Josh Bersin: The Eight Key Areas HR Should Focus On Right Now

Posted in Best Practice Thoughts & Culture

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'd know the past two weeks were extra special. We kicked off Enboarder’s quarterly EDGE event series across the globe!! (That’s Experience Driven Geniuses, if you’re wondering). 


One session we were incredibly excited for was Josh Bersin’s keynote, ‘The Future of HR: Why Employee Experience is More Important Than Ever’.

Josh is a household name in the HR and business leadership world – President and Founder of Bersin & Associates and Founder of the Josh Bersin Academy – and his session was as value-packed as we expected.

He managed to pack several hours (days! Weeks! A lifetime!) of brilliant insight into a 45-minute keynote, so even if you caught it live here’s a recap worth going back over.

Watch all the EDGE: Employee Experience Post-COVID sessions for free in our on-demand resource centre: HERE.  


The Big Reset in HR: Resilience and Agility 


“HR can not only be effective and efficient. Now it has to be adaptive and resilient” - Josh Bersin, EDGE 2020

Josh took us on a deep dive into the changes HR needs to make to lead workforces effectively through the pandemic.

Resilience is the keyword – because COVID-19 means we’re zooming into the question of how businesses and individuals react; how easily they can adapt; how they bounce back.

Fast evolution is business leaders’ biggest mandate:

  • 87% of CEOs feel the business must adapt and may not survive.
  • 77% of CEOs feel more creativity is needed to reinvent the business.
  • 61% of CEOs recognize the need to reskill the workforce to grow and adapt.

And CEOs now understand – thanks to the shift to a service economy – that people are fundamental to organizational resilience. You can’t have one without prioritizing the other:

“The role of employee experience is greater than ever because CEOs now know, if they didn’t know before, if their people aren’t happy there is no company.”

That’s where HR must step up, to help individuals, teams, become more resilient – so organizations can be.


How HR can prioritize the employee experience? 


“When your company has an interruption, or your business unit, or your team or your project, your most important skill is in enabling the people, the team, the organization itself to pull you out of that problem. 

You can’t do it yourself as an HR person or a leader – we have to allow other people to do that with us. And that’s why employee experience is so important.” - Josh Bersin, EDGE 2020

Josh shared eight areas HR should focus on:



#1 Fix performance management processes


“Productivity and engagement are two sides of the same coin”, Josh says. “You don’t make people happy and then expect them to perform. It’s the other way around. You give them a situation […] where they can perform well and then they become happy”.

Now’s the perfect time to fix your performance management processes to ensure employees are maximally empowered to achieve. Think agile, continuous and local.



#2 Improve leadership readiness


Only 41% of companies believe their leadership quality is high. Less than 20% have a strong bench.

Developing stronger leaders is critical to employee experience. Leaders with the right skills for tomorrow, because leadership philosophies have changed dramatically.



#3 Build systems to facilitate internal mobility


Another part of employee experience is empowering your people to find and seize the career opportunities. That is, building a continuous professional development function that encompasses societal needs, the organization’s needs and individual needs.

For example, Sabre Corporation saw 60% of their employees change roles or managers in the last 60-days. That drastic change wouldn’t be possible without agile systems of internal mobility.



#4 Create psychological safety for hybrid work


One of the most complex aspects of COVID-19 has been the shift to remote working. HR professionals must focus on developing guidelines – and beyond that, creating an environment of psychological safety – to help employees work safely and successfully both from home and the office.


#5 Focus on wellbeing as a lever for performance


Josh talks about the idea of wellbeing as a performance strategy, to enable employees to be productive at pace.

He talks about transitioning to a mature wellbeing environment that moves beyond basic health and fitness priorities (are employees getting enough sleep? Eating well?) to sustainable performance priorities (do employees have growth opportunities? Clear goals?).



#6 Build an employee listening strategy


Better employee listening underpins employee experience. The closer your business can get to continuous, real-time feedback – and then action – on workplace issues, the better.

Read more: Mission-Critical questions to ask employees right now



#7 Evolve and scale-up learning models


Heavy learners versus light learners are:

  • 21% more likely to feel confident in their work.
  • 23% more likely to take on additional responsibilities.
  • 74% more likely to know where they want to go in their career.
  • 48% more likely to have found purpose in their career.
  • 39% more likely to feel productive and successful.
  • 21% more likely to be happy at work.
  • 47% less likely to be stressed at work.

Josh emphasizes the need to embrace both micro-learning and macro-learning to upskill employees in an agile, job-aligned way.



#8 Embrace cross-functional collaboration


“Everything in HR used to be ‘copy it from the book’. That’s the way GE does it, so why don’t we do that? Well, that doesn’t work anymore. 

HR have been forced to become much more expert consultants. We’re being asked not just to have deep domain expertise in one area, but deep domain expertise in many areas.”

Josh warned there's an urgent need for HR to become full-stack professionals, working collaboratively with peers across HR and other business units to solve problems:

“In order to solve problems today, you need to roll up your sleeves and work with somebody who may not even be in HR, to take advantage of everything you know as a group in the domain of HR business management leadership tech and just do it.” 


Embrace an agile approach to employee experience design


To lead on employee experience, Josh concluded, HR needs a new operating model that moves away from centralized control and distributed execution towards distributed control and centralized coordination.

That is, we need to form cross-functional teams to collaborate in an agile way, to address employee experience issues fast. That’s what post COVID-19 employee experience design looks like.


Catch up with Josh’s full keynote – plus nine other fantastic sessions – in our free on-demand resource centre HERE.