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human capital

What does securing human capital look like in a time of widespread insecurity?

from  October 5, 2020 | 4 min read

As we rapidly shift to remote and hybrid working models, the role of HR and HCM must evolve from a model of linear engagement and talent management towards a more distributed model that maintains engagement while also allowing - and embracing - increasing levels of freedom. Lisa Dodman, Unit4 Chief People Officer, talks us through what’s happening.

When COVID-19 struck, it changed how we work and how we manage people. As I said in my last blog, 75 percent of organizations had switched at least half of their people to home working and 85 percent now acknowledge that some form of home working will be combined with office-based work going forward.

Initially, the priority was to make sure people were safe and to support them through the challenges they faced. Many companies didn’t have home working technology in place and had to move quickly to equip their people. Fifty percent of companies told us their people found it difficult to work at home because their enterprise systems were on premise.

But this was just the beginning. COVID-19 has changed work forever and the full effect on how companies manage their people is only just becoming apparent. The way HR manages engagement, talent, performance – and the employee experience as a whole – has shifted irreversibly, perhaps for the good. Let’s look at what’s been going on.

Employee engagement and performance management

Engagement drives productivity – fact. According to the Employee Engagement Trends report by Unit4 Talent Management, even before COVID-19, 70 percent of organizations told our Engagement Trends Survey that employee engagement was going to be a top priority in 2020. Little did they know… Since COVID, we’re all aware that managing engagement is crucial to avoid becoming one of the 45 percent of organizations that lose people due to disengagement.

The measurement of employee engagement varies widely. The report shows that, while 48 percent of companies measure it continuously, 32 percent don’t measure it at all. In financial services, 80 percent of companies measure engagement continuously, while in government and non-profit sectors, 75 percent of organizations don’t do any measurement.

The main way of measuring and managing engagement is through conversations between employees and their managers. The Employee Engagement Trends report explains that the traditional method was to have just one or two formal discussions a year, but this isn’t very effective: 44 percent of ‘unengaged’ organizations (those scoring less than 65% on engagement) use this method.

Our research shows the best way is to measure and monitor engagement through regular real time engagement “pulses” (of the kind we facilitate with our own systems.) We’ve found that organizations following a “hybrid model” of engagement pulses and mandatory conversations see the best overall engagement. They set a mandatory minimum of one formal interaction and then give everyone the freedom to do more. The majority (58 percent) of ‘engaged’ organizations (those scoring more than 65% on engagement) use this approach.

The challenge is how to keep this up under our new reality. Regular comms from HR and weekly team video conferences are a good start.

Cloud-based HCM software with engagement and performance management capabilities also helps. If you can extend its reach through mobile-friendly apps, even better. Having seen real benefit from employee engagement, particularly in times of crisis, we decided to help out our customers so that they could have the same engagement enablement. We made our employee engagement platform Unit4 Talent Management free for six months during COVID. Companies that use it have seen employee turnover fall by 35-50 percent in a year.

Talent management and employee experience

HR used to be predictable in nature with a fixed structure and lots of rules. For some time, it’s been moving towards more flexibility, customization and autonomy – and COVID’s exaggerated that trend.

What we’re witnessing is the end of the command and control culture in HR. Welcome to the age of trust and personal responsibility, where employees have more say in how they manage their own careers and development, and where managers have freedom to manage their teams in a way that gives their teams autonomy and empowerment.

Our research shows that as long as you have a minimal mandatory process in place, it doesn’t matter how it’s designed. Provided awareness, communication, learning and leadership buy-in are included, you can leave employees and their managers to figure out between themselves where, when and how they do it. HR’s job now is to support, guide, and enable employees through personalized, distributed talent management, giving greater significance to the ‘why’ of its importance in order to scale engagement even further.

HR’s role is also becoming more about engineering a great employee experience. The way a company treats its people can make or break a business transformation program – since COVID it can make or break a business. I prefer to call it People Experience, and for me it’s a combination of culture, processes and technology that all work together to make work easy and enjoyable for our people. Get that right and engagement, productivity and everything else should follow.

Get the latest insights at X4U

We’ll be looking at these and other topics at our upcoming two-day global online event Experience4U. Unit4 HR experts will be coming together with customers to share insight into the mindsets, tactics and technologies that HR needs to adopt to succeed.

We’ll be looking at how to organize distributed talent management, how to measure employee engagement and how to engineer the best possible employee experience.

The part I’m looking forward to most is hearing the experiences of Unit4 customers, like Eurofins, who’ll be telling us how they kept their finger on the pulse of employee needs and feelings as COVID descended, and how they managed to maintain engagement.

X4U is over for now, but you can still watch every session on demand by clicking below.

Image of Lisa Dodman - Chief People Officer at Unit4

Lisa Dodman

Unit4 Chief People Success Officer

Lisa has spent 25 years in HR working globally within generalist roles, and 18 years in the software industry largely in ERP and PLM organizations. Used to defining strategy and driving business transformations, Lisa has been instrumental since joining Unit4 in 2015, refocusing the business on talent enablement, leadership development, millennial hiring and engagement