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What does the future of work look like, exactly, in the view of some leading HR and talent management experts? Instead of tossing such questions to his three panelists Tuesday at Cornerstone Convergence 2013,  Cornerstone OnDemand marketing VP Jason Corsello polled Convergence audience members for their thoughts and then had the panel dissect the results.

The lively "Un-Panel" session covered a lot of ground in quick fashion -- touching on the future of recruitment, collaboration, learning, and performance -- with Elaine Orler (founder and president of Talent Function Group), Josh Bersin (principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte) and HRE columnist and radio host Bill Kutik all weighing in -- and not necessarily in unisonHere are a few highlights from the polled questions and the discussions that ensued: 

  • Recruiting sources vs. recruiting channels. Nearly 40 percent of attendees said that their organizations find job candidates through corporate career sites. Orler challenged respondents to think a little differently. "I don't believe a corporate career site is actually a source -- it's a channel," Orler said. "The candidates found you through something else, whether it be through social media or advertising relationships." In order to understand where your candidates come from, Orler added, recruiters have to pinpoint these sources.
  • Questionable value of applicant tracking systems. Applicant tracking systems typically don’t live up to billing, according to the panelists. Bersin suggested that these systems have little or no net impact on the overall success or efficiency of recruiting, short of automating the basic process. Bersin cited research that found that the most impact on recruiting derives from candidate relationship management, employee assessment, and, perhaps most importantly, continuous training and retraining of recruiters themselves. "Companies that are training and retraining their own recruiters are out-performing companies that don't," he said.
  • Challenges and opportunities in social collaboration. An overwhelming majority, 84 percent of the crowd reported that it uses (or plans to use) social collaboration tools in the workplace. Kutik wasn't buying that level of buy-in, but he did fervently echo the importance of being an early adopter. "Social collaboration in the enterprise is not for organizing volleyball games after work anymore," Kutik said. Social collaboration, Orler added, must be integrated into the way people work, and HR managers need to accept this integration by letting go of old specifications focused on compliance rather than on what matters more – creating new ways to get work done more efficiently and collaboratively. "One of the greatest challenges in adopting social collaboration for HR professionals is that it's a two way street," Orler explained. "HR has generally been a one-way conversation. We need to break some of those old school silos in order for the collaboration to work. We will see that we can trust our employees again."
  • Where we're headed with performance feedback. Are annual performance reviews effective? Seventy-percent of the HR-oriented audience quickly said no -- and the panel generally agreed that the practice is nearing retirement status. Bersin argued that large companies especially need to move towards a new form of continuous performance feedback, with peer reviews assuming a larger role in an ongoing (and collective) conversation about individual performance. An array of new tools has emerged to speed the transition -- assigning badges and other types of rewards through social platforms, for instance, and other ways of "game-ifying" the feedback loop. Kutik, however, advised a word of caution: All the social badges and rewards, he explained, need to have real economic value for employees to make them stick as effective performance motivators. He cited a cultural reference to back up his point. "Shame on baby boomers," Kutik said to the delight of the crowd, "for giving their children awards for simply participating in a soccer game instead of winning." Orler offered some thoughtful counterpoint: All these new social forms of acknowledgement are truly important in an era where continuous and meaningful feedback are key expectations of new employees, especially Millennials. They simply need to be delivered and communicated in a smart way.
  • Aligning the culture with what employees truly want. What matters most to employees these days when it comes to managing their careers?  Audience members reported that their own career progression and work-life balance ranked as the top two.  Orler suggested that the obsession with work-life balance is misleading in the modern workplace. Today, says Orler, "work is life. It's important for companies to simplify this balance by trusting their employees and the work they do. Bersin took that notion a step further -- suggesting that the explosion of mobile technology and other factors have ratcheted up the stress factor on employees, who often feel anchored to work responsibilities 24/7.  Bersin added: "Companies need to think more deeply about the impact of all this."

What’s your take on the future of work?  Let us know in the comments.