How being ‘agile in fragile times’ can make 2020 HR’s most rewarding year

While the challenges of 2020 have been unprecedented—a global health crisis, economic turmoil, increased focus on social injustice—viewing them as opportunities instead of challenges can set the future direction of HR. For instance, more empathetic leadership, digital acceleration and an appreciation for continuous learning are all being realized by HR leaders around the world, says Jason Averbook, CEO and co-founder of Leapgen.

Averbook will explore the challenges and opportunities facing HR leaders in his upcoming keynote speech at the free, virtual HR Technology Conference next week.

Before then, he spoke with HRE about how personal and professional agility can help HR professionals manage through change, and embrace its opportunities.

HRE: What was the biggest emerging trend in HR technology before the pandemic? How has that shifted?

Averbook: We are living in a world where we are dealing with multiple pandemics at the same time, one new and one older. Our new pandemic is COVID-19, and our older pandemic deals with social justice and inclusivity. Before these pandemics became the topic of 2020, the biggest emerging trend in HR technology was all about improving the employee experience. This was thought to be achieved by providing a better user interface, an easier way to get answers to hard-to-find information and a personalized delivery of relevant content. As we navigate an historic and turbulent year, employee experience is still the trend, but how we define, achieve and prioritize what truly matters related to employee experience has shifted drastically. We’re not so much worried about interfaces as we are interactions. We’re less worried about delivering answers as we are delivering humanity to a distributed workforce. And while personalization is still key, it has shifted from things that matter at work to what matters in life. In summary, the trend hasn’t shifted—what has shifted is the why, which is all part of the now of work we are creating together as an industry.

Related: HR, it’s time to be the ‘voice of caring reality’

HRE: What new technologies are emerging that you think hold the most promise in addressing the unique, new pandemic-driven HR challenges, like health and safety?

Averbook: Being able to listen to employees with empathy and act based on prescriptive coaching will be key to driving organizations forward when it comes to workforce empathy. In the world of talent in 2020 and beyond, tools embedding assessment capabilities and those that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring direction and predictability into talent conversations will lead the way. COVID-19 serves as the greatest digital accelerant of our time. The ability to become digitally efficient through chatbots as well as other conversational tools will make or break an organization’s ability to leverage people for what they are good at—caring for the workforce and taking the transactional responsibilities off their plates once and for all.

HRE: How have the last few months impacted your own work? What have you done personally to keep up with the shifts?

Averbook: The last few months have taught me to think and lead as if I’m reading a navigation system in modern vehicles rather than a static paper map like days of old. We are required in all aspects of life to be agile in fragile times. We are required in all aspects of life to put aside long-term thinking and substitute it for now-based thinking, and we are required in all aspects of life to be as resilient to change and as open to “unlearning” as possible.


I personally have found 2020 to be one of the most rewarding and exhilarating years of my life as I try to turn crisis into opportunity, embedding and infusing humanity into business and realizing there is a big spot for love in the world of business. That’s the LEAP in Leapgen: Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof. Love your industry, love your employees, love your customers and you will love what you do in service of the people you do it for.

HRE: Is there any career advice you’ve fielded that has proven true during these challenging times?

Averbook: Never stop learning. Never stop trying to understand. Never give up and, most of all, never stop believing in yourself, your teams and your visions.  What gets you out of bed in the morning must be a love for what you do, and when you combine that love with traits such as learning, believing and dreaming, challenging times become much easier to work through.

For more information or to register for HR Tech, click HERE.

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