Blog Post

Using technology to propel HR’s changing strategic priorities

Cornerstone Editors

HR’s strategic priorities are shifting. According to a recent survey, HR’s number one focus in 2021 is "employee wellbeing and mental health," replacing the 2020 top focus, "employee experience in the workplace." An emphasis on DEI and the need to manage remote workers are also new on the list of top priorities for HR teams.

The top 5 HR strategic priorities for 2021 compared 2020
1) (2021) employee wellbeing, mental health | (2020) employee experience
2) (2021) DEI | (2020) leadership development
3) (2021) leadership development | (2020) learning transformation
4) (2021) employee experience | (2020) next-generation leaders
5) (2021) managing remote workers | (2020) people analytics

The survey — conducted by Lyra Health, Boston University and Future Workplace — suggests this shift has hinged on the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought to the fore the need for strong leaders, equal representation within the workforce and the rise of hybrid work. But with these changes, the emphasis on technology solutions to support HR activities remains low: just 37% of survey respondents said they would want to improve existing technology if budgets allowed.

Rather than viewing technology as a "nice to have," HR leaders must look to technology as an essential tool to meeting any strategic goal — even as priorities change over time. By leveraging technology, HR leaders can create a connected experience and reach their strategic objectives. Here’s a closer look at how HR tech can address some of HR’s most urgent priorities.

Online learning supports employee mental health and wellbeing

Employee health and wellbeing has suffered during the pandemic. And as the world learns to manage the reality, and uncertainty, of COVID-19, employees are starting to prioritize their mental health. For employers, this is a good thing, since overall employee wellbeing actually increases productivity.

Technology is a valuable tool to give employees the support they need. Digital learning content can be a resource to help employees find work-life balance, across topics like stress management or mindfulness and meditation. In fact, Cornerstone’s own research showed an increase in employees taking advantage of personal wellness courses during the height of the pandemic; topics like "Time Management: Working From Home" were among the most popular.

You can access free employee wellness courses through Cornerstone Cares.

Technology drives successful DEIB initiatives

There’s no shortage of research to suggest the value of diversity, equity inclusion and belonging at organizations, which can drive everything from performance to innovation. With the right technology tools, companies can drive DEIB across the organization.

For example, say an organization is looking to strengthen inclusive hiring practices as part of its DEI initiatives. While HR professionals can intend to interview a pool of candidates with a variety of backgrounds, diverse applicants aren’t applying. Artificial intelligence can help flag biased language and improve job descriptions and attract a wider pool of candidates. Combined with analytics, AI can also identify whether salary and promotion decisions are equitable at an organization — and help HR leaders address any inherent bias in the organization.

Moreover, learning content can also be a valuable tool to drive DEIB internally, helping educate employees about their unconscious biases and supporting them in taking steps to address it.

Learn more about how you can use Cornerstone’s diversity content subscription to support a more inclusive and equitable workforce.

AI and analytics bolster skills development

Leadership development remains near the top of the HR priority list — and overall skill development is becoming increasingly necessary for organizations to drive growth and retain employees eager for career opportunities. Technology that leverages employee data strengthens the quality of resources HR teams can offer employees, and ultimately help move the needle on strategic goals.

Analytics platforms will be a boon for HR teams to understand and meet the development needs organization-wide. Whether it’s leadership training or other skills courses, AI and employee data together can ensure the most relevant learning opportunities are delivered at the point of need. Enlisting a technology platform that offers online training is critical to driving leadership and other skill sets, especially as organizations operate remotely.

Take a closer look at the Cornerstone Skills graph, which uses employee data, analytics and AI to make intelligent recommendations around organizational skills.

Connected technology as a driver for progress

The real value of technology tools in HR doesn’t just come from addressing these individual challenges. Instead, a true tech solution for HR’s evolving needs is one that is connected, rather than siloed. Today, HR teams face a saturated market of offerings that solve different needs: One solution for learning, one for recruiting, one for performance, etc. It’s no wonder then, that a majority of talent leaders using HR tech report adoption challenges.

As HR’s strategic priorities change, technology solutions evolve alongside them: The global HR technology market is expected to grow significantly by 2028, reaching $35.6 billion from today’s $24 billion.

To see the benefits of these tech tools, HR teams need a connected solution — one that fosters a cohesive experience and allows HR departments to expend time and energy productively, without the need to toggle between platforms for different tasks or choose between solutions that support one goal over another.

Circumstances like how we connect with our teams and perform our jobs will continue to shift, and so will strategic priorities. A comprehensive, connected technology tool will prepare any company for the future.

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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. A recent survey—titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change"—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. According to the "Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes. For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy. To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.

Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today

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Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today

When we think of diversity in the workforce, we typically think of it along the lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. But focusing only on those four is its own sort of constraint. To truly create a successful and diverse workplace, you need to ensure you're also embracing neurodiversity too. Understanding neurodiversity In the late 1990s, a single mother in Australia named Judy Singer began studying Disability Studies at University of Technology Sydney. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with what was then known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” a form of autism spectrum disorder. As she read more and more about autism as part of her studies, Singer also suspected that her mother, and she herself, may have had some form of autism spectrum disorder. Singer describes crying as she realized that her mother, with whom she'd had a tumultuous relationship throughout her childhood, wasn’t purposefully cold or neurotic as she had thought. She just had a different kind of mind. In her honors thesis, Singer coined the term “neurodiversity.” For Singer, people with neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia were a social class of their own and should be treated as such. If we are going to embrace diversity of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., then we must embrace a diversity of the mind. The following video is an excerpt from the "Neurodiversity" Grovo program, which is available in the Cornerstone Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription. Neurodiversity in today's workplace Recently, neurodiversity has become a trendy term in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging spaces. And many organizations are working to hire more neurodivergent people, as well as give them opportunities to thrive at work. That’s why, at Cornerstone, we recently produced a series of lessons on neurodiversity. If your organization hasn’t prioritized neurodiverse inclusion yet, here are some reasons why it both supports your people and organization. 1) Neurodivergent people are underemployed Neurodivergent people, especially people with autism, are widely under-employed, regardless of their competence. In the United States, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed. According to a 2006 study, individuals with ADHD have higher rates of unemployment than individuals without. However, there is no evidence that neurodivergent people are less competent or less intelligent than neurotypical people. Organizations are missing out on talented people. 2) Neurodivergent people are more common than you may think Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. It can encompass autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome, and many other conditions. And as scientists have learned more about what makes someone neurodivergent, they're identifying more and more people. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in every 162 children have Tourette Syndrome, and roughly 8 percent of children under 18 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And that's just children. How many adults, like Judy Singer's mother, have struggled their whole lives without a diagnosis? People who are neurodivergent are everywhere. Diverse organizations are stronger Diverse organizations and teams not only have better financial returns than less-diverse ones, but they also perform better. Having the different perspectives presented by people who are neurodivergent can help your team solve more difficult problems. Different perspectives and different ways of thinking lead to creativity and innovation.

Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated

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Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated

Many organizations face a leadership gap and cannot find the talent needed to grow. We could blame the retiring baby boomer phenomenon, the free agent nation, or the lack of investment made in developing leaders. But since blame is a lazy man’s wage, I will not entertain that debate because there are too many options out there for developing leaders. There are many leadership development programs in the market. In minutes, with a simple Internet search or over coffee with your head of human resources, you can discover myriad high-quality leadership development programs that you could use in your organization to develop leaders. The problem is not finding a good program, but in choosing one. Answer the Right Questions So how does one choose? The problem we face in evaluating leadership development programs is that we get caught up in evaluating the content rather than asking a simple question, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Each organization is unique in how it answers this question. And that is where the secret lies. If an organization can select a program that matches the answer to the question above, the selected program will likely be the right one. After all, each leadership development program is very good in some way. It is not so important which one you select. It is important that you use the one you select. In other words, the key is to not let it become another un-opened binder on the bookshelves of your management team. Be An Effective Leader Let me give you an example: If an organization’s answer to the question above is, "We want our leaders to be proactive and focused on the things that drive results," your choices are narrowed down to only a few programs that would deliver on that answer. And if I had to pick one program that would deliver on that answer, without hesitation, I would choose, "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker. It is a classic, and all five of the behaviors of effective executives taught in the book remain vital skills that any leader should practice if he or she wants to be effective in his or her organization. In the book, Drucker teaches that effective executives: Know where their time goes Focus on contribution and results Build on strengths Concentrate on first things first Make effective decisions This is not a book review or a plug for "The Effective Executive," though I do believe if you had to choose one set of skills to teach your leadership, it would be the five from Drucker’s book. This is a challenge for every organization to simplify the selection of leadership development programs, and ask, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Answering this question clearly will help you choose the right program. After all, many programs are excellent. The secret to success is not in which program you choose, but that you get people to apply the program you choose. Photo: Can Stock

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