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UNLEASH World: Unveiling what’s next in the world of HR

Get a quick summary of some of the main topics at UNLEASH World, the world’s most influential HR technology conference and exhibition, as well as key insights into what might come next.

From industry legends like Josh Bersin to beloved brands such as L’Oreal, Spotify, Ubisoft and more, innovators, change-makers, and leaders from across the globe, all came together to shine a light on the incredible work they’re doing and share powerful, inspirational insights on how we can make business more human.

Ensuring employee experience success in an increasingly AI-focused world

As a headline sponsor, we had our own booth area, showcasing the latest in experience management technologies for people teams, as well as providing strategic advice on how to leverage next-generation capabilities, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) and specialized AI, to do far more with substantially less.

Sally Winston, Director, Solutions Lead, EMEA, Qualtrics, and Sarah Marrs, Director, EX Strategy Execution, Qualtrics, showcased how organizations can use AI to understand employee expectations and sentiment without sending surveys.

From understanding the moments that matter to empowering managers with the means to build high-performance teams, they explored the most urgent EX challenges for businesses — and how they can address them through the use of more sophisticated feedback methods, not more surveys. They also provided a sneak peek into our latest and upcoming solutions, including Manager Assist, our AI-powered coach, and Content Summaries, a digest of employee experience insights that helps managers to see the essence of what’s coming from their teams.

AI was the centerpiece of the entire event, and most sessions analyzed and reinforced its potential for good and unending possibilities — providing the right ethical practices, of course. Presenters stressed that for organizations to scale and achieve the next phase of hyper growth, AI is essential.

The reason for this, as highlighted by Josh Bersin in his keynote address, is that we’re “running out of people”. The reality is that unemployment is at a record low, while the demand for digitally-savvy talent, especially as we begin to incorporate more advanced mechanisms to automate and enrich HR insights, has never been higher. “GDP has increased by 800%, while unemployment has dropped by 49%,” Bersin explains.

“The problem isn’t execution, but transformation,” says Bersin. “The only way to grow organizations in this world of constrained talent is to leverage productivity enhancing solutions: superhuman workers, empowered by AI, orders of magnitudes more efficient — if you know how to use it.”

AI: an undeniably powerful tool that requires a delicate touch

The underlying message across many of the sessions was that while AI is powerful, many organizations have complex architectures that make it difficult to consolidate and integrate.

Building a dynamic organization requires a drastic rethink in today’s environment; the tools people think are HR things are actually transforming operations entirely. It’s not just about supercharging your people — it’s about supercharging the business.

Unfortunately, “most companies have too much stuff”, says Bersin, alluding to the kitchen sink analogy.

For many organizations, AI is an add-on, an afterthought. That’s not inherently their fault (you have to keep up with the times), but what we’ll increasingly see are organizations built on AI, with critical layers fitted on top.

Simon Daly, EX Solution Strategist at Qualtrics, sat down with leaders for a roundtable session to discuss the implications and implementation of AI and other technologies, as well as how the C-Suite can better understand its workforce without more surveys.

During the session, leaders highlighted a clear appetite to bring AI into their organizations — not just to drive efficiency, but empower their people. Further discussion was given to the importance of data ethics and principles as organizations capture data from passive listening capabilities in an acceptable way. A heavy emphasis was placed on the importance of asking the right questions, regardless of technological advances, to capture the right insights.

But that’s not all. As well as AI, another underlying theme was the change in employee expectations of organizations.

Meeting employees in the moments that matter

There was conference-wide consensus that the relationship between organizations and their people has drastically changed. Across the globe, employees, empowered by a new sense of agency post-pandemic, are increasingly leaning towards and working for organizations that share their values, understand their needs, and can equip them with the skills to thrive in this new, unpredictable world.

Lucie Vottova, Global HR Strategy & Analytics Lead at ING, used her session to show how ING has developed an employee listening program that accurately measures the impact of every action it takes, and delivers the best outcomes for their people.

Through their Continuous Listening Driver Model (an internally developed and enhanced job-demands-resources model, validated through statistical analysis), they’ve created a way to explore the relationships between key employee experience moments and business outcomes, as well as how they affect productivity, customer experience, and return on investment.

Going from job to skills-based organizations

What was incredibly interesting about a lot of the other sessions was the idea of moving from jobs-based organizations to skills-based organizations.

With the war for talent ever rife, and employees expecting more from the organizations they work for — especially when it comes to development and advancement — the underlying message was about focusing on the skills, aptitudes, and behaviors that ensure and scale success, rather than hiring for a “role”.

With this kind of operating model, traditional recruitment structures are overhauled with organizations using talent marketplaces to do skills-based matching to specific requirements. Considering the huge talent gaps we’re seeing already and the need for digitally-savvy individuals, this kind of operating model is likely to become more and more common.

Today, the question isn’t so much: “what jobs do we need?” but rather, “what skills drive and scale growth at our organization?”

We’ll start to see a greater focus on outcomes delivered, including the how and why, as organizations attempt to build repeatable recipes of success using huge catalogs of people intelligence data. Essentially, we’ll start to build AI mechanisms into the employee experience to assess everyone’s skills — job history, performance, work product. From there, this insight helps managers understand where people excel, how to help them develop, and what employee experience drivers lead to the best possible business results. Something we’ve been pushing for a long time.

Employee experience is integral to every aspect of business

Fundamentally, many of the topics and conversations underscored a very salient truth: employee experience accelerates market, business, and people growth. When we empower leaders, managers, and employees to see the opportunities, to work better and faster, and to understand the choices that are made at every level, we ultimately make work more fun, more profitable, and more human.

Aaron Carpenter // Experience Management Content Strategist

Aaron is a highly skilled and accomplished content strategist specializing in experience management. With a keen understanding of the ever-evolving landscape of digital content, Aaron brings a unique perspective to the art of crafting engaging and impactful experiences for users.

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