The new potentials in workplace culture: humanization, empathy

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the use of videoconferences has exploded—and Yvette Cameron has noticed that many such virtual meetings, especially those with high-level executives, signal an important message about the future potential of HR.

“People are showing up in T-shirts with their kids and dogs and the postman interrupting—it’s bringing us down to a more human level,” says Cameron, founder and principal analyst of NextGen Insights, LLC, and co-founder and executive vice president of Velocity Career Labs. “When you take the clothing and the positions out, there’s such a great humanization of the relationships and the conversations and a greater degree of empathy for the challenges we all deal with every day. That’s going to be important for culture shifts as we come out the other side of this outbreak.”

Empathy, the ability to trust and empower workers, and a collaborative digital mindset are all components of successful HR leaders of tomorrow—and they’re qualities that work hand in hand with innovative HR technology.

“We can never think of our technology as a replacement for really great processes led by the HR organization,” Cameron says. “Technology ultimately is the enabler of great HR strategies.”

What that technology looks like has shifted considerably during Cameron’s more than 30 years in the HR space.

She’s seen the rise of self-service applications, the move to client servers and the transition to the cloud, all while HR has transformed from a focus on compliance to enabling talent. The emergence of AI and blockchain have been among the most meaningful developments for the industry, she says.

“The opportunities of AI have been transformational and will continue to be so—it’s allowing us to interpret and infer information based on the activities we’re witnessing and learn how to get even better information; it’s phenomenal,” she says.

Blockchain started in the financial space as a way to exchange money while cutting out the middle man and has now made its way into HR. “It’s so exciting because, for the first time, blockchain is giving us in HR the opportunity to put control of information back into the hands of individuals,” Cameron says. “The combination of blockchain and AI together is going to blow our minds in the next five years in terms of what’s possible.”

That potential is at the heart of the Velocity Network. Rolled out in February by the newly formed Velocity Network Foundation—featuring more than a dozen big names in the HCM and education fields—the verified career-credential platform aims to give individuals, including employees, job applicants and students, self-sovereignty over their identity records.

“It’s an exciting moment for us and, more importantly, for where this kind of technology is going to take the industry,” she says.

Velocity is the latest career turn for Cameron, who has worked across research, product, strategy and other areas in firms such as SAP SuccessFactors, Gartner, Constellation Research, Saba Software and Oracle. In 2018, she founded NextGen Insights, LLC, an HCM technology research and advisory firm.

Cameron was used to wearing several hats throughout her career but, when she started her own company, she saw she had to not only wear the hats—but she also owned them.

“There are a lot of ins and out for entrepreneurs that you may have taken for granted before: sales, marketing, communication, bookkeeping, event management. That was a big shift for me as I moved to my own company,” she says.

What remained constant as she transitioned to becoming an entrepreneur was the need for resilience.

“Whether you’re working at a big organization or for your own company, you’ve got to be resilient when faced with challenges if you want to really be successful at moving in a certain direction,” Cameron says.

As she continues her consulting work, leadership at Velocity and other future endeavors, that commitment to resilience will be paired with another guiding principle that has defined her career, Cameron says.

“It’s always been about the individual,” she says. “Making sure the individual is at the heart of all the HR processes we’re designing, at the heart of what the HR-tech vendors are delivering and how we’re supporting, enabling and empowering the individual to bring their best to the table always has and always will be my focus.”

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