Inspiration right from the heart of HR – the Unleash Conference in London Laurence Van Elegem - March 20, 2018

Future of Work Unleash

Today was my first time at the Unleash Conference (the former HR Tech world) and I wanted to share some insights from the first day. Here's what I learned.

Find your company’s delight

One of the highlights was Jonas Kjellberg’s keynote. As one of the co-creators of Skype, author, and venture investor, he talked about disrupting and changing the world of work. He referred to Aarron Walter who described a hierarchy of user needs (which closely mirrors Maslow’s hierarchy). According to Aarron, the superior needs (such as pleasure and delight — at the very top of the pyramid) can only be achieved after more foundational ones (such as functionality and usability) are fulfilled. Kjellberg told us that we had to really think about the “delight” of our companies, which is a lot more difficult to define than expected.

He gave the example of Volvo, which was Sweden’s “Nokia moment” as he jokingly said. Volvo thought that its delight was “safety”, so it really invested in making its cars safer. But the thing is, if all the others invest in this as well, the safety becomes just another functionality, not a differentiator. This wrong assesment of their delight caused severe trouble: they had to sell themselves to the Chinese, who really understood that Volvo’s delight was “Scandinavian design”, not “safety”.

“A lot of companies don’t understand what they are actually selling, what their delight is”, Kjellberg said. Harley Davidson does not sell mobility. It sells a lifestyle. Or as they put it “it sells to 43-year-old accountants the ability to dress in leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of them". You need to be able to define your “delight” if you want to redefine your business models.

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Innovate in zeros

Another tip he gave was to “innovate in zeros”. When the Skype founders were discussing how they would price their service, Jonas told them that – based on the permanent drop in telco prices – they could only offer their service for free and would need to find out the business model later. But in order to be able to do so, they had to cut costs and for instance use the existing infrastructure of others. Crazy as it sounds, it’s what a lot of disruptors do: Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, Google and Apple.

Skype did exactly that: it piggybacked on the Internet connections users already paid for to place calls. It skipped expensive TV ads and instead used a little pop-up button asking if users would recommend them to other users. It also dropped customer service, which “tends to piss people off more than it helps them”. Though the latter is not something I would advise in these highly customer centric times, the fact that they had to offer their service for free, really pushed them to be creative and smart in the execution of their services.

Kjellberg concluded with the solid advice to hire people that will be “a pain in the ass”: the game changers that will be critical about what you do and expect you to change. Recruiting outperformers is the “safe” way to go, but they will only drive linear change, not exponential change and the latter is what you should be aiming at if you want to survive in these disruptive times.

Bringing a customer-like experience in recruiting

Another approach that really stuck with me, was the one from Johnson & Johnson’s Sjoerd Gehring, who explained how his company’s ‘Shine’ program was really able to bring a customer-like experience in recruiting. Instead of focussing inward – “what can the candidate do for us” – they really focussed on helping the candidate “shine” when applying for the job: offering jobseeker advice in the form of articles and videos with tips and tricks on how to prepare for an interview. But they go up and beyond that. Even candidates who aren't hired are provided with a package of learning resources on how to accept rejection, address skills gaps, practice for interviews and connections to career coaches to help them move forward. J & J also addressed another frustration of recruiting. Usually, candidates are kept in the dark until they are hired (or not). But J & J is very transparent about the job application process, with an open and real time tracking ability of in which stage they are.

The impact of the program was really immense. They used an NPS (net promotor score) to measure the candidate experience and it actually grew from a positive 4 to a positive 22, which is a big leap forward. I really believe that the future of HR lies in focussing a lot more on the candidates than on the gaps they will be filling inside a company. Just like the customer has become the center of our companies in general, the employee (and the candidate) should become the centre of HR (and not the processes and KPIs of HR).

Experience a change in your innovation mind-set!

Laurence Van Elegem B W 2016
Laurence Van Elegem

As nexxworks' Communications Director, Laurence is Editor in Chief of the nexxworks blog and in...

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