So up until recently, that’s mostly what we’ve heard about right, is employee engagement.
And usually what we meant by that is the willingness to work with passion and enthusiasm, and sometimes putting in longer hours, and things like that. And giving all your extra energy and power to work. So a lot of that was sort of productivity oriented and it kind of touched on employee experience, cause employee experience is going to affect engagement, but now it’s a broader umbrella, employee experience, so you need a wider variety of metrics. You need different types of training. To improve the employee experience, you have to look at employees in a more holistic way. And I think you have to look at the whole organization in a more holistic way. So in many ways it’s a more difficult challenge to hit. And it’s a little more subjective unless you have good metrics, and many companies don’t have very good metrics around employee experience.
Mark Feffer: You know, it seems like a lot of the solutions providers that the HR tech vendors have are talking more and more about experience. Some of them have been talking about it for several years. Do you see them really changing their approach? And I mean, are there any now that you think are really changing their approach to include those metrics or just make the experience of the employee simpler than it was before? Or is this still a lot of talk?
Mark Vickers: Yeah, no, it is. It is a lot of talk. I don’t want to under rate the hype factor attached to employee experience, but I think they are making substance changes around their products. They are really thinking about what employee experience means. How can we add to the employee experience? How can we leverage our technologies to help measure the employee experience? So I think one of the things that they have to answer, that is the technology providers, are things like how do we know? How do we know you’re having an impact on employee experience? What are you doing for us that’s going to improve our employee experience? And they have to answer those questions.
So yes, there’s some hype, but I think there’s also some substance to it. The difficulty for vendors is that they have to figure out where they fit on the employee experience spectrum, because you don’t necessarily have employee experience platforms per se, or maybe you do, but all the other platforms are also going to affect employee experience. So each of those, if you have improvements, if you have learning and development, whatever you have, you have to figure out, how does that manifest improvements in employee experience in some way that you can convince HR professionals and the people buying those systems that they really are having influence.
Mark Feffer: Now, another thing that’s been going on lately is there’s been a notable increase in discussion about HR technology, or to put it another way, technology’s role in HR. Which I think they’re slightly different, but where do you see the emphasis being? How do technology and HR sort of fit together?
Mark Vickers: Yeah. You know, it’s a really good question. And I’ve been sitting in on a lot of advisory board meetings lately, and we are now doing a survey on the HR tech stack. So basically sort of the sum total of your HR technologies and how they fit together as a single whole to help employees, help the employee experience, to keep people productive, all that kind of thing. So the HR tech stack also fits in with the overall tech stack within the organization, so the ERP’s, or whatever you’re having in your own organization. So what we’re finding basically is that these technology stacks are of a high priority for a lot of organizations. I think probably a rising priority in that they’re not just looking at individual technologies. “We need a performance management system, we need ATS, or we need a learning experience platform.” Companies try to figure out how these things interact with one another, how you can make them work together and a total system.
And sometimes organizations go with a single HRES or HR management system that has multiple modules, but very often they want something in particular, in certain area. So they may have a standalone technology, but they need to figure out how that technology can communicate and interact, interface with the other technologies. And that could be a challenge. It’s a challenge for vendors too, to figure out how they’re going to sell a product that is going to be able to interact with other products, especially if they’re a standalone provider. If they make some big system that they want to sell the entire system and say, “You don’t have to worry about all that interface stuff, all our modules automatically work together in a seamless way.” Maybe that’s true, maybe that’s a little bit of hype in itself, but certainly that’s one of the advantages of being a bigger ticket provider in these areas.
So the technology stack is a big issue. How do you make these things work together? And there’s a lot of challenges going into the technology stack. For example, employee self-service is a big item here for the overall HR technology stack. So you want, obviously employee self service has been around for. People sometimes get into the system and use it to change their addresses, to figure out, what’s in their benefit plans, all that type of thing. But employees, especially during the pandemic era, wanted to use the system for other factors like career development, like learning and development, like a lot of things. They just want it to be able to access their HR IQ. In some cases, they go to chat bots to find out something about the HR department or about their policies, things like that.
So increasingly what organizations are trying to do is expand that self-service throughout the HR technology stack. So whatever component we’re talking about, you want to be able to allow employees access. You want them to access it through mobile devices, so that’s been another big consideration in recent years. Vendors are making a lot of progress in making their systems have greater access mobility. You want to be able to prove you have employee experience, as we were just talking about. You also want to be able to have systems that can communicate data with one another. And as you know, Mark, data is tough. You have to clean it up very often. One set of data doesn’t necessarily reflect another set of data very well. You have to make it so that the data is accurate, and especially if you’re putting together pieces of data from different systems.
And that’s a major challenge for organizations. On top of that challenge, which is a huge one based on our research, is that the HR tech stack and all that data needs to operate within a larger ecosystem. So your IT people have to be able to work with your HR people. And you know, what we hear is that there’s a big, well not big, there are very often disconnects in the communication between IT and HR as HR becomes more tech oriented. IT was sort of used to wiring the IT systems and operating the IT systems. These folks need to work together, and if they’re not working together, you can develop systems that just don’t have a lot of inter-operate in your operational capabilities. And that can create real headaches for the organization.
Mark Feffer: Mark, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.
Mark Vickers: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you very much.
Mark Feffer: I’ve been talking with Mark Vickers, Chief Research Analyst and Data Wrangler at the HR.com Research Institute. And this has been PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. We’re a publication of Recruiting Daily. This edition is brought to you by Indeed. With tools like Indeed Match giving you quality candidates whose resumes on Indeed fit your job description immediately, and Indeed’s skills tests, which on average reduce hiring time by 27%, give them a try. Get a $75 credit at Indeed.com/HCM. That’s Indeed.com/HCM. The offer’s valid through June 30th, and terms of conditions apply.
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And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us at www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m mark Feffer.