Attracting (and retaining) quality talent has always been the primary goal of HR departments, but the needs of the current workforce are changing, and companies are going to have to adjust their HR practices to adapt. As workforce expert Mark Huselid points out, in a cluttered and competitive market, one of the only real competitive edges a company can gain is talent, but the way that talent is managed is equally as important as the employee’s level of ability.
Over the last decade or so, as Millennials have come of age and entered the workforce, the strictures of the traditional 9-to-5 gig have been replaced with a more flexible framework. For the younger generations, the idea of the employer-employee relationship has changed from one where the “boss” remains in lofty segregation from the workers and hands down directives via middle management to a much more collaborative dynamic. And where talent acquisition is concerned, it is now much more about companies selling themselves to qualified candidates, and adopting the tools and practices they are accustomed to using.
For instance, the Atlantic reports that “47 percent of Millennials believe that the “purpose of business is to ‘improve society/protect the environment.’” Eighty-three percent of the 3,000 MBA students polled by the nonprofit Net Impact would take a 15 percent salary cut “for a job that makes a social or environmental difference in the world.” As such, HR departments are not just putting together volunteer teams to clean up highways or offering time off to employees to participate in charity work; they’re actually harnessing data and technology to help their company’s day-to-day operation have a positive impact in order to answer that particular need for fulfillment.
Instead of the “put in 40 years at the factory then retire at 55 and collect your gold watch” mindset that drove the baby boomer generations, most Millennials are looking for fulfillment from their jobs, and a sense of individuality. Taking a page from the marketing industry playbook, HR can utilize people data to tailor their communications to their employees and make them more of a dialogue than a directive. They can also utilize macro and micro trend data to create individual work experiences and rewards systems that are conducive to higher performance. Like marketers seek to engage consumers in order to drive sales, HR should seek to engage employees in order to drive performance.
HR has always collected data in order to better do their jobs, but today’s technologies offer the ability to measure and analyze that data on a deeper level than ever before. Cloud-based technologies offer broader access to more updated, relevant data to enable businesses and HR departments to collaboratively make decisions about recruitment and workforce management. Social media and marketing technologies help businesses establish positive “brands” as employers by offering transparency and open communication with both prospective employees and their consumer bases in general.
HR still has to overcome the reputation for being merely administrative rule-makers and establish the role of HR as an advocate for employees on an individual and collective basis. Technology has provided the scalability needed for companies to pay that level of attention to each employee, and to speak to the incoming generations of workers in a language they understand and that resonates with them on a more personal level. No one wants to feel like a nameless cog in a corporate machine; they want to feel recognized and rewarded as individual and complete people, and that’s what inspires them to go above and beyond for their companies. Ironically, it is now technology that is making HR more human.