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The Nature of Work Is Changing, and So Does Employee Experience: Interview with Brian Kropp from Gartner

“Since Covid hit, we’ve done the largest ever pilot experiment on changing the nature of work.” Rallyware interviewed Brian Kropp, the Group Vice President and Chief of HR Research at Gartner. Kropp is not only an experienced researcher but also a notable HRTech thought leader who helps companies drive their organizational goals. We spoke with Brian about various pressing HR and L&D topics such as changes in the nature of work, the importance of delivering personalized employee experience, and other workforce management trends that organizations can expect to see in 2021 and beyond. Today we are presenting you his findings and insights into what HR & L&D leaders should be prepared for in the short and the long run. 

The Importance of Data that Drives Personalized Employee Experience 

Data is becoming key to driving desired behaviors at the workplace and delivering personalized employee experience, yet managers and training leaders might not immediately see the value of knowing more about the lives of their employees outside of work. However, Kropp delivers surprising insights: being more involved in employees’ personal lives despite the contrary belief can help build and strengthen social connections, and employees in such companies score higher on self-reported metrics by 8-20%. 

More companies are using technologies to track various aspects of workforce behaviors, and majorly employees accept such interaction and data collection for the sake of their work experience personalization. What was considered intrusive years ago is widely accepted now, since the concept of privacy has changed, and employees opt in for data collection practices more often. And in return, collecting the right data helps companies to deliver at scale customized employee experience that empowers and contributes to higher productivity. 

“The reason why it works is because we’ve gone from tracking and monitoring to using that data information to actually help.”

From the employee perspective, besides having their experience personalized, it is also very important to be socially engaged at work. Remote employees, Kropp says, are feeling lonely today because they are losing social connections and emotional ties to co-workers, so there is an obvious need for finding a different approach to fostering this environment of collaboration and innovation.  

“What we’re going to have to think about going forward, and this is one of the ways where we have to start with a hybrid-first mindset, is how do we make sure that our organization is socially connected and emotionally connected, not just rationally connected?”

This gives companies something to think about while catching up to the digital transformation that continues in 2021 and beyond, as just using virtual conference rooms, sticky notes, and whiteboards doesn’t work, Kropp says. 

“You’re gonna have to reinvent yourself to create a much more collaborative digital environment where you build for digital first rather than trying to virtualize your existing in-person processes.”

Such insights come from a lot of research and analysis, and us, training leaders, should be aware of this inherent inclination to simply digitize the in-person practices. Digital transformation is a complicated process where we need to truly rethink our approaches, strategies, and tools.  

Exploring the Shift to A Hybrid Workplace

Going into 2021 and beyond, workplaces are shifting towards a hybrid model, Kropp says, where employees work from home some of the time, but the company also offers workers an opportunity to get together to build social and emotional connections. This model of work gives employees a lot of flexibility without missing out on social engagement. However, Kropp shares his findings about a problematic aspect that can arise within such a hybrid world: the negative bias against remote workers.  

“People who are in the office place are told twice as often that they’ve done something good compared to people who are working remote, even though their performance is effectively the exact same.”

The bias towards employees who come to the workplace puts them at a career advantage, Kropp says, and based on additional insights from Gartner this can create gender discrimination and widen the wage gap.  

”What we find is that men on average would prefer to work in the office place, relative to women who on average would prefer to work remote/hybrid. Put those two facts together: that you’re biased towards in-office employees, men are more likely to be in-office employees than women – even though all the data shows they can perform at the exact same levels – think about the gender discrimination.”

As training leaders, we should be aware of the biases associated with remote work and develop strategies to remove those biases from workforce management decisions. Building an environment where employees have equal rights and opportunities will bring companies several steps closer to becoming equitable and fair organizations. 

Why Smart Reskilling and Upskilling Is Becoming Crucial in the Post-Covid-19 World 

What Kropp found interesting in his Gartner research is the decreasing half-life of skills employers are looking for in job vacancies. They analyzed job ads on the internet in the past few years, and compared the findings between 2017 and 2020. In 2017, on average a company was looking for 12 skills, but today only 7 of those are still present in the ads. At the same time, about 11 additional skills appeared in 2020 compared to job listings from 2017. 

“We’re looking for more skills and they’re changing at a faster rate. The half-life of a skill is just getting smaller and smaller.”

The shortening of skills’ half-life leads the organizations to a dilemma, he says: they can either hire new employees and fire the staff whose skills became obsolete, which is costly, or rent skills by contracting employees, which doesn’t build social relationships and emotional connections. Another path involves improving reskilling and upskilling strategies. Kropp says that large companies like Amazon and AT&T are already investing millions of dollars in reskilling initiatives, but not every business can afford doing the same. 

“Solving that problem is a worthy problem to solve, and we’re going to need to do it in order to make sure our workforce can adjust at the speed of our business, because right now our workforces on average are not adjusting at the speed of our businesses.”

Opportunities for Technology to Fill in the Gaps in Workforce Management

Figuring out effective technologies for digital and online collaboration will be instrumental for HR going forward. Although technology is improving, it might still take years before we have robust enough online collaboration tools delivering equal value to in-person collaboration. 

Another opportunity for technology to assist HR leaders that Kropp outlines is the development of feedback assessment tools for managers. Such technologies can help track whether the quality of feedback given to remote employees is the same as for in-house employees and if it matches their contributions. This, he says, can help in curbing the bias towards in-office employees and help each member of the organization to perform more productively in an increasingly diverse environment. 

Last but not least, a major challenge that he brings up for us to think about is how to establish a fair and equitable organization. Treating all employees in an equal and fair way will help pave way for collaboration, productivity, and innovation.

How Personalized Employee Experience Can Help Foster Collaboration and Innovation in 2021 and Beyond

Data-driven approaches to workforce management are becoming instrumental in ensuring the success of a company in 2021 and beyond. In the age of digital transformation, data on employee’s unique skills, work preferences, and as a result individual productivity are the key to driving desired behaviors in the workforce and achieving organizational goals. 

If you want to know how Rallyware’s Performance Enablement Platform can help your company deliver personalized employee experience and foster the culture of collaboration and innovation, request a demo today!