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How Top CHROs Use Technology, Data & Human Interaction For A Transformative Employee Experience

During our recent Spark Live event, we hosted a CHRO panel discussion, titled “The CHRO Of The Future: Strategies To Navigate The New Talent Landscape”.

The panel was made up of senior executives from some of the top companies in the world, including Katy George, Senior Partner and Chief People Officer at McKinsey & Company; Tanuj Kapilashrami, Group Head Human Resources at Standard Chartered Bank; Trent Henry, Global Vice Chair of Talent at EY, and our panel moderator, Larry Emond, Senior Partner at Modern Executive Solutions.

They each shared their knowledge and expertise in HR and Talent, their biggest priorities for 2023, and how they believe the role of CHRO has changed… and how it will continue to change in the future.

How will HR change in the future (and how should it change)?

Larry opened up the discussion by asking the group how the world of HR will change in the coming months and years. Tanuj shared that the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for change within Standard Chartered Bank, but also in HR in general. It made HR leaders stop and think about what HR is actually in service of. She shared that, during the pandemic, there was a shift, and the HR department is now highly focused on serving the broader workforce (not just leadership), and they are putting greater emphasis on employee advocacy.

Tanuj said that employee advocacy can be a real force for good within organizations and, with the right tools, HR professionals can team up with technology to deliver great talent experiences. And she pointed out that you can’t deliver excellent customer experiences, until you deliver excellent employee experiences.

Another shift Tanuj is seeing is that HR is now being viewed as a “product organization” within many businesses – and their product is employment. This means that when the HR department is making decisions, they must always do so with their client in mind: the employees.

Trent believes that the next several years will be a “golden era” for talent professionals, but they will have to make some changes. Businesses need the talent function to become much more agile in nature. He is currently challenging his talent professionals at EY to upskill themselves, so they can move away from legacy mindsets and processes, and move towards a more agile, skills-based approach to talent management.

Trent shared that, with the rise of generative AI, there’s a lot of hesitation in HR departments, but he encourages these professionals to be open-minded and to embrace new technologies.

Katy then discussed two main shifts that need to happen in every HR department: pulling all the levers of talent – upskilling, reskilling, hiring, apprenticing, mentoring – and creating personalized talent experiences. She said that the old ways of approaching “workforce planning” are no longer effective, and companies must now look at all the different ways they can fill a role – not just through external hiring, but through learning and development and internal mobility as well.

A crucial part of creating unique employee experiences is being able to provide each individual with personalized recommendations for development opportunities or open roles they can apply for.

A lot of what these experts said underscored the importance of a skills-first approach, smart applications of AI, internal mobility, and proper workforce planning.

How can CHROs fully embrace new technologies, without taking the ‘human’ out of HR?

Since AI and automation have become such important parts of each of our panelist’s jobs today, Larry asked the group how HR can effectively balance the adoption and use of new technologies, while still prioritizing the human aspect of HR.

Trent said that the answer to this question has changed a lot, even in the last 12 months. Many organizations are at the place where they are investing in some kind of HR tech, but where they often struggle is with adoption and compliance. For a global company like EY, there are different rules and regulations depending on where you do business (e.g. GDPR), and that can become cumbersome if you don’t know how to handle it properly.

Trent went on to say that, when the data and privacy piece is taken care of, organizations can move into some of the most exciting innovations that he’s seen in HR – particularly, generative AI – which, when done right, can help talent professionals do their jobs better, while also providing better user and employee experiences.

Katy pointed out that, with the rise of generative AI, we will see businesses focus on having the right data in place to enable this technology. Ensuring that you have the data first is much more important than adding another “bell or whistle” to your tech stack. She shared that one way that McKinsey is using generative AI in their HR processes is through skill certifications and assessments. AI allows them to do this with greater efficiency, while reducing bias.

Tanuj said that this generation of the workforce is the first generation that typically has access to better technology in their personal lives than in their workplace. Historically, the opposite has been true. But the expectations of the workforce are rapidly changing. Employees expect employers to offer excellent experiences, not only by providing top of the line technology to work with, but by also creating hyper-personalized employee experiences.

Tanuj believes you can’t achieve this level of personalization without AI. And even though technology is crucial to enhancing the employee experience, it’s important to remember that in order to achieve a superlative experience, you must bring technology and humans together, at scale.

Katy and Trent echoed the importance of keeping the ‘human’ in HR, and Katy said that one of the most important reasons for this is because utilizing this technology helps to free up people to do the more important and more meaningful work. Most business leaders can agree that this is a much better use of employee time, and it helps provide better experiences and boosts productivity across the entire organization.

How can organizations move from a “jobs” model to a “skills” model?

Tanuj shared that when Standard Chartered Bank first started the conversation about skills-based talent strategies a few years ago, they looked at which jobs would no longer be needed a few years from now – “sunset jobs” – and which jobs will emerge in the next few years that they would need to fill – “sunrise jobs”. This opened the door to looking at jobs through the lens of skills.

Through these discussions, Standard Chartered discovered (for example), that they had a higher percentage of women in sunset jobs than sunrise jobs, so if they didn’t take action to upskill and reskill workers, they would be losing a lot of women from their workforce.

That eventually led to them offering reskilling opportunities to every employee who was in a sunset job, and they set targets for how many of those individuals would eventually need to redeploy into new roles internally. Those predictions allowed them to forecast the amount of money saved, compared to filling all the sunrise jobs with external talent.

Standard Chartered Bank has since launched an AI-driven Talent Marketplace as part of their culture of learning, development, and talent mobility. Tanuj said that everyone has to start somewhere, and for Standard Chartered, they started with the language of “sunset and sunrise jobs”, because that was a language that the leadership spoke. Then, they were able to more easily make the shift to a skills-based strategy.

What are the most exciting opportunities around generative AI?

To close out the panel discussion, Larry pointed out that while many people are worried about the problems that generative AI could cause, many others are excited about the opportunities it brings. He asked Trent to share what he’s most excited about regarding generative AI.

Trent said that one thing he finds really exciting is the ability to enable employees to focus on more meaningful and fulfilling work. Generative AI can take on some of the more mundane tasks that need to be done, but don’t necessarily need to be done by a human. Employees’ time is valuable, so allowing them to use top of the line technology, and focus on the more meaningful work at the same time, is a huge opportunity.

He also shared that generative AI brings a lot of reskilling opportunities. Some of the skills that organizations need in order to effectively use generative AI have only existed for a few months (i.e. prompt engineers). Trent said that, at EY, they looked at these skills and realized that many of their employees were already 70% of the way there, and with a little more training, they could develop the key skills that are needed. So there are excellent opportunities for both employers and employees to grow together, while embracing these new tools.

If you missed out on Spark Live, check out more on-demand content from the event. And if you are interested in learning more about how Beamery can help your organization embrace a skills-first approach to talent management with (or without) generative AI, speak with one of our experts.