‘Zooming’ to Success in the Modern World of HR

In Miami Beach last week, I attended the Wisdom 2016 conference, presented by PeopleFluent. As is common at these types of conferences, there were breakout sessions, product updates, news releases, demos, and keynotes speeches. Usually, I find the keynote speeches to be the least useful because I am interested in very specific points of interest, not the broad trends that keynote speeches tend to focus on. shutterstock_83855317

Interestingly enough, that was more or less one of the topics brought up by John Sculley (former CEO of Apple) during his keynote speech. Specifically, he was talking about “zooming”, which is a pattern of thought he learned and observed from Steve Jobs.  In Sculley’s book Moonshot, zooming is explained as taking a very broad view across industries, products, and disciplines, which can allow you to borrow concepts and ideas.

It occurred to me then that this is what HR has been doing for greater part of two decades, and this concept of zooming is really an intrinsic part of HR in 2016 and beyond. However, it isn’t as simple as just “seeing the big picture.” It is also the way in which we actually borrow concepts from disciplines that are disparate from our own, and apply them to the microcosms in which we work.

For instance, the concepts of data governance used to only reside in the world of information technology, but now we find ourselves needing to apply similar concepts to human resources data. Standardized definitions, controlled data sources, privacy, and security are all larger issues that mostly take place in a world far larger than HR.

Dedicated Measurement and Analytics Resources in Organizations

Level of Resources Percentage
Dedicated measurement and analytics experts and/or technology whose primary responsibility is to collect and analyze HR and talent data 29%
No designated experts/technology, but beginning to re-structure the HR/Talent function to accommodate data analytics 41%
No dedicated experts/technology and no plans to add 30%

Source: 2016 HCM Measurement and Analytics Study

And as we saw from Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Measurement and Analytics Study, most organizations (71%) do not have dedicated analytics experts currently on staff, which means it is up to HR to learn how to take existing statistical techniques and figure out how they can be applied to give us insights into our workforce, or even to predict the behaviors of the same.

But it isn’t just HR that sees the need for both a broad and narrow perspective. The rest of the world is changing too; the line between what is human capital and what is everything else is becoming blurred. Already we see greater appetites and abilities for quantifying the human effect on corporate finances, and companies are working around the clock to find better ways to account (in the sense of corporate accounting) for intangible assets such as training and leadership.

So, zooming back in to the tactical, immediate issues we face as HR practitioners, what is the impact right now for all of these broad worldwide movements? One, the regulations in which we operate are changing to reflect a world in which our employees are gradually thought of in terms of data, numbers, and dollar signs. And two, the software that we use has become more capable (beyond what 99% of us even task it to do), while at the same time the interfaces are becoming simpler and more intuitive (both driven by the increasingly mobile workforce, and in response to the aesthetics and values of this new generation). This means we must understand the ways in which our employees use and interact with technology to make sure we are maximizing their engagement and productivity.

All of which leads me to believe that possibly this Steve Jobs guy might have been on to something. Regardless of how centralized or decentralized your HR function might be, work is becoming more interdisciplinary as a natural consequence of systems integration and a more project-based workforce. The HR professionals who are “able to meaningfully zoom out and connect the dots” (Moonshot, p. 148)) will be the ones who will lead the way for everyone else.

Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group


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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.