In a new series, Adepto will be talking to some of the Total Talent industry’s leading players. Kicking us off is Ian Bailie, Managing Director of myHRFuture and advisor on people analytics, HR Tech and the future of work. Here, he talks about his career so far, the pressures on HR leaders and how they can get HR initiatives prioritised in the boardroom.
Can you tell me a bit about your career to-date, what led you to the industry and what are you working on at the moment?
My first role after university was for the Corporate Executive Board (now acquired by Gartner) as a researcher in their HR practice (CLC). It was here that I first learnt about the impact that HR can have on businesses. After 18 months, I realised that I wanted to work in HR instead of only researching it.
So, I became a HR analyst at a couple of small companies, before ending up at Cisco. For the next 10 years of my career, I worked in the UK and Singapore, eventually leading a global team of over 70 people. We focused on talent acquisition operations, talent analytics and workforce planning.
Since leaving Cisco approximately 18 months ago, I have been advising several HR Tech companies and operating as the Managing Director of myHRFuture. A platform that helps HR professionals build their skills in People Analytics, HR Tech, Design Thinking and Workforce Planning.
There is a lot happening in HR at the moment, and a lot for HR leaders to get-to-grips with. What do you see as the most pressing issue?
I think the biggest issue facing HR practitioners is the need for them to become more digital and data-driven. Organisations are facing the impact of automation and digital transformation, and HR needs to be on the frontline to support. This is undermined, because not all HR professionals are equipped with the right tools, knowledge or skills to do so.
The skills that HR needs now aren’t traditional. HR is going through a massive transformation and the abilities now needed in HR reflect this. Some companies have been more advanced in addressing this than others. That said, almost all the HR practitioners that I speak to understand the pressures to incorporate a more data-driven strategy.
Many organisations are reassessing their employee experience – what should they focus on?
On the consumer side, there’s been a huge shift in experience. The consumer experience of technology like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, plus app-based platforms like Instagram, Uber and Snapchat have become part-and-parcel of our lives. Their intuitive interfaces highlight how far HR Tech needs to go.
Many organisations are using the same HR Tech that they have had for 10+ years and there is now a need to match the user experience to what we’re used to in our consumer lives. Thankfully, in the past couple of years, I’ve seen more HR Tech vendors appear that prioritise the user experience. Now, the onus is on HR to implement these tools.
Sadly, the sector is still playing catch-up with HR Tech and finding user-centric solutions. But there are some encouraging signs. Progressive HR leaders are realising the need for, and advantages of, this new breed of HR Tech. Now, it’s up to the rest of the industry to match the pace.
What traps should they avoid when thinking about implementing new technology?
With so much technology exploding onto the market, it’s tempting to just pick any shiny new tool that you’ve seen at a conference or read about in Forbes. But jumping into a solution before identifying your problems is putting the cart before the horse. I’m a huge fan of Design Thinking. It uses an employee-centric design approach when considering the employee and manager journeys. From this, critical pain points are identified and mapped to the appropriate tech solution. That way, any HR tool used will have a tangible positive impact.
I also recommend involving your employees early-on. This ensures they are bought into new tools and will actually use them. Too often, I hear the same story about technology being implemented with little-to-no consideration towards change management and its users – and then HR leaders scratching their heads as-to-why nobody uses the new tool.
HR typically has found it tough to get certain initiatives over-the-line or prioritised in the boardroom. Why is this?
Historically HR has been quite insular in its thinking – only considering HR processes and issues. I’m excited to see that this is changing. HR is starting to focus on business problems and doing work that adds value to the company, especially in the realms of People Analytics and HR Tech. This perspective has an added bonus of getting senior management on your side. If HR initiatives have proven benefits to the bottom-line, the board is less likely to turn down future HR plans.
Where do you see HR’s strategic position within organisations at the moment?
As HR becomes increasingly data-driven, it is seen as more of a strategic partner. Great uses of HR Tech that drive the employee experience, improve productivity and source Total Talent effectively – are underpinning this. However, I’ve also seen many organisations where HR is stuck in compliance and policy mode, therefore struggling to hold sway strategically.
Finally, what do you see happening in the next 1-5 years?
HR has a great opportunity to become more strategic – should it choose to. More organisations are attracted to People Analytics and the newer parts of HR Tech because they see the huge impact it can have. People are the most vital part of any organisation, with industry leaders defined by their talent and people capabilities in the future. HR needs to partner with its organisation to drive the Total Talent agenda forward and attract the best people for each project. It has to own this conversation as a strategic imperative.
I’m an optimist, so I’d like to imagine that HR will achieve this – it will step up in the next 5 years, embrace data and become more digital. Not a moment too soon, because in that time, we will see artificial intelligence (AI) and automation fundamentally re-write the way we work. As such, HR will evolve to help businesses adapt to the many changes brought about by AI and automation.
As part of this, HR practitioners will realise the need for continuous learning – for themselves and their organisations. More organisations will be expanding their use of HR Tech to access all types of talent, allowing them to seize the opportunities in front of them.