What HR Should Be Thinking in 2013

Paul Hebert Change, Employee Communications, Employment Branding and Culture, HR Technology, Organizational Development, Paul Hebert, Seat at the Table

Twisting information meant for one arena to make it fit in another is a favorite pastime of mine.  And today’s post is no different.  Today – I take information meant for how to view “products” in 2013 and twist it until it screams bloody murder to make it fit the HR world.

The information I’m going to abuse comes from a post on FastCompanyDesign.com called “12 Trends That Will Rule Products in 2013.”  You can read the article over on their site but I think my stuff is much more interesting.

Their post highlights what they think will influence how products are built, marketed and sold in 2013 and I think the points they make can be easily (or somewhat easily) bent into a discussion on how HR should be thinking about their business and employees in 2013.

Check my list below (I paraphrased extensively) and see if I’ve tortured the information successfully to make my point.  The content from the post if first and my commentary in bold below it.

1. THE MIND IS A COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT.

Our understanding of how we decide has evolved from a process involving logical conclusions based on clear needs and preferences, to an emotional struggle inside customers’ minds.  The smartest organizations in 2013 will embrace this conflict, and acknowledge the complexity in their customers’ minds.

NOTE TO HR:  Your employees are consumers.  The same struggle going on in the marketplace is occurring in your hallways.  Find ways to leverage the logical and the emotional.  Remember that most people make decisions based on emotion and backfill with the data to convince them they made a good decision.

2. CUSTOMER-FACING EMPLOYEES ARE YOUR BRAIN AND YOUR BACKBONE.

The crucial element in any customer experience is still people, no matter how much technology has transformed the landscape. The larger an organization, the more it relies on the thousand tiny decisions its frontline employees make on a daily basis. And listening to their collective wisdom is more important than ever.

NOTE TO HR:  Nothing really to add here – just go read that paragraph 100,001 times before starting your next initiative.

3. ANALOG WILL NEVER GO AWAY.

Sales of LP records have quadrupled since 2007. It’s a powerful reminder that convenience isn’t the only thing people care about. 2013 will not be the year that analog displaces digital, nor will any other year. But it will be the year when mainstream consumers start to embrace “outdated” technologies along with cutting-edge ones.

NOTE TO HR:  What are you doing to make sure the analog part of your business (read HUMAN) doesn’t get lost with all the SaaS tech you’ve installed?  Is it hard to get a meeting in real life in your company?  Fix that.

4. WORTH IS DETERMINED BY PHILOSOPHY, NOT PRICE.

Freemium pricing models and digital services are detaching the price of things from the cost of producing them. And while this gives companies more leeway in their business models, it raises a question: How do you determine a product’s intrinsic worth? Your values are a competitive advantage.

NOTE TO HR:  How do you determine your value to your employees?  Are you really focused on your values or are you focused more on the compensation?  Can you adopt a freemium model?  Can you get people to work at your office for a day or two before they interview to see if they would like it?  Should you?  I don’t know – but I do know that once the economy picks up (please let it pick up) your reputation and your point of view are going to be more important than ever.

5. NARRATIVE IS A DELIVERY VEHICLE TO MAKE INFORMATION STICK.

More than just a means of entertaining ourselves, narrative is how we understand the world and make decisions. Start thinking in stories. 2013 is when brands start actively listening to their customers’ stories, and figuring out how they can play a supporting role.

NOTE TO HR:  What are your company’s stories?  What do people talk about when having a few Cosmo’s at the local pub?  What are your fables, your myths that are repeated?  If you don’t have any you probably aren’t communicating your values very well.  Saying you’re customer focused is one thing – telling a story that exemplifies it is much more impactful.

6. REPAIR AND REPURPOSE ARE THE NEW KILLER APPS.

As technology penetrates formerly closed markets around the world, the ability to fix and upgrade in the field is increasingly sought after. Show the tinkerers some love. The smartest technology companies in 2013 will offer products and services that invite users to actively maintain and modify, winning loyalty and love along the way.

NOTE TO HR: How much of latitude do your employees how with respect to how they do their job?  Isn’t that the same as “tinkering” with a product?  Can you show your tinkerers some love by giving them the ability to have more autonomy with their jobs.

7. TECHNOLOGY MOVES TOO FAST TO CARE ABOUT.

The 8 track, the CD, the Pentium chip, FireWire–people used to invest in products just to get their hands on these new technologies. They were a real differentiator, and a kind of magic. But it’s become too much, too fast. Instead – talk about experiences, not features. Technology is there to enable an experience, and as long as it doesn’t get in the way, most consumers would rather not worry about it.

NOTE TO HR:  Think about this when looking at solutions for your company.  Are you enamored with the newest whizzy-whig or are you focused on what will actually be used in your company?  Do you NEED the most recent whatever or are your needs less demanding?  Think about it from your employees’ point of view.  In most cases they have to be the ones at the mercy of your decisions. 

8. FLAWLESS FUNCTION IS TOMORROW’S GREAT — USER EXPERIENCE.

Imagine if your washing machine gave you dirty clothes one time in five, or your alarm didn’t work on Tuesdays. You’d be indignant. Fill in the gaps. A few smart brands will seize on the opportunity to highlight reliability and function in 2013, and make it just as exciting as a new feature.

NOTE TO HR:  This isn’t about tech – this is about people.  Are your managers trained to help solve problems or are they the problem?  There will be inevitable problems in the systems, the process – and your management team is the “help desk” when it comes to employee problems.  Managers ensure flawless function – or they should.  Make sure they know how to fill in the gaps when a system, a process, or another department makes a mistake.

9. BRAND LOYALTY IS HOW WE ESCAPE DECISION FATIGUE.

Making choices is exhausting–mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Once we believe that our values and choices align, we’re happy to leave choices to the brand that’s earned our trust, and shift some of the burden off our own shoulders.

NOTE TO HR:  Again – this is the same thing for employer brands – take the worry off your employees.  Don’t make them do the mental gymnastics to keep deciding whether they should stay with you or leave.  TALK to them – a lot.  Communication is the key here – don’t assume they “know” what you’re thinking.

10. HUMAN INTERACTION HAS NEVER BEEN MORE PRECIOUS.

There’s almost no transaction that can’t be automated today, from buying groceries to learning about health issues. And customers are starting to resist. Look for places to act more human. 2013 reverses the trend toward automated everything, as humanity becomes the crucial differentiator between a beloved brand and a commodity.

NOTE TO HR:  This is my mantra for 2013 and on. Just change the word customer to employee in the previous paragraph.  It truly is about BEING HUMAN.  And you all SHOULD be the experts at it!

11. GEN Y IS CREATING ITS OWN SERVICE ECONOMY

An entire generation of young people has access to something unprecedented in history: a complete ecosystem of services provided by people their own age. Take younger competitors seriously, and learn from them. The key is to act as an enabler, not a controller: Give them a flexible platform and they’ll not only give you their business, they’ll bring Mom and Dad along too.

NOTE TO HR:  Who are you enabling versus controlling?  Are you removing roadblocks or creating them?  I’m not sold on the whole generational thing – but I am sold on the idea that your employees have the ability to impact a much larger piece of the market than ever before – if they are ALLOWED to… your job is to help that happen in 2013.

12. EVERYONE IS A SPECIALIST.

Constant communication and social media are pushing us to show off our passion and specialized knowledge, as a way of standing out in the storm of mundane information that fills the air.

Trying to be everything to everyone is a losing proposition.

NOTE TO HR:  What are your employees’ passions?  Are they engaged in them within your company? How do you know?  I’d wager too many of your employees are in roles that aren’t aligned with their passion. Give them an outlet to help others in the organization and let them leverage what they are interested in and good at. 

So there ya go… 12 things to think about in 2013 that can help you drive better business results from an HR chair. Oops… I’m not supposed to talk furniture am I?

 

Paul Hebert

Paul Hebert is Vice President of Individual Performance Strategy at Creative Group Inc, writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. He is dedicated to creating true emotional connections often overlooked in our automated, tech-enabled world. Using proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation, incentives, and engagement.