FAHR 2016: Embrace the digital revolution and ditch the old way of doing things, says GE HR chief

Author: Mark Townsend | Date: 27 Apr 2016

“No matter how successful you were in the past, that is not going to work in a digital future”

Technology has become critical to workplace development, and if HR is to keep pace it should let go of outdated practices and adopt a new way of doing things, according to one of the region’s most experienced HR professionals.
Joe Chalouhi – chief human resources officer, MENAT at General Electric – told delegates at the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources (FAHR) conference in Dubai that they were faced with unprecedented levels of information and data. “If you lived in the seventeenth century, the amount of information you would have been exposed to all of your life is equal to one week of information in current times.”
Chalouhi said GE recently produced a white paper which attempts to map the future of work. “It talks about how technology is accelerating and the enormous speed at which it is doing so.” The paper identifies three disruptive forces shaping the future of work.
The first is advanced manufacturing, with Chalouhi citing the upheaval wrought upon the tech sector by the emergence of 3D printing. The second force is the industrial internet (an offshoot of the “internet of things”) – how machines talk to each other using the data gathered to optimise their capacity and outflow. The third disruptive force Chalouhi described is needing to think globally.
These forces are creating a technological revolution that is redefining how employees and employers connect. “It gives an employer the opportunity to choose from a wider talent pool and also gives the employee more capability to control their career through digital integration,” said Chalouhi. Digitising learning and development is having a big impact on conventional performance measures like the annual appraisal, with organisations increasingly favouring interactive feedback mechanisms. “Today, for the talent that we want, we are re-orchestrating the ecosystem to look at the lifespan of an employee from the moment they join to the moment they leave.”
The concept of talent acquisition is also evolving quickly as new recruitment channels open up and forge stronger employer-employee dialogue. Social media marketing and crowdsourcing campaigns that are tailored to each generation have upended the traditional recruitment process. Chalouhi surprised the audience when he speculated it may be possible to get rid of the need for interviews for many roles.
Greater employee engagement can also be delivered through digital learning: Chalouhi says GE has explored this in a platform called ‘BrilliantU’. Styled as a learning exchange, it is positioned as a one-stop shop for learning in the organisation and GE has partnered with major organisations including McKinsey Academy, NovoEd and Simplilearn.
Chalouhi’s advice to delegates was stark. “We need to let go, and no matter how successful you were in the past, that is not going to work in a digital future.”