Yannick Binvel: What the future of the workplace will look like

Digital shift is transforming the way HR processes and services are designed, driven and delivered, says Yannick Binvel


Yannick Binvel at the Taj Lands End hotel in Mumbai.
Yannick Binvel at the Taj Lands End hotel in Mumbai.

From Artificial Intelligence (AI) to a new generation joining the workforce, the workplace is gearing up for change. We spoke with Yannick Binvel, president, global industrial markets, at organizational and people advisory firm Korn Ferry International Inc., to understand what these changes will mean. Global industrial markets is believed to be the largest industrial practice in the world, spanning nine sectors such as construction, agriculture and mining. Edited excerpts from a phone interview:

This year is going to see four generations at the workplace as the oldest members of Gen Zers or post-millennials (born 1995-2012) enter the workforce. Do you see this presenting any new challenges for organizations?

This is new for the industry. Each generational group has its own distinct characteristics, values and attitudes towards work and life. Hence, the drivers and tools of engagements are going to be different for each generation. For instance, in comparison to Yers, Zers are even more connected thanks to the proliferation of social and online media since their birth, and much more global in outlook. So, for them, a global and highly connected workplace is a given. Thus, collaboration and communication will play a big role in the engagement and retention of younger generations. All aspects of HR (human resources), from talent management to leadership development, will be influenced by changing models as a result of the different generational views of workplace, careers, motivation, hierarchies, teamwork, etc.

We are noticing companies adopting different approaches to leverage the multi-generational diversity of their staff. To cite an example, one of our large energy-sector clients decided to create a reverse mentoring programme where the Boomers were paired with Gen Xers and Yers so that the different groups could learn from each other (the Boomer could learn to use technology and social tools better while the younger employee could gain early insights into leadership), leverage each other’s strength, and collaborate better.

How are advances in AI technologies expected to shape the workplace?

We have been witnessing the impact of automation in our workplace for a while now. We are already on our laptops, using software that, in just one click, can accomplish many tasks, process huge amounts of information, and deliver results in no time. What has happened with the advent of intelligent automation or use of automation and AI (computer systems that are able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, and translation between languages) is that automation has gone unprecedentedly bigger and better. These AI systems are performing tasks that one thought only humans could. Also, AI systems, unlike traditional automation software, only get better with time as the systems keep learning and adapting to evolving needs without human intervention. Although in early stages of adoption, companies are using AI-based systems and software to automate many HR processes such as interview scheduling, recruitment, employee onboarding, employee development, etc. Good examples of this evolution are companies such as General Electric Co., the world’s leading conglomerate, and technology company International Business Machines Corp. (IBM).

How has the digital shift affected the organization and the HR job?

Digital shift is transforming the way HR processes and services are designed, driven and delivered. Consequently, the HR job is witnessing huge changes. A lot of low-end, administrative and repetitive jobs are now being handled by digital and self-service capabilities, releasing some of HR’s time to focus on the strategic and creative aspects of HR, namely, to solve business problems and improve employee experience. Today’s employees expect a workplace that treats them as customers and provides a similar user experience across several touchpoints. They want to manage their HR transactions on their mobile-enabled devices. Digital tools are helping companies simplify and streamline these transactions.

An increasing number of companies are leveraging digital channels to deliver employee value proposition and attract and retain higher-quality talent. Integrated apps are allowing companies to manage talent and performance, onboard new employees, deliver customized learning to employees, manage leave and attendance, schedule meetings, etc., seamlessly and in real time.

In the last couple of years, many firms, including Deloitte, Adobe, Accenture, GE and SAP, have junked their performance review systems. Is it the end of such reviews?

Not at all. Performance reviews are not being done away with but are being overhauled as evolving business needs are necessitating this change. Performance management systems that measure employees at the end of 12 months cannot serve a business when product cycles are getting shorter. Work is also happening in teams more than ever and sometimes multiple teams across several geographies work on a single project.

To achieve common goals, we need to get employees working together and not competing with one another. Conventional performance management systems tend to focus more on measuring individual performance than teamwork and collaboration.

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