Is This The Year of the Horse, or the Employee?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On February 24, 2014

According to the Chinese calendar, 2014 is supposed to be the year of the horse. Someone apparently forgot to tell the Seattle Seahawks about that. However, they aren’t the only ones who seem to think that perhaps the Chinese got it wrong.

In a recent Forbes.com article, Josh Bersin speculates that 2014 will, in fact, be “The Year of the Employee.” He goes on to make some predictions about talent, leadership, and HR technology for 2014. You can read his entire article here, but let’s look at a few of his predictions. Bersin writes from a Human Resources point of view, but I think much of what he’s talking about extends far beyond HR. It’s really a leadership issue.

Skill Shortage: Bersin sees a shortage of key skills in software engineering, energy and life sciences, mathematics and analytics, and IT. Employees are in the driver’s seat. That means businesses have to go where the talent is, and build talent networks that draw in people from everywhere.

Development Supplants Training: Bersin sees a shift from “training” employees to “developing capabilities.” That may sound subtle, but it’s a key distinction. And it will require companies to partner with colleges and universities to build continuous learning environments. Those environments are what will draw the best talent.

Shifting Focus to Passion and Engagement: Fewer employees are looking for a “career.” Instead they’re after an experience. That means engaging them in work—and a workplace environment—that they find rewarding and empowering. This will be increasingly important as more skilled positions are filled by Millennials. And remember, it’s not just about being able to hire skilled people—you have to be able to retain them.

Rethinking Performance Evaluation and Analysis: I’m actually combining two of Bersin’s projections here, but they’re closely related. Performance reviews as we’ve known them are on their way out. Companies will aggressively redesign their appraisal and evaluation programs to focus on coaching, development, continuous goal alignment, and recognition. There will also be a focus on engaging people and helping them perform at extraordinary levels. And this extends beyond the HR arena into your marketing and how you present your company to the world. Increasingly, a company’s ability to recruit is directly dependent on how they engage and retain employees.  Your employees’ experience within your organization is what is communicated in the outside world.

Bersin also talks about some specific HR tools and technologies. But the big message, in my mind, is that employees are now in the driver’s seat, and it’s important to make sure that they are engaged and involved and rewarded in ways that are meaningful to them. Bersin says this is the year of the employee. What are you doing to make it the year of the employee for the people who drive your company?