Q&A: Top 5 Trends for Savvy HR Leaders in 2020 – and Beyond

February 5, 2020 Aaron Kinne

7-minute read

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We’ve had a wonderful response to the Jan. 29 SHRM webcast: Top 5 Trends for Savvy HR Leaders in 2020 – and Beyond,” featuring Jennifer Reimert, vice president of solutions consulting at Workhuman® and her colleague, Dr. Andrea C. Johnson, senior director of global business systems.

During an information-filled presentation, they reflected on the many ways organizations have moved toward building a more positive employee experience – while looking ahead to the future of HR. Drawing on the latest research and their decades of knowledge, Jen and Andrea shared their unique perspectives on pay equity, AI, D&I, and performance management.

Because Jen and Andrea filled the entire hour , they couldn’t take any questions during the program. However, they’ve graciously agreed to review and answer some of the questions you submitted online following the event. And while they couldn’t answer them all, here’s a representative sampling:

When it comes to investing in pay equity, where do you suggest we start?

Jen: In terms of an investment, you must look at how big the pay gap is and think about the pace at which you can close that gap. Start with base salary levels, and ask yourself, ‘Where do we have a disconnect?’ If your pay inequity is very large, then you should start adjusting it over the course of time. But make an effort. Take that first step.

Andrea: Begin by starting the conversation. Don't stay quiet. You have to keep speaking up and speaking out. Otherwise, it's not going to change.

Jen: And likewise, for each compensation vehicle – such as a bonus – you must consider: Are the initial bonus targets equitable based on role? It should be about the role, not always about the ‘who.’ If there is a performance contingency that determines how the bonus is paid, then it must be based on performance.

But also check your biases to see if you're treating women differently, or through a different lens. It starts with awareness. What are you doing from a bias standpoint? How are you applying that? Because it absolutely impacts the final outcome. We all have biases. It's a matter of being aware of them.

I suggest you go through every compensation vehicle that you deliver. You've got to first do a litmus test.

If your company gives out stock, you've got to check that vehicle. And then ask yourself, ‘What's the gap? Where can we make a correction that will have the fastest impact?’ In that way, you’re starting to get the pay equity flywheel spinning.

One of my managers isn't the most accepting of the newer HR trends. How do I go about convincing this person to get with the times?

Jen: I think you begin by finding the courage to start with yourself. We all model the behavior that we want to have, or we want to see. You can do it. There's nothing stopping you. You can start using the latest verbiage. For instance, when you're checking with the manager say: ‘I'm just going to capture this as our weekly check-in.’

If managers don't want to meet formally every week, point out that check-ins don't have to be 30 minutes or an hour. They don’t have to be set in stone on the calendar. They could be a simple drop-in to the manager’s office. It could be picking up the phone and just checking how things are going with certain projects.

Take ownership of it. And just start making it happen. Before you know it, you'll be having those check-ins regularly. It may not be on a strict schedule, but it will happen. Open your mind to what that check-in can look like.

Andrea: It's also about being smart in how you approach this issue. Your manager might not be accepting, but does he or she have goals they’re trying to reach? Perhaps it’s metrics around culture? Or employee feedback? Are you perceived as helping him or her?

Jen: Yes. I like that too. Think about what matters to the manager, and how your work is connected to it. And then communicate. A check-in is really about communication, so it could be an email that says, ‘Just want to let you know what I'm working on.’ Or ‘Just wanted you to know the progress being made in these areas, because I know it matters to your XYZ goal.’

For example, I have one person on my team who pops me a note through Skype when he sees me online asking, ‘How are you doing, what’s going on, anything new?’ He's just checking in and connecting. And before you know it, in 10 minutes we've talked about some key business issues.

Can you give some specific examples of how AI will impact work?

Andrea: One of the first examples that comes to mind are the chat bots that are now used to handle a customer’s first inquiry or very simple, straight-forward questions. We are seeing this more and more with our banking and services customers.

Along with the growing use of AI, I want to also offer some cautionary examples of the risks it can entail. You may recall that AI hit the news last year when some algorithms went wrong. One was a recruitment algorithm which hard-coded biases into the existing processes. There are also some examples of algorithms that failed to recognize the faces of females of color in security assessments – an example of being coded away.

In short, AI brings endless possibilities. But biases and inclusivity must be considered seriously.

There has been a lot of research on how AI can help minimize bias during the recruitment process. A good starting point is the Harvard Business Review article by Frida Polli, “Using AI to Eliminate Bias from Hiring.”

Jen: I would imagine AI could minimize risk. Think about screening LinkedIn profiles or resumes where you’ve removed all gender bias. It could result in a higher likelihood of women being interviewed than before.

Andrea: But then at Amazon it backfired using AI in recruiting. So I think it's about leveraging AI, but also ensuring you’re not rolling workplace biases into the technology.

There are ways you can do it. One of the first things is by making your CV and your recruitment process as blind as possible in terms of age, gender, and race.

It's all about using AI to reduce bias. There's the well-known example of the female orchestra conductors. At auditions for orchestra conductors, women never got a shot. As soon as those auditions went blind, women were selected nearly 50% of the time.

Jen: It’s a fascinating case study. Inspiring musicians were instructed to remove their footwear because, as the women walked in, the jury members could hear the clicking of their heels. It's a subtle thing, but you take it in. Perhaps the candidates should have walked in wearing slippers!

How can we stay connected to Jen and Andrea?

Andrea: Thank you so much for that kind question. Jen and I have been absolutely delighted – and humbled – by the number of people who have responded to our presentation, including your thoughtful follow-up questions.

And many of you have been asking, ‘How can we stay connected? Can we continue the conversation?’ Well, one good way is to join Jen and me at Workhuman® Live, May 11-14 in San Antonio, Texas. There, we can keep the connection and the conversation going.

Jen: Totally agree, Andrea. I’ve been getting so much positive feedback through LinkedIn. And I would love to meet our webcast attendees – and your colleagues – at Workhuman Live. They’ve just announced that women’s rights activist and best-selling author Manal al-Sharif has been added to the lineup, so this is an event you won’t want to miss.

Andrea and I hope to see you there.

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About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

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