What Does It Mean When a Tech Analyst Talks About People More Than Technology?

John Hollon Change Management, Employee Development, Employee Engagement, employee experience

I’ve been attending a lot of talent management-related conferences recently, and that means that I’ve gotten a heavy dose of hearing everybody’s favorite HR technology analyst, Josh Bersin, speaking here, there, and everywhere.

This has been an enlightening experience.

As someone who has been covering the talent management space for a long time, I’ve heard Josh speak quite a bit over the years.

Of course, he always has a great perspective on HR technology, but something seems to have changed, because what resonates with me when I hear Josh Bersin speak today isn’t what he says about HR tech.

When Tech analysts start focusing on people

No, what strikes me about Josh today are his insights and observations about  … people.

I first noticed it in early October when I covered his keynote speech at the annual HR Technology conference in Las Vegas, and I referenced it in my coverage of the conference here at FOT.

As I wrote then, Josh made the case that, “The old career model is over. Generalists are going to rule the world — not specialists … 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.”

It was an interesting perspective at the time, but it didn’t strike me that Josh was doing anything other than adding a little more talent management context to his technology insights.

“Trust is the new business currency”

But earlier this month, I heard Josh speak again at FuelX New York, the user conference of employee experience company Fuel50. (Full disclosure: I do some contract work for Fuel50.) And building on his presentation at HR Tech, Josh offered up a lot more talent management insights, so much so that the HR technology part of his presentation seemed to really take a back seat to his take on what organizations must do to better take care of their people.

Clearly, one of the most well-known and respected HR technology analysts is starting to spend a lot more time talking about what he calls “the changed world of work.”

Here are five things he said that FuelX that jumped out at me:

  1. “All the huge technological changes going on are important, but there’s something a lot more critical than that — how companies treat their employees.”
  2. Careers and growth are one of the most important things for companies to address … it’s about finding the right role for everyone in the company.”
  3. When it comes to the employee experience, we need to do things FOR employees and not TO employees.”
  4. “What matters most to people? It’s meaningful work. But the best career experience brings them to the right job.”
  5. Trust is the new business currency … (and) the workplace needs to be a place of trust.”

A sign of the times

Here’s my take: OK, you’re probably thinking: What’s the big deal here? What does this mean and why should we care?

I have learned that you should always sit up and pay attention when somebody who has done things one way suddenly surprises you and starts doing, or saying, something different. There’s generally something behind the change, and in many cases, it’s something pretty significant.

I’ve heard Josh Bersin speak a great many times over the past 15 years, and although I hardly would call myself an expert on his thinking, I have always listened pretty closely to his presentations and can’t recall ever hearing him focus so much on employees and the importance of things like trust and finding them the right role.

He’s certainly talked about these things here and there over the years, but from my perspective, this is different.

It’s a sign of the times, and perhaps, an acknowledgement that we need to be a lot more focused on people and what they bring to our organizations rather than so consumed with AI and the latest, greatest technological advances.

Or to put it another way, when the most respected HR technology analyst says that our talent management practices  “need to help people to achieve their personal goals,” maybe we all need to sit up and listen. There might just be a lesson in there for how we handle our own talent and people issues.