Tuesday 14th May 2019 saw the 7th Tap’d Solutions’ HR Forum being held in London. This half day event saw a capacity crowd of delegates come together to hear speakers and have discussion around our Forum topic “Enhancing engagement, wellbeing and inclusion: The latest HR practitioner and technology perspectives”.

We were lucky enough to have 4 guest speakers who all brought a different angle to the engagement and inclusion debate. Having opened the Forum by welcoming our guests (and apologising for/explaining the long title for the Forum!) I shared my thinking around the interaction of Engagement, the Employee Experience, Wellbeing and Inclusion and how these are connected in a complex manner. Tackling one at a time will not provide the desired outcome for HR and business leaders. It is the culmination of HR professional expertise, the right leadership behaviour and targeted supporting technology that will give the people in our organisations the sense of belonging and therefore motivation and performance we desire. I call this “People-Centred Competence”.

The first of our guest speakers was Tony Vickers-Byrne, Chief Adviser for HR Practice at the CIPD. Tony delivered a very thought-provoking and challenging presentation which unpicked the role of HR leaders and the purpose of HR professionals. There was reflection of the HR role in the 90’s that had become very functional, process orientated, and more about employees following the rules rather than the modern aspirations of the employee experience as the vehicle to create performing teams. An interesting anecdote was from new, young HR professionals at a CIPD conference recently who highlighted that, as an HR professional, they would most want to be seen as “kind” by other managers and employees and how this may be in contrast from more seasoned HR professionals. Some great questions were left with the group: Is this about experience changing your views of the purpose of HR or a changing mindset by the newly joining workforce from school and university? What should HR be focusing on to keep itself relevant to the modern business and workforce? How does the HR function realign itself to make inclusion and belonging front and centre?

From the provoking people-focused discussion we were introduced to our second speaker, Megan Butler. Megan is an AI Research Analyst who focuses on HR AI technologies at CognitionX. Her role is to understand the trends in the market and understand the potential road map for AI tech in HR in the future. Megan’s presentation title was “Are the robots coming? What every HR professional needs to know about AI in HR and how it impacts employee engagement”. It definitely drew the attention of the group. Through a very practical presentation, Megan took the delegates through the concepts of “What is AI?”, “How is AI impacting HR?” and “How is AI impacting Employee Engagement?”. Far from being a heavy presentation, Megan eloquently explained the history of AI, how different cultures view AI and the different domains that AI exists in the world and the areas that HR is most utilising:  Natural Language Processing, Gaming and Knowledge Management.

Megan then took the room through the three practical applications of AI for HR. Firstly, the automation of redundant and predictable tasks. Secondly, Cognitive Engagement through computer and human interaction, for example, chatbots. Thirdly and finally, Cognitive Insights where HR leaders utilise the latest AI analytics and natural language processing to predict future performance by testing hypotheses of how this can be achieved.

Following our networking break we were introduced to Jenni Workman, Your Voice Relationship Manager at John Lewis Partnership. Jenni’s presentation brought together the areas of the two previous speakers. Jenni explained the history of the John Lewis Partnership being a social experiment around employee ownership of an organisation, how this manifests itself as people-focused and the benefits of this to the partners. Jenni took the room through the process that the Your Voice team at John Lewis Partnership went through to consider the use of AI within engagement and HR. This was very much a focus on starting small and experimenting in areas that could yield quick wins. Jenni finished with a very useful checklist of what she thought other organisations could benefit from thinking about when looking at the world of engagement and AI in HR, with a strong caveat that what worked at John Lewis Partnership might not be right for other organisations and vice versa.

The group of delegates then spent some time in open discussion about what they had learned and what resonated with them from the speakers. This created some interesting insights and was supplemented by the three speakers so far who remained for the discussion.

The last speaker on the stage was Peter Clark, Co-Founder of Qlearsite, our friendly partners who had sponsored the 7th Tap’d HR Forum thus allowing every delegate to attend for free. Peter discussed a recent Josh Bersin article about organisations being already at Employee Engagement 3.0. He explained the path that engagement practices and technology had taken to get to this point and challenged back on a few of the claims that the engagement technology industry were making and looking at the evidence beneath this. He then focused his presentation on the drivers of behaviour in organisations and revealed that outcomes can be dependent on a more complex understanding of the business and beyond the traditional and linear employee engagement survey focus. He finished by outlining the 16 areas of organisational fitness that Qlearsite has been researching using its AI and natural language processing technology.

Our next Forum will be on the 17th September 2019 and we look forward to sharing details soon.