HR Execs Explore Ways to Make Work More Human

By Stephenie Overman June 5, 2017
HR Execs Explore Ways to Make Work More Human

PHOENIX—Rahul Varma, Accenture's global head of talent and learning, says the way companies have handled performance management for decades is "inhuman." 

"It demotivates people. Leaders and managers spent hours and hours talking about people, not with people, rating them, putting them in buckets," said Varma, who led the overhaul of Accenture's performance management approach in 2016. 

"We decided to blow it all up, to enable people to do what they love, to get feedback in the moment," he said. 

Verma spoke at the WorkHuman 2017 conference sponsored by employee recognition software maker Globoforce. He was joined by panelists Vicki Williams, senior vice president of compensation, benefits and HRIS at NBCUniversal, and Kim Bors, senior vice president of human resources at Schneider Electric. 

All addressed ways their companies are trying to make the work experience more human. 

Companies have spent millions of hours assessing employees, but research found that there was no correlation between performance management rating systems and changing performance, according to Varma. "Some companies were doing very jazzy things, but there was no correlation to speak of." 

Accenture decided to create a platform for people "to look inside, assess and understand their strengths," he said. "We now have a new language about strengths. We focus on hyper-personalized actions…[and] decisions are made in a hyper-personalized fashion." 

So far, the results have been strongly positive, according to Varma. "People are saying 'I just had the best conversation of my career and I've been here 20 years.' " 

"We have a new language, a new culture, a new way of being," he said. "It has unleashed an energy." 

NBCUniversal decided it needed to "bring the social piece" into its recognition program said panelist Vicki Williams, so last year it rolled out a peer-to-peer, 360-degree recognition program that is separate from the company's annual bonus program. 

The program, called Thx, gives each employee points, worth small amounts of money, to hand out through the web site or app to other workers, she said. "We wanted employees to have a way to quickly thank each other. This is more in the moment." 

NBCUniversal started the program in two different business units within the corporation and has since expanded it to five businesses. The results so far are that "90 percent of employees engage and are giving recognition" to co-workers, according to Williams. 

Schneider Electric is a global industrial company, one that might be expected to take a traditional, top-down approach to human resource management, but Kim Bors said the company is committed to "employee-centric programming." 

"With [Schneider Electric's new program] Workplace 2.1, we are addressing the kind of issues we think our employees will prosper from. We're looking at well-being—not just physical wellness, but emotional and social," she said. "We have flexibility at work. We have a family leave policy that provides 12 weeks fully paid for primary caregivers." 

The company is "in the process of refreshing our more traditional performance management process," she said, to make it more behavior-based. 

Managers now have much more discretion in how they provide feedback, she said, and "leaders are expected to be more player-coaches... It's not [only] human resources' responsibility." 

Schneider also has revamped its recognition program because "we found we didn't have something that crossed all our countries. It was a little bit disjointed," Bors said. 

The new program is a part of Schneider's "Step Up people strategy," she said, which is designed to help people improve their talents and foster strong employee engagement. 

"We've had a huge amount of participation" with the new online recognition portal, she said. "It's a tremendous reinforcement of the type of relationships that exist within Schneider." 

The company also is committed to promoting volunteerism by providing grants and allowing employees to take time off to give back to the community, Bors said. When employees do participate in various volunteer activities that relate to health, education, safety or the environment, "we see a five-point-higher engagement level. There's a direct correlation; we all have a desire to give back."

Stephenie Overman is a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C., area. 

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