Josh Bersin at HR Tech: You Need to Hire Generalists Because “They Are Going to Rule the World”

John Hollon employee experience, HR Tech, HR Technology, HR Vendors

Editor’s Note – FOT Contributor John Hollon is on the ground this week reporting from the HR Technology Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas.

When Josh Bersin talks, talent management people listen.

Everyone’s favorite technology analyst kicked off the first full day of the annual HR Technology Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas with a keynote speech on Making Sense of It All — How Technology Is Shaping the New HR Agenda. Of course, Josh being Josh, his slides had another title on them as well: Untangling the HR Technology Market. 

Either way, it was a classic Josh Bersin presentation, full of insights, analysis, and revelations that ranged from common technology wisdom to new revelations that make you sit up and say, “Wow.” But, it’s those out-of-left-field revelations that make his presentations so worthwhile.

Of course, Josh did not disappoint.

Insights and wisdom from Josh Bersin

Here are a few of his insights:

  • Everything is getting automated. The digital transformation is transforming your company into a service business. And in a service economy, people are more important than ever.”
  • CEOs want more out of people … “curiosity” is becoming a competency, and that means being more curious about your business and your customer’s problems.”
  • “Today’s workers are overwhelmed. Employee burnout is now classified as a World Health syndrome costing $140 billion per year.”
  • “The biggest change in the HR Tech marketplace is “The Employee Experience” … and every vendor is engaged in this.”
  • Vendors need to be building software for employees, not for HR.”
  • Will there be a market for tools based on the Employee Experience? I think there will be. It’s pretty clear we need this, (and) it’s going to be a significant market.”

“Generalists are going to rule the world”

That’s pretty good stuff in my book, and certainly things that just about anyone working in talent management or HR space would be interested in. But, that’s not even the most intriguing thing he said.

No, that would be this: “The old career model is over. Generalists are going to rule the world — not specialists.”

And he added this as well: “There’s no real defined career path anymore … two-thirds of employees surveyed said that it was easier finding a job outside of the company than it was inside.”

What Josh was getting at is that it’s the relative ease of finding a new job in this hot market that makes it important to understand just why employees are so willing to go outside their organization rather than try to navigate the internal application processes that all-too-often seem stacked against people on the inside in favor of those applying from the outside.

Bersin also noted that, “People are very concerned about their jobs and careers … and 26 percent are disengaged.” What you hear from your workforce, he said, are employees who say “What am I going to learn (in this job) … How is this going to help my career?”

A number of HR Tech vendors are trying to get a handle on this employee concern by building systems that focus on “The Employee Experience.” (Full disclosure: I work as a contractor for Fuel50, a company focused on helping companies get a handle on this.)

Bersin said that this is the biggest change going on right now in the HR Tech marketplace, and that “every vendor is engaged in this ” … and that it’s all about “building software for employees (to help them manage their careers while in your employee), not for HR.”

Will it work? Bersin simply says, “In this world of rapid creativity, somebody is going to build something you need.”

Making sense of the best option for you

Here’s my take: This is important stuff, and Josh Bersin has shown time and time again that he really digs closely into the research data and details. There’s a reason why he’s the premier HR technology analyst, and it’s because he watches the segment very closely day-in and day-out.

That’s what the very best analysts do.

But, it’s up to those hiring and managing people in talent management space to decide for themselves how all of these insights and observations apply to them and their specific situation.

Bersin spoke to this when he said, “I’ve been an analyst in this space for over 20 years, and I have  a lot of respect for the vendors in this space, but you as HR leaders have to make sense of all this, and so many of you have told me there are just so many options.”

It’s hard sometimes to focus on the fact that are “just so many options” when you’re attending a conference with an exhibit hall featuring some 500 vendors who all believe that they have THE solution that will fix everything that ails you and your organization.

But Josh is right; it’s up to every organization looking for a technological solution to their talent management problem to make sense of all the options out there and what may be the best path for them.

In fact, that may have been the most relevant insight Josh Bersin had for his HR Tech conference audience. Here’s hoping they took his admonition to heart.