Five lessons from Unleash World 2022

With industry experts discussing topics ranging from data and AI to employee experience and the future of work, the Unleash World 2022 HR conference provided deep insight into the HR profession.

HR magazine's editorial team has rounded up some key lessons from both days of the conference, delivered from Paris (12 - 13 October).


1. Companies are risking survey fatigue

Employers may be at risk of overdoing it when it comes to employee engagement.

Jason Corsello, founder and general partner at Acadian Ventures, warned constant pulse surveys to gauge employee mood might not give an accurate reflection of how they’re feeling.

He said: “Stop pulsing your employees around how they feel every single week. Ask them individually. These constant surveys are completely littered with bias; what happened that morning before they went to work, what happened after work the day before.

“All these biases are embedded into that one or two questions that you’re asking. Universally we have to figure out how to eliminate bias in everything we do, not just in employee engagement.”


2. HR is oversold on AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly prominent in the HR space, with businesses applying the technology to aspects such as recruitment, learning, and research.

AI’s importance in HR may be overhyped, however.

Bas van de Haterd, founder and managing director of Digitaal-Werven, said that AI and algorithms aren’t necessarily the same thing.

He said: “HR is in danger of using the word AI too much. We seem to think everything with an algorithm is now called AI in HR. I would love to see people challenging every supplier and telling them ‘that’s not AI, it’s an algorithm.' It's not even machine learning let alone AI. Stop splashing AI on everything."


Find more of HR magazine's coverage of Unleash World 2022 here:

Embracing change vital to successful business mergers

Talent crisis could be good news for businesses

Shrinking HR departments could help profession focus on strengths 


3. The employee value proposition needs an update

Diana Fayad, global head of total rewards at General Electric, said that when companies put together an employee value proposition (EVP), they need to look at their workers as people rather than employees.

She said: "The classic definition of EVP is a set of attributes that employees perceive as the value gained through employment and in organisation. There’s something outdated in this definition - it’s the word employees.

"Recent times have proven to us that employees are not just workers, they’re human beings. Maybe a decade ago work was a small part of life, but now work is intrinsic to people’s lives – when they come to work, they come as a whole person.

"When we talk about EVP, we should be looking at people and not just as employees. The definition becomes: a set of attributes that people perceive as the value gained in their life through employment and in organisation. As HR leaders we really need to reshape our EVP and put the person as a whole in our definition."


4. Purpose is crucial for returning to the office

As remote and hybrid working has become commonplace in the wake of the pandemic, businesses are dealing with the struggle of getting workers back to the office.

Research from Slack emphasised why companies are finding it so hard; 53% of UK workers feel more productive at home, and 88% of people who do come in at least once a week spend almost two hours on video calls with people outside of the office.

Roberto Di Bernardini, chief HR officer at Danone, said the onus is on employers to give workers a reason to want to return to the office.

He said: "Coming back to a workplace has some critical aspects, socialising, embedding in a country, collaboration, coaching. It can be done remotely but it's not the same. The challenge we have after accepting remote working is here to stay is getting people to come back.

"If we want people to come back to the office in any capacity, we need to give a meaning to the workplace beyond four walls, a desk and a coffee machine. As HR, this is the ultimate challenge we have.

"We need to find a role for the workplace which becomes a purpose for people to come back. There are three reasons people work: salary, career, and purpose. Our job is to create that meaning and the idea that people can come to a workplace because they find a purpose that they can’t find at home."


5. Employee agency tied to job satisfaction 

Working in a comfortable environment might not be enough to make workers completely satisfied.

Armin Trost, professor of HRM at Furtwangen University, said giving employees the agency to change their environment would have a larger impact on job satisfaction.

He said: "We don’t want to have people who find themselves in unattractive work situations and feeling like they can’t change anything – this leads to things like resignation and quiet quitting. Equally, people who are working in wonderful conditions but have no power to change things might not be satisfied – they’re just a customer of the employee experience.

"The feeling that you can change things is what drives people – the path is the goal. Every revolution started with someone who was very angry. You can offer people paradise and still people might not be happy and perform. Why? Because the people themselves have no responsibility."