We’re in the thick of open enrollment season, which means brokers are busy helping clients educate employees on their benefits offerings. But before we know it, we’ll be ringing in 2018, and already planning for next year’s enrollment process. 

Come 2018, I believe brokers will continue to shift the conversation with clients from technology to talent. Instead of discussing the latest and greatest benefits administration tools on the market, brokers will focus more on how clients can strategically use the data they’re collecting to drive talent acquisition and talent activation throughout their organizations. 

As employers battle for skilled workers, they will also need to shift their focus toward activating the talent they already have. The “winners” of the future will be those who can engage, develop, and retain their internal top talent. 

We all know that HR plays a critical role here and that the hallmark of a world-class HR organization is the ability to turn talent into an incredibly powerful asset. An HR organization with an acute focus on talent helps to develop a fully-engaged and highly-functional workforce that can help drive innovation, business strategy, and financial outcomes. 

According to recent research from the Hackett Group®, world-class HR organizations spend 25 percent less than their peers and require 30 percent fewer staff. Their error rates for transactions are 2 to 5 times lower than their peers. Further, turnover rates for first- and second-year hires are markedly better, and as we know, better retention leads to more institutionalized knowledge kept within a company’s walls. 

Helping your clients achieve world-class status can be done through digital transformation, which involves moving beyond just automating existing processes. It’s about leveraging data analytics to drive better decision making, designing new ways to engage the customer and shifting focus from discrete projects to continuous transformation, to name a few. Digital transformation requires a commitment to operational excellence, a proficiency at managing talent strategically, and tight alignment of processes within the business. It isn’t a one-and-done deal. It’s a huge, momentous, and sometimes slightly messy transformation of the living organism that is your client’s business. Digital transformation is unsuccessful if a business just has commitment from the head, or the heart, or the muscles, or the bones. It requires all parts of an organization to move forward in lock-step. 

Here are some tips for brokers to turn the conversation toward talent activation and help their clients drive digital transformation throughout their business in 2018: 

Remember, data comes first. Data is the foundation on which your clients are able to sell the importance of talent activation to the rest of the organization. For business leaders, employee engagement can sometimes take a back seat to harder metrics. HR leaders need to be able to collect and analyze employee data to show how improved engagement can lead to increased financial performance. Brokers should work with their clients to ensure they are collecting this data, and help them make it actionable and insightful for managers and executives. When HR professionals are better able to connect the dots between engagement and financial performance, brokers can shine as strategic partners, not just to HR, but to the business at-large. 

Help clients build a lasting infrastructure. The mentality of “a tool here, a tool there,” won’t help clients see the lasting benefits of digital technologies. This is because, often, businesses strive so hard to reach a revenue number that they don’t deploy the necessary holistic infrastructure to see growth follow through. 

This harkens back to having a commitment to operational excellence, and the fact that digital technologies need to work in sync to drive processes. If businesses only focus on what digital transformation can do for their financial projections, they might hit their targets, but at the end of the day they won’t achieve world-class status until the necessary infrastructure (the tools and the processes) is deployed. Start talking to your clients now about the gaps in their business processes that digital technologies might be able to fill, as well as strategies for how data can bolster weak spots in their operations. 

Utilize technology to pull your clients out of the weeds. Well-built technology simplifies peoples’ lives. Too often, people get involved in the tactical and forget the broader picture. But with the right technology behind them, they are able to think holistically and turn their attention from low- to high-value tasks. This ultimately allows businesses to have greater connection outwardly, to vendors and partners, by eliminating operational waste. When the executive leadership, HR, managers, and frontline employees are functioning in unison, this allows companies to be more strategic advisors to their clients and offer data-backed solutions that are driven by the full power of their company, all in alignment. 

Yesterday’s solution to HR was throwing more bodies at the problem; today’s solution is using partners, data, and technology to drive talent and achieve world-class HCM. For the year ahead, brokers should continue working with clients to research the tools they will need to strengthen their analytic and talent activation abilities, as well as teaching them to be more data fluent. Don’t hesitate. World-class status is within reach for your clients. 

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