03 Oct 2017

5 Minutes With Josh Bersin – World Thought-Leader in HR

The one and only Josh Bersin is headlining at this year's HR Innovation & Tech Fest.

He is an undisputed world thought-leader in HR Tech with a unique insight into the ANZ market. We caught up with him and discussed HR trends ahead of his presentations at the event. 

You spend your life immersed in major global HR trends. But are there any recent HR trends that have completely taken you by surprise?

Yes. By far the biggest trend, and one I may never have predicted, is the fact that “HR applicationsâ€' are now becoming “productivity applications.â€' In other words, all the things we did years ago in HR technology to create systems of record, automate transactions, and collect data – are now more or less “base features.â€'

The real shift is toward HR applications that help make work better, help give people value (ie. Make you more productive, give you energy, teach you about people, advance your career). This, coupled with the explosion of new “Intelligent Automationâ€' tools (AI in reverse) to offer you smart recommendations based on AI, is a whole new world of HR technology. Of course mobile enabled is important too, but that too is now a “must have.â€'

What HR innovation and technology challenges do you see as being unique to the Australia market? And are there any particular trends you can see that are headed our way?

Some of the most important “giftsâ€' we have been given by the Australia market is the intense focus on Inclusion and Wellbeing. Australia was one of the first to mandate transparency and inclusion programs before anyone else, and much of our research and leading-practices on Inclusion started in Australia. I know this is a big problem and by far not solved, but what's going on in Australia offers an example for the rest of the world.

The second topic is wellbeing. Australia as a culture tends to be a healthy, outdoors, environmentally focused place. This has led to the Wellbeing Index (ie. We are doing this there) and many other innovations in that area. Some of the hottest engagement vendors are from Australia, also reflecting the country's focus on making work “healthyâ€' and “engaging.â€'

Given that the workforce is changing at such a rapid pace, what are some immediate things HR leaders and teams do to prepare themselves for what the workforce will look like in 12 months?

There are many things, but maybe the one I think is most important is to really think about your company's focus on “citizenship.â€' First, is your company behaving in a way that shows good citizenship to your customers, stakeholders, and the societies you do business? Are you branding and positioning yourself in a meaningful way? Are you seriously giving back to your community and helping to address issues like changing skills needs, income inequality, and fairness? These are issues employees deeply care about and part of the new “management mantraâ€' of the next decade.

The second side of this is “internal citizenship.â€' Are you really creating an inclusive, fair, and transparent employee experience? Can people speak up when there are unethical or unsafe conditions? Can people change jobs and develop themselves as technology changes work? Do you truly take care of people even during tough economic times? These are the essentials of the “simply irresistibleâ€' model I'm going to talk about while I'm there, and really core to business success today. The workforce of today is getting younger and older, and all the data I see tells me that people want purpose, meaning, and “good citizenshipâ€' from their employers. If you're not taking advantage of this trend, you will likely see issues – in your hiring, performance, retention, and external brand.

According to your research 38% of companies believe AI and robotics will be “fully implementedâ€' in their company within five years. Has this firmly moved out of the aspirational future state and into the present? What implications does this have for HR leaders and teams?

I'm going to talk about this while I'm there. It's a huge topic and I actually believe automation is happening even faster than people expected. The good thing for us is that the changes taking place often lead directly to HR-driven solutions. We should do things like redesign jobs, recraft competency models for the skills of the future, flatten the organization, facilitate talent mobility, create new models of leadership, and study how we can improve productivity when machines become smarter.

Every example of automation I've seen (and I will share these while I'm there) show that the “new jobsâ€' created are generally better jobs, more hybrid, more social, and more “Humanâ€' than before. But line leaders often don't know how to “recraft workâ€' so we as HR should facilitate this “recrafting.â€' I'll talk more about “recrafting workâ€' while I'm there – but that's a huge trend we need to lead.

You are lucky enough to travel the world to study global HR trends. Are there any particular geographies or industries that you see some really innovative things happening in the HR space?

Innovation is happening everywhere. In India I see tremendous focus on reskilling, micro-learning, and agile talent practices. In Germany there is an immense focus on leveraging data, harnessing the power of multi-generations, and giving people on-demand tools to improve productivity. In the Nordics I see amazing tools for collective thinking, participative management, and teamwork on a global scale. The US is laser focus on “digitizing companiesâ€' and creating a productive, digital work environment. And countries like China are focused on hiring faster, training faster, and moving people into the workforce more productively.

Ultimately innovation happens in companies that “think beyond the bookâ€' – in other words, they don't just do what “the HR practices say.â€' Innovation within HR is a huge theme these days, and I can tell you lots of stories of things creative people have done that others can learn from. Finally, there is an explosive interest in the use of data and AI: one global company just tripled its effectiveness in recruiting college hires by using an AI-based game for pre-hire assessment. Another has radically improved its engagement and career growth by using AI-based learning platforms.

A third is using Virtual Reality for in-store training, and seeing impact and engagement like never before. These are becoming “standard toolsâ€' and the fact that there is smart software under the covers is becoming less important now. I look forward to sharing more in my keynote.

About the Speaker 

Josh Bersin

Josh Bersin founded Bersin & Associates in 2001 to provide research and advisory services focused on corporate learning. He is now responsible for Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP's long term strategy and market eminence. Josh is a frequent speaker at industry events and has been quoted on talent management topics in key media, including Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and on BBC Radio. He is a popular blogger for and the Huffington Post and has been a columnist since 2007 for Chief Learning Officer magazine.

Josh is also a top LinkedIn Influencer. Josh's education includes a B.S. in Engineering from Cornell University, an M.S. in Engineering from Stanford University, and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

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