5 Human Capital Management Trends

As a business leader, you want to stay on top of the latest trends in employee development and retention. The rapidly evolving human capital management (“HCM”) field is full of innovation and change, and there are some great ideas out there you can adapt to your own team’s development. But since it can be time-consuming to wade through the many blog posts, trade journals and YouTube videos dedicated to the topic, much less attend a conference, I’m going to make it easy for you.

In my role as a freelance writer covering all matters of people in the workplace, I have access to the foremost thinkers on the topic of HCM. These are the researchers, consultants, and analysts that work alongside leaders like you to learn how to bring out the best in people and create engaging, thriving workplace environments.

Here’s a round-up of recent trends in the HCM space, according my latest interviews with noted experts in the field.

Harness technology to create a more human workplace. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, technology can play a role in bringing humanity back to the workplace. Workplace futurist Jeanne Meister studies emerging trends that affect the modern office. Meister, who is the founder of the HR Advisory firm Future Workplace reports that we need to think of technology as augmenting our jobs rather than replacing us. She uses the example of “artificial intelligence” (AI), which is being touted as the next emerging tech trend to impact the way we work. To help us frame the way we view AI at work, Meister advocates for  a language shift. “Instead of ‘AI’, let’s call it ‘IA’—‘intelligence augmentation’,” suggests Meister. This reversal of the letters puts the “human” back into the equation because it acknowledges that people are still part of the decision-making process, even if technology plays an ever-increasing role. “Our job [as leaders] is to look at how technology is enhancing job roles and plan for what new skills and new jobs will be created because of it,” says Meister.

Make Compassion a leadership competency. I’ve seen a noted uptick in usage of the word “compassion” in my business reading. The book Awakening Compassion at Work by Monica Worline and Jane Dutton released earlier this year is a good example. According to a survey of more than 35,000 leaders conducted by consulting firm Potential Project, 91% said that compassion is very important for leadership and 80% would like to enhance their compassion, but do not know how. “Compassion is clearly a hugely ignored skill in leadership training, and that’s why we are now focusing on it as one of three core leadership qualities,” says Rasmus Hougaard, Potential Project’s Managing Director. (The other two are mindfulness and selflessness.) Some companies are even putting compassion front and center with their job titles. For example, Cory Custer of the Seattle-based wealth management firm Brighton Jones recently left his role as Director of Learning and Development to take a newly created role of Director of Compassion. “The change was part of a broader initiative to establish compassion as one of our core values and then ensure that we have someone who is dedicated on helping the organization put compassion into action,” Custer told me in an email. “What we want—and likely every business leader wants—is for our employees, our clients, and everyone we come into contact with, to be happy. We think compassion is the surest way to do that,” writes Custer.

Personalize learning and development. The workforce continues to expect interfaces at work that mirror their technology experiences at home. This expectation plays out in the learning and development field in the way that employees gain access to their learning. Gone are the days when “training” is dictated primarily by either one’s manager or the training department. Instead, employees will drive their own learning, by accessing what learning and development analyst Josh Bersin calls, learning “channels” or “playlists.” Bersin heads up Deloitte’s “Bersin by Deloitte” HCM advisory business unit. On Bersin’s personal blog, he observes that the training and development function will be a hybrid of playlists curated by employees, which will “become dynamic, user-generated programs, available alongside formally developed programs built by L&D or other professionals.” I talked earlier this summer with Bersin, and he told me that most L&D professionals are “jazzed” by these developments. “Learning professionals are highly educated and are typically very excited by the advancements in technology,” noted Bersin. The challenge, he adds, is sorting through the rapidly-changing offerings by vendors to determine what will align best with their companies’ current LMS systems.

Leverage design thinking in human systems development. Design thinking—a problem-solving methodology that focuses on creating solutions centered around the needs of a “user” or customer—is making headway in the HR and L&D worlds. Design thinking goes beyond simply thinking of “what do our employees want,” to “how can we design an overall experience that best meets employee and business needs?” From recruiting, to onboarding, to off-ramping employees, all facets of the employee life cycle are open for design tweaking. Tamra Chandler, founder of the consulting group Peoplefirm, has built design thinking into one of her company’s core offerings, which is a five-step methodology designed to help companies reboot their performance management process. Step two in the process is what Chandler calls, the “Sketch” phase, where ideas are “sketched in” before any firm decisions are made. “This is the part of the process where we get clear on the company’s design principles. We can ask ourselves, ‘Are we making the right choices to support the design we have in mind?’” This focus on the overall design of an HR system or practice provides a framework for decision-making.

DIY Team Creation. Employees expect to create their own destinies at work. This desire is starting to emerge in the way in which decisions play out in the creation of teams. Cecile Alper-Leroux is vice president of human capital management innovation for Ultimate Software. She cites research commissioned by her company that revealed two-thirds of employees want a say in creating their own work teams. There’s even a move afoot in which entire teams are kept intact and moved around the organization to capitalize on groups that work well together. “We have seen some organizations say, ‘Why not move intact teams?’ We know how important it is to trust your colleagues, so why break up the team if it’s not broken?” says Alper-Leroux. Start up firm Elevator is tapping into this trend by offering a platform for people to assemble their “dream team” online and then apply as a group to companies that have openings for projects.As these five emerging HCM trends illustrate, new models in talent management  and employee engagement have departed from traditional forms of employee development approaches. This means that there’s a new frontier in developing people—one that will require leaders to exercise their creativity and personal power. Are you ready to lead in this new world?

Jennifer Miller