Josh Bersin's vision for HR in a changing world of work

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Wellbeing, a mindset shift from bosses to coaches, and embracing technology will be key going forward

The principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte used his HRD Summit 2018 keynote speech to address hierarchies, wellbeing, and the pros and cons of technology in the workplace. Here's what we learned.

HR must tackle wellbeing as a priority

“Wellbeing is still a big part of HR. It’s not surprising that productivity is suffering when stress levels are high; employees feel overwhelmed and they’re getting less work done. We’re losing approximately £42 billion a year because of stress at work, much of which manifests itself in presenteeism,” Bersin said.

He explained that while technology is becoming ever-more present in the workplace, productivity is decreasing because it's not being used effectively, leading to cognitive overload. He added that employee engagement continues to be an obstacle for HR, which he said is the result of mounting stress among workers (with emails taking up a significant amount of time).

To demonstrate problems with employee engagement and productivity, Bersin highlighted research from Deloitte stating that the average US worker spends 25% of their time reading emails and checks their phone 150 times a day. A further 40% of employees in the US said that they found it impossible to balance their work and family life.

A new organisational model is needed

Bersin called for HR to take a more collaborative approach at work, stating that hierarchies were outdated, and that management should see themselves as “coaches rather than bosses” to improve engagement.

“Hierarchies were invented in an industrial society, and hold little place in the digital age. We should look at ourselves as coaches rather than bosses if we want to build a better workforce. We need to be able to be agile, collaborate, and empower people,” he said.

“One of the best ways managers can coach their employees is through ongoing performance management. The current system, in which employees are updated about their work every few months to every few years, is not going to help them address their performance or create meaningful changes to the way they work. The more feedback employers give to workers the more high performing they will become.”

Embrace new technology to improve work

Bersin said that while not all technology is beneficial to productivity, if HR learnt how to use new software in the workplace they could create a more efficient workforce. He said that communication tools such as Slack are particularly useful in streamlining the way organisations work.

He added that it's vital for HR to stay up-to-date with digital advancements in order to stay competitive and remain transparent.

“We are entering a new world where technology will make work better, and digital tools can create a huge opportunity for us to manage our teams," he said. "Using data and analytics is particularly important, because if you don’t keep track of it one day someone will come along with information about your organisation that you aren’t aware of.”

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