Podcast: Oracle’s Emily He on the New Dynamics of [Remote] Work

Home Office Meeting

Mark Feffer: Welcome to People Tech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer. Today, I’m talking with Emily He, senior vice president for global marketing at Oracle HCM. We talked about HR and HR technology and how they may evolve as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark: Emily, thanks for being here. Everybody’s kind of through the emergency, putting out the fires, and I think people are starting to step back and take a look at what they might have to do in the future. What do you think the world of work is going to look like after the pandemic, say, in 2021?

Podcast: @OracleHCM Senior Vice President Emily He on how remote work impacts family dynamics, employee communications and technology. #HR #HRTech @Oracle Click To Tweet

Emily He: I think one of the most profound changes we all are anticipating and are seeing is that work from home is probably going to become permanent, more permanent than before. Employees have been asking for flexibility in the workplace for a long time, but somehow, as a society, we kind of got into this cadence of organizing our life around work. So you spend most of your time in the office and life kind of happens around the edges. And we tend to forget that not very long ago, families are the units of society and work actually happens around families.

So this pandemic has forced us to go back to that structure. And I’ve heard from so many friends, although there are many tragedies unfolding because of the pandemic, but I also hear from my friends who tell me that they really enjoy spending time with their children. They enjoy listening to them, they enjoy knowing what’s happening in their life, and they just enjoy spending time together, playing board games, having dinner every day, cooking together. So I think that’s going to remain.

Also, the pandemic is forcing the working from home structure to work from a technology perspective, from a process perspective, and we’re all collectively innovating on this new model of organizing our work around life. So I think that’s probably going to be one of the most profound changes after the pandemic. Obviously lots of things need to fall into place.

The other thing I see is support for employees is taking on a new meaning and employees are now more human beings than ever before. So before, when we talk about employee experience or support for employees, we often talk about onboarding or we talk about performance reviews, all of which are still very important, but during the pandemic, companies are more concerned about the health and safety of their employees. Do they feel engaged? Do they feel motivated when they’re working from home? Are they taking care of their well-being? Are they burned out? Because one of the things we all discovered is, when you work from home, you actually work more, not less. So how do you balance work and life so you don’t feel burned out?

And then, some of the basic human needs still remain. We still want to connect with our fellow coworkers. We want to have a sense of connection. So how do you do that in a digital way? And that’s something that we’re all trying to figure out collectively. And I think in many ways, this has accelerated the need for digital transformation because many of your processes need to become digital. And not only are employees accessing information digitally, but they also want this sense of personalized support. So how can you deliver that personalized experience to employees while making sure their basic needs are being met?

Mark: What do you think that means for the HR technology vendor or, put another way, what new demands should HR tech vendors be ready to hear?

Emily: There are several areas. The first one, like I mentioned before, this idea of delivering employee experience digitally and providing that basic support for employees, making sure they feel supported, making sure they’re healthy and safe, their well-being is taken care of. That all needs to happen more digitally than ever.

Some of this has already taken place, but there are still many companies who don’t have all their HR processes delivered digitally. So that’s probably priority number one. And we’re all trying to figure out, for example, when the employees are working from home and they need information about the latest regulation around the pandemic, they need information about if they were to return to the workplace, what are the safety measures they need to take into account, how do you deliver that information to the employees quickly so they have what they need to perform their job?

And then the other thing is, as I mentioned before, employees, even when they are working from home, they want to get to know other coworkers. In the past, this will happen around a water cooler or when they are having lunches together. If you take that away, then that means there needs to be a place where employees can go learn about other employees. So this idea of having a rich profile of each employee with the ability to write on walls or having commentaries, or documenting your hobbies or career aspirations so you can organically form communities around common interests or common career aspirations is incredibly important. So there’s a whole set of technology related to delivering information digitally, supporting employees, making sure they feel connected, giving them the tool to help them grow.

Another category of technology I see is around the ability to make changes quickly. I think this pandemic has reminded us all the importance of being resilient. We’ve seen industries having to completely switch their business model, and at Oracle, we have many customers who have gone through that experience with the help of our technology. But I think this is happening to many companies, right? So how can you execute this type of change quickly? How can you identify the talent you have in place and redeploy them to areas of critical needs? That’s a really important piece of technology that needs to be in place as well.

And the implication for that is, we’ve heard from a lot of customers that more important than ever, that they want to have their business processes on the same platform. So when they make a business model change, that will trigger to the HR area, and that will trigger down to the workforce changes they have to make to enable this new business model. Or another example is, if they have to furlough employees, like in some industries, that needs to trickle down to payroll rather quickly so they can translate new regulation to HR policies, to financial changes.

The third area from a technology perspective is there’s going to be a huge re-balancing of skills and talent because some industries are just being impacted so dramatically. And I see this movement not only happening inside the company, but almost at the inter-company level or inter-industry level. So if I’m a retail shop, I need a lot of employees, but I can’t hire them fast enough. In the meantime, I know a hotel down the street, they are furloughing their employees and there’s probably a lot of talent with very similar profiles. So how can we trade talent between companies to make sure we both meet our needs, but more importantly, also take care of each other?

Mark: Of all of these, what is the single biggest change that you think is going to come?

Emily: I personally think it’s all about the redefinition of work/life integration. This is something we have been talking about for a long time, but in the past, we talk about it more in the context of how do we organize our life around work? But I think with the pandemic and people having the experience of spending more time with their families, we can push the work/life integration to the new frontier and redefine what that really means.

There have been a lot of tragedies around us as a result of the pandemic, but one of the silver linings is people are being forced to spend more time with their families. And families as the basic unit of society is sort of seeing a new resurgence, and I’m hopeful that we can maintain that and still organize work around that basic unit of life. And not only can we be more productive in the workplace, but we can also maybe go back to families as the basic structure of society.

Mark: Emily, thanks.

I’ve been talking with Emily He, senior vice president for global marketing at Oracle HCM, and this has been People Tech from the HCM Technology Report.

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.

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