All Things HR
Hot Market Trends for HR Business Partners
During my internship at Manulife, I started a weekly newsletter for the HR function. Here are three letters from the series
In this newsletter, we look at takeaways from the Great Resignation era as we begin to emerge from it, understand why employees might take fewer vacation days in 2022, and look at global talent statistics as talent shortage reaches a 16-year high across all industries this year.
For additional reading, we have a famous paper on why people dislike HR and what HR can do about it - although it may be a pre-pandemic piece you will find it relevant as it talks about issues such as flexible work arrangements and making HR more strategic, and less administrative. I decided to include this article as it impacted my views as an aspiring HR professional when I read it a few years ago. Lastly, a short video on what makes employees happy at work and what leaders can do for their well-being and productivity.
1. Forbes: Is the Great Resignation Coming to a Close?: It has been a year since the advent of the Great Resignation, and we might be near the finish line as companies start to hire a new generation. Here are some takeaways for HR leaders:
- Given the rise in inflation, the need for skilled talent, and a candidate-to-job ratio of 1:2, salary expectations - especially for entry-level jobs - will continue to rise
- Today’s workforce cares a lot about the company reputation or affiliation aspect of the employee value proposition
- Investing in the company’s social media presence can be crucial – 46% of graduates consult YouTube or TikTok for job advice
2. Korn Ferry: Summer Vacations Abbreviated
- Factors such as inflation, fading out of the Great Resignation and the pandemic, and return to office commencing, employees are feeling the pressure to show commitment and connection to their work
- 63% of working professionals are taking a shorter vacation this year
- 58% of workers are more stressed about being away on vacation this year than in past years
- 37% say they will check in at work multiple times a day during vacation—almost double the 19% who said the same thing in 2021
- Only 8% said they would not be in touch at all, down from 13% in 2021
3. Manpower Group: Global Talent Shortage 2022 Infographic
Survey of over 40,000 employers in 40 countries to understand the shortage of talent across the world
4. HBR: Why We Love to Hate HR and What HR Can Do About It (2015, pre-pandemic)
- One of the biggest complaints employees have made is that HR lack business acumen. While employees may not be able to understand the scope of the function, HR can always go beyond to become a bigger part of the strategy.
- Read this bestselling article to know how HR can separate itself from ‘administrivia’
5. TED: What Makes Employees Happy at Work? (3:59 min)
- Out of the 3 billion working people in the world, only 40% are happy
- This clip goes over how leaders and companies can create an environment of trust & respect, fairness, and listening to help the happiness, well-being, and productivity of their employees
The following is a thought piece I wrote for the Managing the Analytics Function class in the NYU HCAT Program
Introduction & Background: Atlassian, Airbnb, Dropbox, Coinbase, and Quora. What do these companies have in common? They offer fully-remote work arrangements for their employees. As the world emerges from the pandemic, its implications on the workplace are still prevalent - employees do not want to come back to work, so companies are offering competitive employee value propositions to keep up with the demand of the labor market.
Since the first wave of the pandemic, many companies, such as those mentioned above, have decided to go remote first and do not require their employees to come to work as frequently - sometimes not at all (Stoller, 2021). Flexible work is here to stay, and HR Analytics can be a strategic partner in making the remote workforce resilient, productive, and efficient.
Harnessing the Advantages of Remote Work: PwC’s US Remote Work Survey revealed that 83% of employers and 71% of employees believe that the transition to remote work has been successful for their organization (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2021). Remote working has some unique benefits the people analytics function can leverage to make strategic changes:
Attracting and Retaining Diverse and Skilled Talent: Given that there are no geographic limitations, companies can recruit people from varied and diverse backgrounds or those with more relevant experience or skills. People analytics can help in identifying those who are at risk of leaving the company, especially those who are high potential or employees from a minority (Penny, 2021). With remote work, more metrics are being tracked as the use of technology has gone up and companies can understand the trends of attrition like which employees are leaving, across which function, location, or demographic, and more. People analytics leaders should leverage this data into insight and strategy for the retention of crucial talent.
Reevaluating the Physical Workplace: One of the primary benefits of going fully remote is that companies can downsize and save significantly on physical space. They also decrease their carbon footprint and impact on the environment. However, these benefits can be looked at from another perspective. People analytics can help in studying the changes in productivity and collaboration to analytically prove the need, or lack thereof, for office space (DiMemmo, 2021). Every company has its own culture and networking needs so evaluating whether there is a need for an office space can be helpful to optimize its functioning and design.
Enabling Employees to Focus on Life: While this benefit of remote working can be debated, it is hard to miss out on the increase in time, autonomy, and flexibility for the employees. After moving to a fully remote work framework, a marketing-focused software company called Drift saw that their employees were able to move to places with a lower cost of living, live closer to family, and take crucial life steps like getting married or having children (Vasel, 2022). To do this people analytics teams can study employee absenteeism and wellbeing-related patterns (Penny, 2021). These analyses help companies implement better employee well-being practices that can eventually benefit productivity and engagement. At the end of the day, people are more than employees and companies should do their best to help them have a work-life balance.
Considerations & Future Research: Just as a coin has two sides, remote working can have some gaps and silos that the people analytics leaders will need to take into account. Many companies like Tesla, Yahoo, and Best Buy want their employees back in the office; in fact, IBM spent $2 billion on selling their spaces but chose to make their employees come back (Modi, 2021). Cliques and isolation, barriers to career progression, and communication gaps were reasons to bring work and employees back to the office.
People analytics functions should study trends and carry out analyses that can help understand what the company truly needs. They should answer important questions and study metrics that can tell them whether shifting to a remote-first policy will help the company keep up or increase its efficiency, productivity, and resiliency so that they do not have to recall decisions. A combination of analytics, collaboration, transparency, and inclusivity is needed to run a successful remote workforce.
DiMemmo, G. (2021, June 3). How the Rise of Remote Work is Reshaping Analytical Trends. HR Daily Advisor.
Modi, A. (2021, September 27). The Untold Side of Remote Working: Isolation and Lack of Career Progression. Forbes.
Penny, C. (2021, December 8). How HR leaders can use people analytics to manage a remote workforce. Sage Advice.
PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2021, January 12). Business Needs a Tighter Strategy for remote work. PwC.
Stoller, K. (2021, April 20). Never Want to go Back to the Office? Here's Where You Should Work. Forbes.
Vasel, K. (2022, January 27). These Companies Decided to go Fully Remote - Permanently |CNN Business. CNN.
Future of Work: HR Analytics and Remote-First Work Arrangements
Gamification in HR
Gamification is an emerging innovation in talent identification and HR analytics. It uses game design principles and algorithms to engage, motivate, and retain current or potential employees. Experts at Gartner believe that “humans are hard-wired to enjoy games and have a natural tendency to interact more deeply in activities that are framed in a game construct,” which is why companies can benefit from gamification as it uses techniques from behavioral science to “nudge” people into achieving their goals (2021). There are many ways to use gamification in HR. In talent identification, interactive assessments can evaluate a candidate's skills and abilities through game-like activities. For example, the US Air Force uses a video game-like reality simulation called the Airman Challenge to test problem-solving skills or how well individuals can navigate difficult situations that arise in the life of an airman (2023). Assessments like these can provide a more engaging and accurate evaluation of a candidate's potential, while creating a positive experience that showcases the company's employer brand, adding to the employee value proposition.
Additionally, gamification in the employee life cycle can encourage them to participate in training and learning, and development programs. This can also encourage collaboration among teams through group challenges or friendly competition. For example, an organization can create a leaderboard to track employee progress in completing learning and development modules, with rewards and recognition given to those individuals or teams with the highest scores. Another example would be using virtual or augmented reality, such as Metaverse, to train employees for professions that require practical or safety training, such as construction. This approach can increase engagement and retention while also providing valuable data on employee performance and skill development, allowing HR professionals to make better decisions (Pittsburg State University, 2021).
While there are many uses of gamification in HR, it is important to understand what powers it. Aside from game-designing principles such as objectivity or rewards, gamification uses algorithms to track employee progress, provide feedback, and make recommendations for improvement. These algorithms use analytics to examine data collected from the games to identify patterns and trends in employee behavior and performance, allowing each employee to get personalized feedback that they can leverage for growth and career development. A great example is the gamified learning management system offered by SAP SuccessFactors. It uses algorithms to make personalized recommendations for training based on an individual’s role, interests, and career goals. Additionally, it also gives feedback on areas of improvement based on their progress (Wueest, 2020). This is done by analyzing responses and time spent on questions. With so many possibilities of gamifying HR processes such as recruitment, training, and learning come multiple benefits and challenges. Let us look at the two in comparison.
Benefits and Challenges
Algorithmic Risks and Recommendations
While algorithms have the potential to be the least biased, organizations must be aware of the potential risks associated with using algorithms in gamification and HR. In some cases, algorithms have been intercepted for biases that reinforced existing inequalities. For example, Amazon used to use an AI tool for recruitment that showed bias against women (Reuters, 2018). As Cathy O’Neil writes in her book, Weapons of Math Destruction, “a model that works for one group of people may fail miserably for another. But we’re often too enamored of the model to ask the right questions” (2017). Algorithms should be designed to represent what the data should look like and not what it is because current data is subject to biases due to human intervention. Companies should ensure that their algorithms are transparent and explainable in order to mitigate these risks and avoid black-box situations that can also result in lawsuits. It will also be helpful to monitor and evaluate the gamified processes for fairness and accuracy. Data governance policies should be put in place to have clear guidelines. These guidelines should highlight not only what must be done but also what must not be done. With these precautions in place, the benefits of using gamification and algorithms in HR analytics can be fully realized.
Gamification of HR has many uses and benefits that can help enhance the employee value proposition and life cycle. If designed and used correctly, algorithmic-based gamified learning or training can create a positive impact. However, it is important to remember that "the more data we have, the more we trust the algorithms, and the less likely we are to question them” (O’neil, 2017). Companies should invest in such technologies but also not used it to totally replace human expertise and should always question the validity, source, and scalability.
Airman Challenge. (2023). From https://www.airforce.com/airmanchallenge/fallback.html
Bush, S. (2022, September 20). Beware the rise of the black box algorithm. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/3d5556c5-520e-497a-aa5e-2546c5bc50cf
Gamification. (2021). In Gartner Glossary. From https://www.gartner.com/en/marketing/glossary/gamification
LinkedIn Learning. (2021). How personalized learning enhances employee development. LinkedIn Learning Resources. https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/learner-engagement/how-personalized-learning-enhance s-employee-development
O'Neil, C. (2017). Weapons of Math Destruction. Penguin Books. Pittsburg State University. (2021). Gamification in HR. from
Reuters. (2018, October 10). Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-jobs-automation-insight/amazon-scraps-secret- ai-recruiting-tool-that-showed-bias-against-women-idUSKCN1MK08G
SHRM. (2022, April 25). SHRM research: AI uses rise; ethics questions remain. SHRM.
WeSoar. (2022, February 28). How gamification can improve employee performance. LinkedIn.
Wueest, D. (2020, August 20). Benefits of Gamification with SAP SuccessFactors LMS: Make Learning a Game. SAP Blogs. from https://blogs.sap.com/2020/08/20/benefits-of-gamification-with-sap-successfactors-lms-make-learning-a-game/
Learning about Algorithmic Responsibility in the HCAT program at NYU helped me understand the nuances of algorithms and their uses across the platform be it to identify candidates for a role using assessments such as Core Drivers or using it to create performance management plans for employees. This class also enhanced my understanding of HR Analytics and what a future professional in the field should consider will applying AI or other tools in the workplace.
One of the key concepts in algorithmic responsibility is the idea of bias. Algorithms can be biased in many ways, including race, gender, and age. By understanding how bias can manifest in algorithms, one can take steps to identify and mitigate it in HR analytics. For example, analyzing the data used to train the algorithm and identifying any biases in the data. Alternatively, we can modify the algorithm to ensure that it produces unbiased results. Another important aspect of algorithmic responsibility is transparency. In HR analytics, it is essential to be transparent about how algorithms are used and the data they rely on. This allows employees to understand how decisions are being made and to identify any potential biases or errors. Additionally, transparency can build trust between employers and employees, which can be essential for success in HR analytics. Finally, algorithmic responsibility can contribute to a broader understanding of ethics in HR analytics. HR analytics is not only about making data-driven decisions but also about doing so in a way that is ethical and responsible. This means taking into account factors such as privacy, consent, and fairness.
I really enjoyed reading Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil and then discussing our views with the class. Important concepts such as validity, reliability, and scalability came up in these discussions, allowing me to gain a broad perspective on the topic. I also enjoyed the group presentation aspect of the class. It allowed me to explore the ethics and legality of algorithms in depth and present my views to the class.
I am grateful to Uri and Reece for the knowledge and insights they passed down to the class. I am excited to explore the world of HR Analytics and the learnings from this class will always be ingrained in my practice as an HR Professional.