7 Piping Hot Takes from HR Tech 2018

We learned a lot in just a few days at this year’s HR Tech conference. There were plenty of big ideas, some of which fall into the hot take category. These hot takes represent a new line of thinking, but they aren't the controversial opinions you see on sports and politics banter shows.

These are the constructive kind, the type of insights that can help you, your team and your organization grow together.


1. Your mentors are all around you.

Many of us spend our lives searching for our own personal Yoda. We want someone that inspires us, teaches us and pushes us to become better.

But if we hone in solely on finding that aspirational mentor, we might miss out on the dozens of mentors in everyday life. We can learn something from every encounter. Sure, a boss or team leader might represent the ultimate goal, but coworkers, subordinates and even interns can provide constructive evaluations as well.

"I looked for a great mentor," Randi Zuckerberg, CEO of Zuckerberg Media, said during her keynote speech. "I wish I would have realized sooner that the best mentors were around me all the time."

Invite peers, coworkers and contacts to give mentoring through feedback. Organizations can create a coaching culture by encouraging employees to communicate and discover each other’s strengths and areas to improve. This builds stronger relationships and strengthens trust among teams.

This hot take is great for managers too. They don’t have to be THE mentor to their employees. They can be one of several voices helping each employee become the best version of themselves. They should leverage the people around them and allow their team to build itself up.


2. True AI doesn't exist... yet.

While there are a number of awesome new intelligent tools such as data mining, natural language processing, algorithms, decision trees and more, true AI remains a goal, not a reality.  According to John Sumser, the Principal Analyst at HRExaminer, "there is no AI to be found anywhere in the industry." 

Sumser cautions buyers from falling into the AI hype. Organizations are offering incredibly useful and innovative tools that seemed impossible only years ago. But while machines are great at delivering facts, they're not fully capable of making informed opinions yet. It's up to the users to take the data mined by AI and make decisions for themselves.

When searching for business solutions, approach any promise of AI with curiosity, not complete buy-in. Do more research into what the company is actually offering you instead of being lured in by a buzzword.


3. The manager/team relationship has replaced manager/individual.

Companies, like sports teams, require the players to work cohesively to achieve their goals. The coach develops each player individually, but even the most talented teams will crumble if the pieces don’t work together.

The same is true in the workplace. Managers should treat their teams as a unit, not individual pieces. Putting the focus on how all the pieces fit and coaching them together creates a familial, more productive group.


4. Allow employees to bring their whole selves to work.

Some organizations ask employees to check their personal lives at the door when they arrive at work. They want time on the clock to be all about their job and aren’t interested in each employee’s individual experience.

But, as Peter Fasolo, the Executive VP and CHRO at Johnson & Johnson, noted, managers should allow employees to be themselves at work. Let people display their individuality and show empathy with what’s going on outside the office. This creates an atmosphere of trust and caring and boosts employee engagement. It shows your employees that you value culture.

And culture is what matters. According to Joanne Smith, the Executive Vice President and CHRO for Delta, it’s what got the airline through its bankruptcy in the mid-2000s. Leaders visited different offices throughout the nation, rallied around company values, and created a culture framework that allowed Delta to come back from the brink.


5. Development is more forward-thinking than replacement.

It’s expensive and time-consuming to replace employees. According to the Bureau of National Affairs, $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover.

This is why forward-thinking organizations aim to develop, not weed out,  poor performers. There are certainly times when unproductive employees need to be replaced, but smart organizations realize that developing underperformers is less costly than severing the relationship.

Often these employees are disengaged or are in the wrong position. Uncovering their motivations, desires and aspirations helps form the right role and the way to maximize their output. If they’re underperforming in a specific area, coach and develop their skills to try and make the fit work.


6. HR representatives are now people scientists.

The role of HR representatives is now less about tracking sick leave and PTO. It's moving from a transactional focus to prioritizing individuals, teams and workplace experience.

HR analyzes data creates goals centered on engagement, employee experience, and putting people together that are a great fit as a team. They want to understand the actions and activities of employees to help them achieve their best lives within the organization.

There is less focus on reactive analytics and HR teams are now looking to what trends are on the horizon. They can then prescribe to employees what they should focus on and what they need to learn so they can grow and reach their true potential.


7. Experience outweighs formal training.

Training has its place, but organizations are finding it's far more valuable to allow new employees to get in and get their hands dirty rather than watch videos or shadow coworkers. They create onboarding opportunities for employees to teach each other in the trenches.

But this doesn’t just apply to new hires. Engaged employees are always looking to expand their knowledge and develop new skills. If an employee expresses a desire to try his or her hand at something new, encourage them and provide coaching to see if there’s a fit.



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