Earlier this year, Josh Bersin described what he sees as the importance of the human resources function today in engaging and quantifying employees. He argues that HR should be interested in people management rather than talent management. But what does this mean?
Bersin suggests HR stop thinking about the word “talent” and start thinking about “people” – that employees shouldn’t be defined by their skills and ability to drive results alone. Companies need to think of their employees as whole people. The company and the employee are engaged in a voluntary relationship for as long as that relationship is positive for both sides. When it becomes disadvantageous to either party, either party has the option of ending the relationship.
Bersin begins the article with a thorough review of how HR professionals, in concert with technology vendors, tackled the issue of an integrated talent management function – a job he seems to consider mostly complete.
Throughout my career, I’ve seen what Bersin refers to as “the overwhelmed employee”– and probably now more than ever. Work is difficult, with many employees working remotely and juggling multiple systems in an increasingly competitive global economy. Bersin’s big idea is how to simplify things for the employee so that they can focus and be more successful.
The role of HR, according to Bersin, is to ensure that the relationship remains positive for as long as possible by investing in employee engagement. But what is engagement? How does a company and their HR team know employees are engaged?
Perhaps because the HR function has the potential to stretch into so many areas (recruiting, talent management, benefits, culture, etc.), I have seen the HR function struggle to identify the most meaningful of these areas to tackle. Bersin does a terrific job in persuading HR professionals that they should tackle and measure engagement. And he goes into some suggestions how to do this.
One goal is to identify those employees that are passionate about their work – “smart creatives,” as Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg call them in How Google Works. As Bersin notes, these employees are responsible for “the most innovative products and services we have.” These most coveted employees want to be treated as people rather than “talent.” What they value, according to Bersin, are the following:
- A positive working environment
- Plenty of opportunity for development
- Great benefits and pay
- A culture of inclusion and coaching
Bersin calls for the next stage of talent management – of people management – to help deliver these pillars while at the same time creating a positive culture, hiring to that culture, and empowering employees to deliver results.
Of course, HR is only one component of people management, but I like the approach and the emphasis on measuring its impact on business. Who is engaged? Who isn’t? And why?
From my experience, what employees want is to have a voice and to know they are empowered to succeed at their jobs and beyond. This can be accomplished a number of ways. Bersin captures most of them well. One area that needs to be explored further is the nature of technology to meet this employee need.
What technologies do today’s professionals need to feel engaged, to feel empowered to succeed, to feel heard? HR – and all those in people management – could play a major role in that technology’s design and implementation.
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