HR vs The People Experience

Workday released a report last week on the outlook for HR in 2017, rather smartly named the HR Outlook Report 2017. It covers how HR leaders view their role in guiding organisations, the uptake of analytics and big data to inform decision making, and how HR’s priorities are shifting. And it’s a real must-read for anyone involved in the recruitment process.

The one thing that truly fascinated me about the report was the optimism of HR workers in the face of Brexit’s uncertainty. It revealed that the majority (60%) of senior HR professionals in the UK, believe that they are in a position to have a positive influence on, and protect their organisations from, the fallout of leaving the EU.

Taking a fairly pragmatic, ‘business as usual’ approach to matters, senior HRs have revealed that cost management remains the number one priority, with talent management coming in second and ‘organisational agility and productivity’ taking third place.

Summarising where they felt HRs should be focusing their attention, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), who were also involved in the creation of the report, outline the following 6 points:

  • Demonstrate the value of the HR agenda
  • Use HR data to strengthen evidence-based decision making
  • Harness the benefits of technology
  • Prepare for economic uncertainty (such as globalisation and Brexit)
  • Adapt to the changing needs and desires of the workforce
  • Strengthen the capability of people managers

On the final point there’s been further discussion this week, with Anne Allen, Director of People Experience for Xero UK, stating that HR is dead, and needs to be replaced by ‘People Experience’ teams instead. Unsure what this means? Ms Allen explains,

“In contrast to a Human Resources function, a People Experience Team is much more about engaging and inspiring individuals in their place of work and appealing to them as discerning individuals who make active choices about what they’ll do, when and where they’ll do it and for whom. There’s no compulsion – only choice – which means the most successful companies will have to have a deep and meaningful look at their value proposition to appeal to the best.

“A People Experience team also develops and implements the organisation’s people strategy, which includes and recognises components such as the psychology of work, physical, mental and financial well-being, meaning, purpose and positive relationships as critical. The stakes are high.

“A people strategy also means maintaining a focus on succession planning and talent pipelining where emerging talents within the business are highlighted as potential future leaders, and they are supported with development opportunities. This needs to not only align with individual career goals, but also prepare the organisation for contingencies. Clearly, a clever and sophisticated balancing act needs to be pulled off!”

Which all sounds rather amazing on the surface. But is it practical in real life? And for all companies? In the article Allen cites businesses such as Google, and the perks they offer their staff. But, that’s Google. Only Google is Google, and no other company can come close. Of course they want to (and can!) give their staff everything they desire in order to improve retention and acquisition.

Furthermore, this flies in the face of what HRs have said is their priority; cost management. And these are the people working across the board, who are dealing with businesses of all levels and shapes and sizes. The people who really know.

Whilst it’s certainly true that more needs to be done to nurture top talent, especially with a shortage and the growing skills gap, the application of something like a ‘People Experience Team’ instead of a HR department is a long way off the mark.


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