Business leaders and heads of human capital know that traditional, time-tested change management and transformation approaches probably won’t hold up to the demands of the future. Rapid shifts in the competitive landscape, fueled by the formidable march of digitization, mean companies and their top teams have to double down on influencing and navigating change in new and fast ways; they must constantly build rigor into the “science of change.”
In that vein, every company, regardless of sector, needs to think of itself as—and exist as—a tech company. That includes the HR sphere and the CHRO. In fact, the most successful companies will turn to technology, science, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) to get the right talent in the right places and to “nudge” employee behavior to align with constant change.
Byproducts of deploying technology and data analytics on the people management front may be greater employee engagement and happiness and even more rapid realization of diversity goals.
When it comes to getting the right talent into the right places, especially when significant change initiatives top the corporate agenda, neuroscience and strides in testing technology will make a big difference. They can speed and scale the process of accurately identifying cognitive and emotional traits among populations of candidates and employees and help pinpoint the links between those traits and job performance.
Targeting Candidates with New Technology
At BCG, in our Asia-Pacific region, we hire about 1,000 professionals a year, and our consulting work involves a significant number of digital transformation engagements. We have started using technology to ensure we are targeting the most appropriate—and broadest—pool of potential employees while making the best fits in terms of role and personality.
Whereas we used to rely heavily on interviewing at elite schools for potential candidates, we now need people with a broader range of backgrounds and academic and work experience, such as data scientists and venture architects. As a result, we’re deploying technology to recruit from more populations and to screen whether people are right for us—and us for them.
One of the techniques we’re using involves app-based “virtual internships” in which people get a deep-dive, multimedia exposure to what it’s like to work at the firm every day. There are specific virtual experiences for a range of roles. The app also helps candidates arrange interviews and virtual tours.
Digital Tools for a Cultural Fit
BCG is also piloting technology to evaluate candidates after they’ve performed successfully at an interview to assess how well they would grow into their new roles—and even precisely what those roles should be. Beyond personality tests, we ask candidates to do some online problem solving.
For instance, in one application, we present data and ask the candidate whether he or she was given the right data to address a particular situation or answer a specific question. And then we can ask which data the person thinks are right and what additional data might be needed. This evaluation technology benefits not only the firm but also the potential colleague because we’re able to determine the kinds of projects he or she should be on; the kind of on-the-job education or training the person may need; and, of course, whether he or she will ultimately be successful in the firm.
As mentioned, we also see the great potential for technology and analytics to “nudge” people toward optimal behaviors—to the meaningful benefit of the organization and the employee. This application is important because company transformations only work when behavioral changes keep pace.
Many companies are already far along the curve. One we know uses data analytics to determine almost precisely what kinds of skills are required for its forward-leaning, digitally oriented positions. The tool matches those jobs to people (usually already within the organization) whose existing skill sets and personality most closely align with what is needed. It goes further by identifying, for managers and employees moving into the new position, any gaps in capabilities and then guides them to online training that will help close the gaps. The tool also provides regular feedback during the course of the year.
On the subject of technology-aided workflow, some companies offer employees a smartphone app that lets them alert colleagues to presentations they’ll be making and then receive feedback from colleagues shortly afterward. This allows employees to leverage colleagues’ input in real time in order to improve performance and effectiveness.
Behavioral Psychology Making a Splash
As hierarchical business models and management approaches give way to more decentralized structures, lessons from behavioral psychology will help leaders pursue small interventions that lead to more productive, strategically adherent behaviors. One small example with real payoff: Virgin Atlantic found that sending electronic reminders about goals for fuel use to pilots resulted in millions of dollars of savings.
Many companies are establishing big programs to use AI and related technology effectively in their operations. But only a few are leveraging them to shape and implement strategic large-scale change programs. But that will change, especially when it comes to making the “people” part of the business more agile.
Lars Fæste is a Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group and leads BCG’s Greater China operations. He is the founder of BCG TURN and was the leader of BCG’s global transformation practice. Fæste works mainly in China and Europe.
Ted Chan is a Managing Director and Partner at Boston Consulting Group based in Greater China. He leads the Global Advantage practice in China and has substantial experiences across industrial goods, transportation and logistics, and TMT industries. He is the People Chair of BCG Greater China and leads recruiting in Asia-Pacific.
Fang Ruan is a Partner and Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group. She is the cohead of Bruce Henderson Institute China and the Lead of the People and Organization practice in Asia-Pacific. She is also a core member of BCG’s technology, media, and telecom practice.