Our Favorite HR & Talent Reads of 2019 (So Far)

By Emily Lambert

Blog Home

It’s the end of June, which means we are already 6 months into 2019 – and we’ve already read so much ground-breaking thought leadership on all things HR & Talent.  

We did a similar round-up at the end of 2018, but we've already picked up on some insightful trends and priorities dominating HR & Talent thought leadership this year that we just couldn't wait another 6 months to share what we've been reading. Some themes that have taken ground so far this year include the growing urgency of future-thinking people analytics teams, the dangers and opportunities of AI (especially when it comes to diversity and bias), and the how (not just the why) behind developing an adaptable workforce.  

Stay up-to-date on these talent trends by taking a peek at our must-reads of 2019 (so far). As an HR & Talent expert, you’ve accomplished a lot this year, and we hope this list encourages you to keep tackling 2019 strong.  

1. “No, You Shouldn’t Disqualify a Candidate Because They Didn’t Send a Thank-you Note,” Fast Company.

“Hiring teams should rely on a process that takes subconscious bias out of the equation. Otherwise, organizations risk making decisions that can overlook qualified applicants. A dependence on subjective hiring criteria demonstrates that a company may lack a structured hiring process and provides little to no guidance for how hiring is supposed to work.” 

If you’re in the HR space and you’re on a social media site of any kind (a.k.a, you don’t live under a rock), you likely saw this debate on your LinkedIn or Twitter feed – if an applicant doesn’t send a “thank you” note after an interview, should you hire them? This debate was sparked by an article written by the managing editor at Insider Inc., who swears by a simple rule: If someone doesn’t send a thank-you email, don’t hire them. 

We agree with Greenhouse CEO Daniel Chait’s response to this argument in his Fast Company article – if such subjective criteria like candidate etiquette is the determining factor as to why someone does or does not get hired, there’s probably a deeper problem going on. Organizations that hire based on subjective criteria like whether an applicant sent a thank you note probably don’t have a structured hiring process in place, which leaves a lot more margin for biased decision-making to happen. You can read the full article here.

2. “Your Workforce is More Adaptable Than You Think,” Harvard Business Review. 

"When asked why they had a positive outlook, workers most commonly cited two reasons: the prospect of better wages and the prospect of more interesting and meaningful jobs." 

There seems to be an assumption that employees are ill-equipped or simply unwilling to be agile as businesses adapt to a rapidly evolving economy, but that’s simply not the case. A large population of workers are eager to embrace change and learn new skills, especially since the future holds benefits and opportunities like better pay and more meaningful work. In other words, workers seem to be more adaptive and optimistic about the future than their leaders realize.  

The article advises employers to begin closing this gap in perspectives by creating a learning culture, engaging employees in the transition, and collaborating to deepen the talent pool. You can dig deeper into these actionable steps by reading the full article here. 

 3. “2019 Global Human Capital Trends,” Deloitte

“Organizations have many reasons for starting to explore internal mobility in earnest. Hiring people with critical skills is highly competitive; workers who want to reinvent themselves don’t necessarily want to leave their current employer; internal mobility can be a way to embed collaboration and agility to an organization’s culture, which is one of the key attributes of becoming a true social enterprise; and agile organizations and career models drastically improve employee engagement and commitment.” 

Okay, so this is a heftier read, but it’s a critical piece if you want to stay on top of 2019 talent trends. The report covers fascinating and relevant insights on the social enterprise and employee-driven talent management.  

Our favorite chapter of the report is on talent mobility. Organizations may be beginning to fully grasp that their biggest potential talent source may be its own people, but this report aims to answer the question, “Why do so many organizations find internal talent so hard to access?” As business needs within an organization transform faster than ever before, they will need to effectively tap into their current workforce to deploy people with knowledge of the organization, its infrastructure, and its culture into the roles where they will be most effective. Access the full report here. 

4. “The Future of Work Starts with Questioning Everything,” Forbes. 

"Everyone is also familiar with the old Einstein adage which states that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity so, between the two, it stands to reason that we can all agree on the fact that to see change and steer our future work to match the speed technology offers us, we ought to look at what we're doing and potentially challenge all assumptions." 

The future of work has been a dominating topic in the HR & Talent space so far in 2019. This Forbes article argues that the future of work is the perfect opportunity to begin questioning workplace status quo – in fact, organizations that don’t start questioning the current work location and work method norms will be left behind. Our favorite part is the author’s reflection on teams and individuals. Despite all the evidence proving that best matched, emotionally intelligent people produce the best results, people today become part of a team in a highly coincidental fashion, based on a combination of availability, key words on a spreadsheet, and anecdotal evidence. That’s because, the article argues, we know on paper what types of people work well together, but we have no clue who our people really are. According to the author, this entire area of work is ripe for disruption in the future of work. Find out more by reading the full article here. 

 5. “Soft Skills Top Employer Wish Lists, Despite Automation’s Rise,” HR Dive. 

"The employers polled said the most in-demand soft skills are: listening skills (74%); attention to detail and attentiveness (70%); effective communication (69%); critical thinking (67%); interpersonal skills (65%); and active learning/learning new skills (65%)." 

We’ve touched on this before in our Talent and the Future of Work e-book, but polls like this one covered by HR Dive highlight that the future of work won’t leave everyone without work; rather, it will pave the way for more human (i.e. non-automatable) skills to be leveraged in the workplace. As AI automates more routine and menial tasks, the demand for what this article describes as “soft skills” is rising. The article highlights that the skills gap has hit soft skills the hardest. In fact, LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report has cited soft skills as the top training priority last year. Read more here.

6. “People Analytics and AI in the Workplace: Four Dimensions of Trust,”Josh Bersin 

"And as AI becomes more prevalent, we no longer see the data but rather we see a 'nudge' or 'recommendation.' What if that 'nudge' is biased in some way and an employee becomes upset? Do you know how that software works and can you go back and make sure it didn’t discriminate based on some incorrect criteria?" 

As the future of work has become an increasingly hot topic in 2019, so has talk around people analytics. AI has expanded the capacity of people data collection, and as a result, employers have the ability to capture more people analytics (and at a faster rate) than ever before. As organizations charge full speed ahead with this kind of data collection, the risk becomes overlooking the ethics in people analytics – what Josh Bersin calls the “Four Dimensions of Trust:” privacy, security, bias, and people impact. To dive deeper into each of these four dimensions of trust and how your organization can mitigate risk around them, read Josh Bersin’s article here. 

As a helpful guideline, when you start a new analytics program, Bersin suggests you ask yourself the question, “How would it look if this program appeared on the front page of the NY Times?” Would it damage your company’s reputation? If the answer is yes, you need to do a little more homework. 

 7. “A Crucial Step for Averting AI Disasters,”The Wall Street Journal. 

"Developers testing their products often rely on data sets that lack adequate representation of women or minority groups. One widely used data set is more than 74% male and 83% white, research shows. Thus, when engineers test algorithms on these databases with high numbers of people like themselves, they may work fine." 

This article takes some time to reflect on some of the AI disasters of the past few years, including Google’s photo app tagging two African-American users as gorillas, and Amazon’s failed applicant screening tool (which systematically rejected resumes with the word “women” in them). The article warns that an algorithm can become a black box; it can learn and make predictions on data without being explicitly programmed to do so. Any biases in the algorithm can skew companies’ decision-making in costly ways.  

As an HR & Talent professional, understanding the risks of bias in AI is critical as you shop for and purchase AI solutions. AI is not inherently biased; it all comes down to the data that it's fed. As this article demonstrates, not all AI is created equal. Read more about the risks of bias in AI here.

8. “How Companies Can Use Employee Data Responsibly,” Harvard Business Review.

“We found that more than 90% of the employees are willing to let their employers collect and use data on them and their work, but only if they benefit in some way. And they harbor serious concerns about how companies might use the data. Perhaps for good reason: only 30% of the executives whose companies use workforce data reported being highly confident that they are using the data responsibly.” 

Every year, the data that organizations collect on their workforce becomes increasingly detailed and nuanced, and yet advancements in employee data security seems to be at a standstill. Recent data privacy and security scandals have had consequences as dire as potentially swaying elections, so people are (understandably) more wary than ever to make their personal data available. Although you may sign a terms and conditions contract when downloading a consumer app, there is no equivalent when it comes to employees’ work-related data.  

Business leaders may assume that more transparency on data collection will result in more blow-back from employees, but that doesn’t need to be the case. This article states that 90% of employees are willing to let their employers collect and use data on them and their work if they benefit in some way. This article walks through ways employees can get value for providing their work-related data while also increasing buy-in for the ways in which that data is used. Read it here. 

We hope we provided you with a couple great beach reads this summer as you reflect on the talent trends of 2019 (so far) and prepare for the future of HR & Talent in your organization. What other trends and priorities have you observed?