How personalization is changing—& improving—HR

May 25, 2016 Kelly

How personalization is changing—and improving—HR

As consumers, we are living in a golden age of choice, flexibility, and control, where we can mold the world to our personal interests, preferences, and needs. As employees, we’re bringing those expectations to work with us, and it’s a trend that’s reshaping the HR function.

In virtually every aspect of our lives, people are increasingly able to enjoy personalized experiences based on their unique needs. Instead of watching shows when the network airs them, services such as Netflix enable us to watch them whenever it fits our schedule. When we shop on Amazon, we’re greeted with product suggestions based on our unique interests and behaviors. And whatever we need to do, we’re increasingly able to do it from any location and any device. Deloitte’s Consumer Product Trends report identified personalization and customization as a key consumer trend into 2020, and the demand for more personalized experiences is spilling over into other areas, including HR. For example, a 2013 Accenture report on Trends Reshaping the Future of HR states that in the future, “companies will need to tailor the work experience to employees’ needs, talents and interests.”

How can HR move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to talent management and support the growing demand for customized experiences in the workplace? Here are three areas where personalization can yield big benefits in the workplace.

Individualized development paths

Many companies organize development opportunities around jobs and not people. With this approach, a specific program is designed to reflect the job requirements, and every individual is required to complete the same program in order to qualify for the job. While this kind of job-focused process is easier to administer, it can be frustrating for employees and costlier for the organization.

An individualized approach to development would start with the employee, not the job. What strengths, skills, and experience does this person have already? Where do they excel? Where do they need to improve? With that information, a customized program can be developed to target the right areas. This enhances employee motivation and engagement by delivering a tailored learning experience pitched at the right level to challenge the learner without overwhelming or frustrating them. It also saves the organization time and money by eliminating unnecessary training.

Competency-based development supports this type of personalized approach aligning the appropriate development options to each of the competencies that are required for job success. After the employee is assessed against the job requirements, any performance gaps can be addressed with the appropriate training.

In addition to customizing the learning requirements to the employee’s needs on a more granular level, the organization will ideally provide training options that support a range of learning styles. Some employees prefer one-on-one learning. Others work well in classroom or team dynamics. And others need the convenience of self-paced, online learning. By making the appropriate training available in formats that fit different learning styles, the organization will see greater completion and success rates. (For more insights into development best practices, download HRSG’s latest ebook, Engaging and Developing Talent with Competencies.)

Flexibility around work-life balance

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is a priority for many employees, especially the growing contingent of Millennial workers. According to a 2015 survey conducted by WorkplaceTrends.com and CareerArc, almost half of employees (45 percent) feel that they don’t have enough time each week to do personal activities, and one in five employees spent over 20 hours working during their out-of-office, personal time. HR leaders are recognizing that achieving greater balance is critical to the task of competing for talent: the same survey indicated that close to seven out of 10 HR leaders use workplace flexibility programs to enhance recruitment and retention. Another study conducted by Flexjobs found that one in five employees would agree to earn less money in order to enjoy more flexible work options.

The reality is that for most employees, the boundaries between work life and the rest of life are porous, with late-night work emails and weekend check-ins now a regular part of the working landscape. By being flexible around schedules and preferred work styles, the company can show workers that they’re appreciated and trusted while giving them the self-determination they need to achieve greater balance. (For more information about flexible and remote working, read Competencies for Managing Remote Workers.)

Personalized health and wellness programs

 From the weekend warrior to the couch potato, employees’ health and wellness profiles vary greatly. And as the retirement age skews older, today’s workplace can span four generations—from Millennials to Gen Xers to Boomers to the “Silent” generation born before 1946. Attempting to cover this widely divergent set of health priorities and preferences with a single, company-controlled wellness plan is unlikely to serve any population very effectively. This is one of the reasons workplace wellness has gone high-tech, with a nearly endless array of corporate apps and wearables designed to help individuals set and follow highly individualized health and wellness regimens. These technologies, along with flexible spending accounts for health and wellness activities, can help HR affordably deliver personalized programs that support a diverse workforce.

As employees grow used to greater choice and flexibility in other areas of their lives, they’re bringing bigger expectations to the workplace. HR professionals who are tasked with retaining and engaging these workers need to anticipate the trend and explore new ways to deliver self-guided, customized experiences in the workplace. By finding ways to integrate greater choice and personalization into key talent management processes, HR can support an increasingly diverse and autonomous workforce.

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