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It’s that time of year when we reflect on our past contributions and look forward with anticipation to achievements yet to be realized. As VP of Talent at Appirio, I like to focus on how the world of work is changing and how my team and I can help our organization anticipate those changes in 2016.

My job is to strategically set our people priorities straight, so that we can respond to the diverse needs of our workforce and structure our programs to be flexible in our constantly changing world. How do I approach tackling this broad (and sometimes daunting) responsibility — and how can my peers do the same? This year, I recommend breaking down your people strategy into three areas of focus:

1) Bring Your Organization Into the 21st Century

If you work in the talent management field, you know the power of technology in today's talent space and how it gives us access to data like never before. You also know there are countless companies entering the market with innovative solutions. New tools give us the ability to examine trends and predict future talent needs at the touch of a button, gamify recruitment, quickly survey employees and facilitate collaboration among global teams. Now is the time to take full advantage of these tools.

Additionally, all (or nearly all) of your employees carry a mobile device wherever they go, and they want the ability to interact with your corporate systems on those devices. If your CRM, HCM, LMS, expense reimbursement system or other talent-facing systems can't be accessed on a mobile device, you should be asking your vendors when mobile compatibility will be available — or start looking at vendors that already offer it. Of course, most organizations can't upgrade all of their technologies at once, but as talent professionals we should be leading with a strategy to get there.

2) Lead With Innovation to Influence Regulation

The labor market is tightening, employee engagement is in vogue and the definition of “employee” is expanding in some interesting ways. An employee is now anyone who might perform a service for your company: a contractor, temporary worker, a member of a crowdsourcing community or a remote employee working from the other side of the world. 

And let's face it —at the heart of the surging gig economy is employee engagement. People want to be passionate about the work they do. They don't want to deal with unnecessary rules about where, when and how to work; they want their jobs to fit in with their lives, rather than having their lives consumed by work.

Many traditional employment models don't inspire or engage, so workers have found new ways to work. These new models are revealing cracks in decades-old government regulations (consider the Uber litigation as exhibit A). These regulations are stifling innovation in the future of work, and we must wait for our government agencies to examine current employer/employee regulations and make adjustments. To move the needle forward, we as talent professionals must champion innovation that challenges our lawmakers to move and adapt faster.

3) Focus More on the ​Talent and Less on the Management

Despite the radically changing world of work and the technology that supports it, we can't lose sight of the “talent” in talent management. Do you really know your talent? While knowing your employee data and stats is important, knowing your employees as individual human beings is equally crucial. What makes them tick? What do they love about their jobs? How can you enhance their worker experience and tap into their passions? Human interaction within an organization is the most important driver of organizational success.

One of the top reasons employees feel engaged at work is that they feel people in the organization genuinely care about them. Making connections at work — whether it be with managers, peers, or social groups — can make employees more satisfied and productive in their jobs. Human beings are wired to form connections with others; it’s in our DNA. Companies can help employees make these connections and foster a collaborative culture by providing social collaboration software and engagement tools. Solutions like Cornerstone Connect are great for connecting a global workforce and empowering employees to engage with one another and streamline processes.

In 2016, move your business forward with technology that engages and empowers employees. Be a leader in the future of work by embracing the changes that innovation brings. And most importantly, drive a strategy that creates a collaborative and engaging culture specific to the unique individuals that make your organization hum every day.

Photo:Creative Commons