SHRM Talent Symposium: HR Must Continue to Disrupt—or Be Disrupted

By Catherine Skrzypinski Jul 21, 2016

​SEATTLE—HR is ripe for disruption and transformation, leading human resources practitioners said July 15 at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Talent Symposium. The role is evolving beyond functional operations to increasingly place an emphasis on employee engagement, while recruiting technologies are reshaping the competition for talent.

The one-day event pulled together industry leaders and senior-level HR professionals to talk about new trends in recruiting and culture development, as well as to give insight into what the presidential election and 2017 may bring for talent acquisition practitioners. Here are some takeaways from the symposium:

1. Establish an Alliance with Employees

According to Ben Casnocha, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur and co-author of the best-selling book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age (Harvard Business Review Press, 2014), there is a disconnect between managers and their employees, as managers demand loyalty to the company while not guaranteeing lifetime employment.

"Trust is at its lowest level between employer and employee," Casnocha said. He cited a poll by Parade magazine finding that 35 percent of U.S. workers would forgo a pay raise in exchange for the firing of their direct supervisor. "The employer-employee relationship is broken," he said.

He suggested to stop thinking of employees as part of the family or, alternatively, as free agents who contribute occasionally. "Start treating your employees like an alliance," he advised.

Many Silicon Valley companies now treat their entrepreneurial employees like allies and refer to an employee's tenure as a "tour of duty"—where individuals sign up to work for a specific amount of time and make an important contribution to the company during that period in their career. It is not a forever contract, Casnocha explained. However, even after these employees move on to a new career opportunity, a lifetime connection will endure.

"Individual talent is at the center of the new economy—this is how we should approach talent management," he said.

2. Create a Culture Where Employees Thrive

Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, is a member of the SHRM board of directors and is executive director of HR for LaRosa's Inc., a regional pizzeria chain in southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky and southwest Indiana.

Culture is the No. 1 reason why employees stay at—or leave—a company, he asserted. "Your company should have a great culture," he said. "Once that's in place, then find good people."

He advised HR professionals to continually incorporate culture into their company's strategic plan and to keep the human factor present in all efforts. "Employees want to be acknowledged; they want to be appreciated," he said.

Browne dismissed the notion that a significant generational gap exists between the Baby Boomers, members of Generation X and the Millennials in the workplace. Using a music analogy, he compared the Baby Boomers' message to a recording on a vinyl record, while Generation X has expressed itself with compact discs and Millennials are tuned in to streaming music.

"The music is the same but it's delivered differently," Browne said. "Quit separating the generations."

3. Kill the Annual Performance Review

In a dramatic move, software company Adobe Systems decided to ditch once-a-year written performance evaluations in 2012 in favor of ongoing, flexible "check-ins." The check-ins set and track expectations, encouraging real-time feedback that leads to employee growth and development.

Since then, the company has grown its employee base by 40 percent with stronger employee engagement. HR teams now focus on ensuring that employees and managers are able to have constructive conversations.

"HR should drive cultural change," said Donna Morris, SHRM-SCP, executive vice president, customer and employee experience at Adobe in Seattle and a member of the SHRM board of directors. "It's more important to have discussions rather than document everything."

4. Try the 'Moneyball' Approach to Recruiting

Billy Beane, the general manager of major league baseball team the Oakland Athletics, invented the concept of "Moneyball" in the early 2000s by tapping into data analytics to hire the best baseball players for the best price.

"Success is how we define it," noted Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, president of HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, Mich. "The Oakland A's were able to compete at a World Series level, given the payroll they could afford."

Over the next decade, hiring will only increase in difficulty, so try using data to help find your candidates. Moneyball recruiting tactics are not about hiring the best, but about hiring the best for your organization, Sackett explained.

"Take out the human element" regarding hiring decisions, he said. "Don't make any more gut decisions. That leads to hidden bias."

Science is unbiased and smarter than you and your hiring managers, Sackett stated. "If all else fails, hire smart. Smart trumps past experience."

5. Look to the Future

The panel of HR experts came together to forecast changes to recruiting tactics and urge HR departments to prepare now for what lies ahead.

One trend that may disrupt the recruiting process is the abandonment of the job interview altogether. Rather, HR can choose to assess a potential employee's online portfolio—LinkedIn profile, social media presence, and work samples like coding and published writing—to determine the candidate's character and potential for success.

Danielle Monaghan, director of talent acquisition for the consumer division of Amazon in Seattle, said that current talent practices are attracting the "cream of the crap, not the cream of the crop."

"Interviews are no longer valuable, as they are not predictive of success," she added.

University researchers have found most interviews are a waste of time because most the interaction is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first 10 seconds of meeting the candidate, wrote Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations for Google, in his April 2015 book Work Rules!.

Meanwhile, the role of HR metrics has grown dramatically. HR managers should have the ability to measure the effectiveness of predictive analytics by crunching numbers and data.

"Talent metrics have become report cards," said Peter Weddle, CEO of TAtech in Stamford, Conn. "HR needs to get it right the first time."

"Predictive analytics is the future of recruitment," Sackett added.

Another emerging trend is for companies to maximize employee referrals, as referrals are still the primary source for new hires. In fact, some companies are turning every one of their employees into recruiters.

According to Thomas M. Darrow, SHRM-SCP, who is founder and principal of Talent Connections LLC, CEO of Career Spa in Atlanta and chair of the board of directors for the SHRM Foundation, an employee referral program should not be built around incentives. Instead, train employees on how to be recruiters—make it a part of their job. "Your employees are your brand ambassadors," he said.

Catherine Skrzypinski is a freelance writer in Vancouver.


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