2024 & The Year of Trust – Redefining our Relationship With Work
Analyst, Author, Commentator & Influencer
About this episode
2024 & The Year of Trust – Redefining our Relationship With Work
Host: Mervyn Dinnen
Guest: Neil Pickering, Senior Manager HR Innovation at UKG
In this episode Mervyn talks to Neil Pickering from UKG about the research and findings behind their 2024 HR Megatrends.
– The varied needs of different generations in the workforce
– Personalisation and why employee experience isn’t the same for everyone
– How should managers conduct check-ins
– Using AI to focus on individual outcomes
– Buy, Borrow or Build to address the skills agenda?
– Identifying skills & capabilities gaps and the importance of recognising passions outside of the work environment
– Transparency and the ESG agenda
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Mervyn Dinnen 0:17
Welcome to the HR Means Business podcast, which is part of the HR Happy Hour Network. I’m your host, Mervyn Dinnen. As we come to the end of 2023. I’ve been lucky enough to go to conferences and expos both in Europe and the US over the last few weeks. And some of the interesting conversations and invigorating conversations I’ve been having have been with people about what we think the next year or two are going to bring in terms of the world of work. One of the best conversations I had was with Neil Pickering, from UKG, at the CIPD annual conference, and I enjoyed it so much. I’ve invited Neil onto the podcast, to join me and to chat a bit about what we can expect to see over the next year or two in terms of working trends. Neil is Senior Manager of HR innovation at UKG, Ultimate Khronos Group, and I’ll now hand over to deal to introduce himself and maybe explain a little bit about what UKG do. Welcome, Neil.
Neil Pickering 1:18
Thank you very much moment. And I’m pleased that our conversation, you found our conversation useful at the recent events. So ya know, it’s a pleasure to be here today. My role is senior manager in the part of the human insight team at UKG. I’ve been there. You may say I’ve got no ambition. But yeah, I’ve been there 19 years, just over 19 years with with UKG, previous organization that most to become UKG in various different roles. But yeah, I would describe my role now as being the evangelist, really, of helping our guys in the organization evangelize how HR and workforce management solutions can benefit organizations, which is what we’re we’re doing to 1000s of organizations day in day out.
Mervyn Dinnen 2:07
Okay. So I think that one of the themes running through a lot of the conversations that I had, over the last few weeks have been around employee experience. For me, it’s one of the areas that I’m doing quite a bit of research in at the moment. I know we talked about employee experience most years, but I think that there is a change that we’ve seen some advancement this year. And I think that as we settle, as we’ve settled, beyond the I suppose post COVID era, the the kind of the employee preferences in terms of how when, where they work, how they want to interact, how the relationship they want with their work, and with the people around them, has very much become top of mind. So one of the things you and I discussed was about how in redefining if you like the employee employer relationship, and I’d be interested to ask you to share some of your thoughts and insights on that.
Neil Pickering 3:05
Yeah, I guess what you’re referring to is every year, UKG the workforce Institute at UKG. publish, what we call the megatrends, the HR mega trends for the year ahead. And and I would describe what what you were just talking about there is the first of the megatrends is redefining that employee employer relationship. I would, I would say that the mega trends for this year, which is kind of what you’re talking about, they’re alluding to there. I would if I had to give it a title, I would say this is the year of trust. Is the era of employees wanting to trust their employers, their managers, a lot more and their organizations, obviously, a lot more than they ever have done previously. But we’ll come on to I guess, to talk about that. But yeah, when we’re talking about kind of redefining the employee employer relationship, I think what we’re seeing now is, is obviously we’ve got multi generational workforces, you know, in every organization, and we’re seeing Millennials or we’re seeing Gen X’s kind of move into more senior positions within the within the business, and they definitely have kind of a different priority.
Neil Pickering 4:22
You know, and I think what we’ve been through with with COVID is just accelerated some of these these focuses on kind of me first priorities, but certainly when the prioritizing mental health and prioritizing kind of well being more than ever before, but I say we’ve got a multi generational workforce. And so when we’re defining that employee employer relationship, and what employee experience means for someone is different for everyone. What you’re defining you can’t define, you know, there’s no one size fits all to employee experience. It’s a It’s a unique thing for for every individual. So I think that’s what organizations need to be cognizant of now, and try and figure out how, and we’ve got some tips, try and figure out how they deliver an experience that that’s more unique, more personalized to, to their employees. So I think that’s what we’re really meaning by that redefining the employee employee relationship, that personalization of employee experience, and we’ve got a few recommendations for doing that. But I don’t know whether you agree with my sentiment on this one?
Mervyn Dinnen 5:41
No, I do. It’s the I suppose the the end of the era of one size fits all management, is what we’re saying it’s the people turn up to work as individuals that want to be recognized as individuals. And as you pointed out, you know, a lot of the workforce across all generations are a lot more aware of their, I suppose their mental health, their their personal well being needs, and how they want to be not so much treated, but the relationship they want with the people around them and with work. And it’s not the same for everyone, as you say. So in terms of of personalizing this, you know, what, what I suppose what do organizations need to start to do? You know, what’s, what’s the advice in terms of, you know, it’s not a case of a free for all? But I mean, it’s understanding, treating individuals separately.
Neil Pickering 6:42
Yeah, I think well, I mean, our our key takeaways on this one really is, first and foremost, you need to encourage managers to have those regular check ins, you know, is, is making regular and proper contact with, with their employees to try and cultivate that stronger level of trust. Certainly, it’s a managerial level. And when we’re talking about obviously, experience being something that’s very personalized, the only way to deliver a personalized experience really is to enable impact or empower employees to create that experience for themselves. So that has to be enabling them, yes, to give feedback to managers on what’s going well, what isn’t going well, maybe some of the challenges that they’re facing, that enable them, you know, and not just doing that on impulse surveys, you know, enable them to do that daily, who interactions, but also enable them to empower them to do more with self service, now create that framework of freedom within what they can do within their role. So that could be the roles that they’re the work that they’re expected to perform the places that they can perform their work, the whether that be site or whether that be kind of hybrid working, and all these, all these different things. And when they work as well. So the more you more flexibility can give people that can do things like self scheduling, or, you know, swapping shifts with colleagues because of something that they need to do from a personal perspective, the more you can empower people to do those things, then the more they can craft their own experience, but they’re going to appreciate.
Neil Pickering 8:37
And the other thing, I think, which is a thing that’s kind of, obviously growing in popularity now is AI and what AI can help bring, especially, you know, in the field of large language models and generative AI, what that’s going to enable us to do or, you know, technology providers to deliver but also employees to get out of it is shift from being process to outcomes. Because the processes were generative AI, the processes happen behind the scenes, the only thing that the employees see is that positive outcome, I want to book a holiday around this time, that might involve several different processes behind the scenes. from a systems perspective, the employee doesn’t need to worry about that. They just see the outcome with generative AI so okay, we’ve done that for you. Find me a what’s the what’s our policy on paternity leave or maternity leave? And a I present them with that information. Whereas historically, it might be behind the scenes. It’s going and searching for this information in multiple places. Well, it does all the legwork. So you just get the positive outcomes. And I think that’s that’s going to be a really positive shift to delivering a better experience and obviously a better experience that’s personalized to what that employee wants. doesn’t have to be so restrictive because of process. I think that they’re going to be the key things from from our perspective.
Mervyn Dinnen 10:07
This is a bit of a shift for managers as well. Because you know, you gave two examples there about scheduling, leave paternity leave. Those are questions that people might have or conversations people might have had with their managers, but they don’t need to have these conversations now. So when we’re talking about check ins, and we’ve been talking about check ins, I think for a few years, but for different reasons. And certainly around the well being, I think it’s much more important now. And I know a bit a year 18 months ago, I was having conversations about kind of training managers to be Mental Health First Aiders and things like that. The check ins now are probably quite personal. It’s it’s the I mean, is this something you see changing and evolving? Or do you think that they’ll still be some organizations might still feel the need to keep keep a distance? Should we say between kind of manager and team?
Neil Pickering 11:01
I think that’s the last thing we should be doing is keeping the distance. And if you think about, I think the opportunity that this delivers is for those check ins, to be checking where the employees armed with the right information to start with, because you can imagine, and historical check in will be first and foremost asking what the policy is, Where can I find the policy, then the employee going away? doing the research, getting the information, then coming back to the manager and asking them questions? Well, now the employee can be fully armed with the right information, and have the right question, they’re right in conversation with the manager, not needing to go through the groundwork conversation in the first place, you can get straight to the issue, right? This is what we need to do, how can we solve this together? And then move forward, it takes out all that administrative work on both sides. To get to that point of having the constructive part of the conversation, I think that’s what will change things. And if you think from a productivity perspective, for both for the employee, it’s not just employee experience, it will its productivity as well, just gonna ramp up so much, because managers, you know, will be using the technology, generative AI technology as well, to be able to say, correct me a, a schedule for this particular team for the next two weeks. And it will go away and do that, rather than them having to kind of go into the system and and do the usual processing. They can do that. So the whole productivity field as well. Unproductive downplay its employee experience, it’s gonna increase greatly, it’s gonna be such a positive thing.
Mervyn Dinnen 12:52
And what we’re really talking about here, I suppose, is personalization. I know that I’ve been talking about personalization in terms of the the recruitment cycle, the talent acquisition cycle, and how people apply for roles, but within the organization. There is now obviously a lot more opportunity, particularly with AI to give a much more personalized experience of the work tech as well.
Neil Pickering 13:17
Yeah, well, I mean, you you perfectly set us up for for the the second of our megatrends which is. What we’re seeing is another mega trends for the for the year ahead, is, and we’re titling this from buying and borrowing to building a mining, when you say buyer, buying and borrowing, it does seem a little bit like it doesn’t kind of relate to people seems a bit more like product. And that’s the last thing we want, obviously, when it comes to comes to people. But the concept being that, you know, we’re every organization, every one of our clients, we talked to the big surveys, we’ve done a number of surveys recently across multiple industries, across multiple regions. Talent shortages, skill shortages, still high on the list for organizations a big challenge that they’re having to deal with. So I think they, you know, the, this concept of, not, first of all, thinking we’ve got an open role within the organization, we need to then go through straight to our HR and our recruitment team to go external for either, you know, contingent resource or hiring in people.
Neil Pickering 14:47
We need to start looking a lot more deeply within the organization, about right what skills what capabilities, what ambitions, what passions do we have within the organization that we could utilize personal performance, obviously, it’s a cheaper thing to do. But it’s a better thing to do. It’s the right thing to do from, from an employee perspective. And going back to what we talked about, first of all, our employee experience perspective, you know, feeling like the organization wants to invest in you, as an individual, and what your passions are outside of the role that you’re performing at the moment. This is what’s going to be really important to the individuals, but also really important for for the employees is dig deep mine, the organizer in my mind, the people that you have within your organization already. And that takes on is that’s going to require some very specific conversations or deeper conversations coming back to what we were talking about before, to be able to make that happen.
Mervyn Dinnen 15:54
Yeah, I get that I made it the all the all the research I’ve seen for years now shows that the number one thing that people want from an organization, when they join, it is the opportunity to grow, develop, learn new skills. And they dare I think, believes that they have access, you know, that they, the technology is there for them to have access to that as and when they need it. Which is why I think it’s so important. And you start seeing one or two conversations I’ve had about kind of employee experience managers and talented experienced managers within organizations who are helping to maybe put some of these together. So it take a more holistic view of what’s going on and what the needs are, and can spot gaps and things. They there was something as well, I think about identifying kind of passions and interests outside of work and try to help people bring these in them, is that something as well, that you’re saying?
Neil Pickering 16:59
Yeah, definitely. I don’t know. I mean, we have examples, what names the name of the retailers, but we’ve had a couple of our retailers historically talk about how they’ve specifically gone out there looking for these passions of people. So you may have somebody that’s, I don’t know, a store manager or, you know, is working on the working on the checkouts were actually their passion outside of work is is coding, we think about retailers and what they they need technically savvy people as much as other the technology provider, or Google or anybody else. Because of the way retail is these days. So having that ability to build, say, actually, you’re showing a passion or an interest in these areas, it’s something we thought we struggled to recoup for, let’s nurture you, let’s train you, let’s help, you know, move in that direction within our organization. But I think they to do that you’ve obviously got to open up better communication channels, with the, with their employees. So I think that that’s going to be key to, to nurturing these finding, encouraging people to be a bit more open, about what their interests are outside of work. And, and one of the things that, you know, we’re all the things that kind of were is important from was from a technology perspective, is enabling organizations to have kind of safe areas for communication with their employees, because in the surveys, like so the recent surveys that we’ve done, you know, organizations are communicating with employees, through personal emails, or through WhatsApp groups off through Facebook, or all these different channels that are very difficult channels to be able to manage from an employer perspective.
Neil Pickering 18:56
So if you can give them tools that enable that I can have your own personal social media style tools, where the organization can share information on the organization and what’s happening within the organization can use the tool to promote employee resource groups around particular different topics, but encourage not only kind of work communication, but more personal sharing of the you know, what employees are doing, if you can provide that in the tool that can bring people together in a safe environment. That’s got to be good for the employees and for the employers. And so what that also tools like that, also enable organizations to communicate with people that don’t have work emails. So if you got people out in the field remotely, that don’t historically have work, work email, then it gives them a tool to be able to communicate with the those people at scale as well. So that’s just one of the things that I think organizations will need to do. got to concentrate on to get that more, you know, deeper understanding and deeper kind of trust and and sharing with the with employees.
Mervyn Dinnen 20:10
You mentioned employee resource groups there, which interests me because there was some research I was involved in earlier this year about the value of employee resource groups. In fact, I’ve had a previous podcast on that. And but what the research showed was that in Europe, and particularly the UK for some reason, Employee Resource Groups weren’t as they weren’t as recognized, shall we say, there weren’t as many of them as possibly they were in places like the US within larger organizations? I mean, is this something that you see, from your research and everything as a growing area? Do you think and I couldn’t work out why in the UK, we didn’t seem to have this because when I’ve spoken to people across some large organizations, they’ve all said, oh, yeah, we’ve got them. But I think is it a time, or do you see over the next year or so that employee resource groups becoming a lot more important in this employee employer relationship?
Neil Pickering 21:09
I think we’re British, we’re inherently cynical, but the best of the rest of the time. So I’m working for an organization where we’ve got many employee resource groups within our organization that are doing some amazing work, supporting people from all different ethnicities and religions, and, you know, you name it. And from, from what I’ve seen, they’re just such a valuable tool that does genuinely improve employee experience, and, and well being. So it’s an area that I think is going to grow, I think it’s one of these areas where the US have done a really good job of kind of pioneering some of these things, and the rest of the world will naturally pick up on the, the positive aspects of what the employee resource groups can do. The key thing and I know we’re gonna come on, come on to talk about it later. These, everything’s got to be genuine. Things of things have got to happen for a genuine in a genuine way. And I think that’s all too often been the case where things are set up with the right intentions. But what if if employees don’t see them as being genuine? Reasons for for doing it? Or if it’s not really isolated, these things don’t need to be led by the employees not led by the organization? Then then they’ll work? It’s it’s, yeah, I think I think people naturally will rebel against something maybe that the organization has said, we are doing. Whereas what we’re doing the UKG case is anybody can request to set up a an employee resource group, and it’s run by the employees. It’s not run by the the organization. And I think that’s the big difference is, then you naturally bring together a group of people that really want to share. And it’s not something being forced by the organization, I think that that’s has to be has to be key.
Mervyn Dinnen 23:25
I think also a loss of a lot of the workforce within large organizations, when in fact, not only large organizations are a lot more aware of ESG, which I know is one of the topics we’re also going to talk talk about, in fact, I’ve, in some of my recent presentations, I’ve had a slide about Ira employees suffering from moral burnout, and defining some of the things that that you know, I’ve picked up from research where that just Yeah, or where people maybe haven’t been happy with certain way that their organization operates way they’re being treated, where they feel other people are being treated. And I think there’s this the transparency, we’re talking about the open relationships, I think is obviously goes very much towards how management managers and how leaders lead. And is this you know, we’ve already discussed it in advance. So this is another one of our big topics for next year. ESG. What is your, I suppose take on that?
Neil Pickering 24:26
Yeah, I think, again, we’re, we’re seeing I’ve sat here in in the UK, I work in a team that’s primarily focused on the Emir region. And all the research that we do within our region, obviously, we see differences to other parts of the world, especially the US. And obviously, from a US perspective when it comes to ESG. And this the title of this section from our 2024 mega trends is that ESG reality Check, which we’ve seen, certainly in the financial markets, a bit of a backlash against ESG. At the moment, and I know, recently it was published in the Financial Times Blackrock did a study looking at ESG. And its impact on organizations showing a positive impact. So ESG was organizations that were focused on ESG initiatives were outperforming equivalent competitors. So obviously, there is a benefit to a ESG. But yeah, I think they from a financial market perspective, there’s there’s been a bit of a backlash, obviously, from a European perspective. The we’ve got the new EU corporate sustainability reporting directive CSRD. directive that that comes into effect in 2024. So that’s kind of holding large organizations feet to the fire, when it comes to their promises for ESG. So whether you’re greenwashing, pink, washing all the different types of, you know, we’re saying we’re doing these things, but are you really doing those things? You know, they the EU’s, leading the pack, in terms of saying, well prove it. But I think there’s, from an employee perspective, employees are really starting to hold organizations to account. And even as consumers, we’re holding, you know, the the suppliers, the product suppliers to account as well, and their environmental and social governance practice.
Neil Pickering 26:48
So I think that’s all gonna, the year ahead, I think employees for organizations are going to be saying, right, prove it, you saying you’re socially focused, but prove it? What’s that? What have been the outcome of the initiatives that you’ve supposedly put in place? So I think organizations because of the new directive will have to prove that anyway. But the employees are demanding that more than ever, they’re saying yes, so as yet, you say, you’re being socially focused, right? Prove it shows what the what the outcomes. So I think organizations moving forward, they’re going to have to be a lot more transparent about what their efforts are actually delivering, and where they’re falling short. And the critical point there is if they are falling short of what they were their promises were, what are they going to do to fix it? So and from the Black Rock study, and I’m sure plenty will the studies and when the organization that we work with closely, great, great place to work, show actually focus on doing the positive things, and it improves the performance of an organization. So I think the message for organizations is safer on your ESG initiatives, because it will pay dividends, and your employees expect it. But what we’re also seeing obviously, because of this, because of in the in the Emir region, because of this ces or the directive, data is critical. You know, you’re going to have to be able to produce data quickly and easily for internal reporting, reporting to people, but also reporting against the directive. So and obviously, to do that, you know, organizations need to look at the technology, look at the solutions we’ve got in place for managing that data. And obviously, those solutions that will prevent inflammation on the data are actually the key solutions and the same solutions that will help them deliver against their social commitments for sure. Within within organizations and going back to the start of the conversation, the employee experience, it’s technology that’s going to help organizations deliver against what they’re promising for their for their employees.
Mervyn Dinnen 29:14
Yeah, the year of transparency and trust.
Neil Pickering 29:17
I think that’s it.
Mervyn Dinnen 29:19
I think we’ve nailed 2024. Neil, I think there’s obviously a lot there for people to to ponder over, particularly those within organizations who they know there’s probably work to be done. I mean, we’re, we’re coming towards the end of the conversation now. So I suppose is there any takeaway advice? I mean, if someone’s listening to this saying, Look, this is we really need to do something about this. How, how would you recommend they start?
Neil Pickering 29:51
Yeah, well, I mean, they can learn more about the 2024 HR mega trends that UKG has produced, if I’m sure if they go to Google have, you know, they just search UKG 2024 mega trends, they’ll find the infographics. There’s been press releases put out there and a lot more information put out there about it. So that’s probably the best place. The best place to start this. Have a look at that. And they should find some really interesting insight on what they are and maybe some ideas on how to address them.
Mervyn Dinnen 30:29
Okay, and if people want to get in touch with you, Neil, what’s what’s the best way?
Neil Pickering 30:33
They can, by all means, look me up on on LinkedIn. So Neil Pickering UKG, you’ll find me on LinkedIn be fantastic to connect. So yeah, look forward to look forward to some more connections on LinkedIn and starting some interesting conversations.
Mervyn Dinnen 30:55
I would think so. Well, listen, it’s been a fascinating conversation. I’m looking forward to the year ahead. And we obviously need to get together in 12 months time and see kind of how accurate we were. But thank you for your time. And it’s been a pleasure.
Neil Pickering 31:11
Thank you Mervyn, it’s been good. Really enjoyed it.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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