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Unleash World 2022 Recap: How is HR Thriving Through the “Never Normal” World?

UNLEASH World returned for its tenth year. The core theme of this year’s UNLEASH World, held on October 12-13 in Paris, France, was the myriad global challenges HR teams around the world are facing – the epidemic, the Ukraine war, the inflation issue, and the impending recession were all highlighted as threats to the  global economy.

The two-day event was packed with informative sessions on how HR leaders can navigate uncertainty and best practices from industry leaders. Also, the event featured speaker presentations and panel discussions on a variety of themes, including innovative HR technologies, handling uncertainty, spearheading change, and communication among others. Running in parallel to the speaker sessions, an expo was held in the historic Paris Convention Centre and was attended by leading companies.

Multiplier participated at the event as a leading sponsor and was proud to take center stage at the conference while interacting with a large number of leading pioneers and enterprise attendees.

Here are four key themes we picked up from the conference that we think will shape the future of HR.

Thriving through times of uncertainty and spearheading change

“Change” is the only constant that people and organizations face. When it comes to employees, it significantly impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of how work is completed. A discussion with two CHROs – Karima Silvent of AXA and Anna Mindelof of Fiskars Group – underlined the difficulty of staying  agile in times of upheaval and uncertainty.

“It’s tough for large firms to remain agile,” noted Silvent, “but we must keep fighting with agility; that is how we shall survive. In HR, it’s becoming increasingly crucial to have a leadership team that understands psychological safety.”

Furthermore, in Peter Hinssen’s – renowned speaker and entrepreneur – keynote, he discussed how we live in a world of constant and overlapping disruptions and why one of the most valued and vital attributes of successful businesses is the capacity to respond to change quickly.  Furthermore, Hinssen highlighted that with the shelf-life of talent diminishing all the time and some educational skills becoming obsolete, HR professionals must hire personnel with an “agile mindset.”

Understanding a candidate’s ability to work under pressure, adapting to changing situations, and providing innovative solutions are all characteristics of an agile mentality. These transferable abilities can help HR future-proof the organization and increase the ability to pivot.

Skills and the future of work

In today’s environment, every organization strives to have the best technology that can help achieve business outcomes. The panel, consisting of Gemma Paterson, Head of People Experiences and Innovation at Legal and General, Daniela Proust, Head of Global Learning and Growth at Siemens, and Kristina Tsiriotakis, Senior Director of Organizational Development & Learning at DECIEM, drew on their experiences working with a post-framework skills agenda.

According to them, giving your employees the tools that help enhance productivity and positively impact the all-important bottom line is good; however, the difficult part is its adoption across the organization.

“We can sometimes get a bit woo-ed by tech, and we need to keep asking ourselves what are we going to do with the data from AI and automation – and if you don’t know, start small,” said Gemma Paterson. Daniela Proust echoed this statement saying, “tech can help, but we haven’t found the holy grail yet.”

There is no doubt that technology is taking over HR, but skills and competencies should also be a business-wide emphasis. Simply put, you don’t want to waste time on technological advancements that aren’t going to thrive.

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HR and the importance of analytics

In 2021, dubbed the “Year of the Great Resignation,” a higher-than-usual number of employees left their jobs or looked for new opportunities.

The workforce prioritized improving their working practices and fostering a sense of well-being, which has spurred conversations around HR Analytics and how it can help improve business operations.

Emanuele Magrone, P&O Digital and Analytics Lead and Laura Stevens, Ph.D. Vice President at Royal DSM, provided their perspectives on insight-driven organizations.

“Data democratization will enable and empower people to do their own analysis, as well as to extract insights from data and turn them into actions. This goes beyond a list of generic KPIs in a dashboard. It’s about making a significant change in action by focusing on the ‘why?’ For example, knowing you have 30% women in the workforce is one thing, but without knowing the ‘why,’ a business leader is unlikely to change their course of action if that number drops to 25%,” said Magrone.

Moreover, Paul Rubenstein, Visier’s Chief People Officer, emphasized the importance of following the CFO’s lead in using data for effective decision-making.

“When the CFO releases the P&L each month, there are words and numbers together. HR can do the same to ensure that data is used responsibly and effectively,” he said.

Businesses have begun to recognize that effective use of people analytics is critical to achieving the best business outcomes. Data and analytics enable HR to focus on the key areas that have the greatest impact. HR’s use of analytics will be critical in the future strategic shift in organizational cultures, assisting in defining a corporate plan to foster talent and build value.

Hyperconnected experience is the goal

On the UNLEASH Total EX stage, Sander de Brujin, Head of employee experience, global HR, and global people services at ING, explained how ING’s HR is working toward delivering a total employee experience using a globally scalable approach — that is also sensitive to local conditions — and also uses human-centric design and data to create a better customer experience.

In a separate keynote, Peter Hinssen said, “If you want to connect the dots…you have to collect the dots.”

We couldn’t agree more. As employers struggle with this ‘never normal,’ they must toss the rulebook out the window and reconsider their preconceived notions.

We live in a world where speed and connectivity are basic personal and professional expectations. Being able to move with the speed of change and provide a smooth, convenient, and connected experience to consumers and prospects is simply the cost of doing business. These qualities become even more vital in competitive situations, such as the struggle for talent.

Surprisingly, technology can be used to enhance the human experience. By applying automation and AI-powered solutions to low-value and repetitive stages of the recruiting process, recruiters will have more time to provide a human touch and engage in strategic and nurturing interactions with candidates. Recruiters will be happier and more empowered in their roles, candidates will have a more tailored and high-quality experience, and hiring managers will have a better chance of securing the finest personnel.

Wrapping Up

Businesses rely on people to produce value for their consumers and shareholders.

This is especially true during difficult times. People account for 60 to 80% of operating expenses, and organizations frequently claim that their most significant asset is their workforce. It is time for businesses to invest in that assertion and truly understand their staff the way we understand our consumers.

This will provide value to the business as skill demands change and we lurch from one economic crisis to the next.

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Employ the best person for job, regardless of location

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