Engaging the Talent of Tomorrow

ThinkstockPhotos-494940180Diane Gherson, CHRO at IBM Corp., laughs when she recalls the role technology played in improving the employee experience when she first joined the Armonk, N.Y.-based technology giant 14 years ago.

At that time, she says, managers received emails notifying them when team members’ birthdays were coming up, for example.

“And that was really exciting,” Gherson told the audience at this morning’s opening session at the HR Technology Conference at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Now, she says, managers receive frequent messages with much more information on their employees. For instance, managers get notes telling them that a given employee hasn’t received recognition for his or her role in, say, a special project.

Gherson’s example was just one illustration of how technology has changed the way managers and employees do their jobs at IBM. As part of this morning’s “Engaging and Retaining the Talent of Tomorrow” panel discussion, moderated by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist and Starfish Media Group CEO Soledad O’Brien, Gherson was one of four HR executives sharing the stage, and sharing insights into how the employee experience continues to change, and how HR is using technology to meet changing employee expectations.

Along with Dermot O’Brien, CHRO at ADP, Scott Pitasky, executive vice president and chief partner resources officer at Starbucks, and Francine Katsoudas, chief people officer at Cisco Systems, the assembled HR leaders also examined recent research findings that illuminate just how much those expectations are changing.

ADP’s recent Evolution of Work study found, for example, that 58 percent of workers saying they believe that traditional hierarchical structures in the workplace will soon be a thing of the past. The survey also found 95 percent of employees saying they believe they will soon be able to work from anywhere.

The number of workers who anticipate working where and when they choose presents opportunities as well as challenges, says Katsoudas.

At Cisco, “we believe in a concept that everything good happens in teams,” Katsoudas told the audience.

That said, teams can still thrive while working in disparate locations, she adds. Katsoudas and the Cisco HR team has focused on helping managers “really connect with their team members, and really connect them with the strengths of their individual team members.”

For example, managers rely on the company’s talent management platform to check in to see how their team members are progressing on a given project or task, and tweak their roles if need be. Managers can also send brief surveys to their direct reports, to get a feel for the level of engagement throughout their teams, and solicit suggestions on how to improve the employee experience.

As how, when and where employees work continues to change, “technology can actually reconnect us to the workforce,” says ADP’s O’Brien.

And, “it provides us with enough data,” adds Gherson, “to help us find ways to make the employee experience better.”