Human Capital Management

Human Capital Management

Combating the
commoditization of the
workforce

Andy Campbell,
HCM Strategy Director at Oracle@axcampbe



Businesses should differentiate both internally and externally to succeed

In today’s crowded and competitive market, it is more difficult than ever for businesses to differentiate themselves. No sooner does a manufacturer bring out a state-of-the-art mobile phone than a rival releases a device with the same functions and capabilities, and at a lower cost.

As companies struggle with the commoditization of products, they may forget that the same principles apply within their own organizations. Just as there can often be little differentiation between two companies’ products, workplace cultures can also become very similar within a particular industry.

 In the ongoing war for talent businesses are fighting tooth and nail to attract and retain the very best employees   


This might not seem particularly important, but bear in mind that in the ongoing war for talent businesses are fighting tooth and nail to attract and retain the very best employees. Company culture and employee satisfaction are the key battlegrounds in this war, and businesses that can’t motivate or engage their employers are at a huge disadvantage.

Of course, most organizations will say they are committed to their staff, and there’s no doubt that many business owners do make employee engagement a priority. However, that is only part of what differentiates leading companies.

Being able to measure and improve engagement is equally important, and yet Oracle’s research has found that many businesses fail to measure workforce engagement with any degree of sophistication. In fact most still rely on staff surveys to gauge employee satisfaction rather than employing modern tools like data analytics to get an accurate picture of engagement and its impact on the wider business.

Digital and mobile devices, HR tools and social media platforms are all great data sources when it comes to measuring employee happiness, but they are also incredibly powerful tools for engaging with workers in the first place.

Millennials are now the largest generation represented in the workforce, and these digital natives expect to communicate with their colleagues and line managers via the technologies they use each day. And yet, only 15 percent of employers believe using the latest digital and mobile technology is important to driving employee engagement. Astonishingly, only three percent say social media platforms help boost engagement despite how inextricable these have become from millennials’ daily lives.

 Given the choice between a workplace where technology is frowned upon or actively discouraged and one where it is actively embraced to deliver a better working environment, a talented young worker is faced with a relatively easy decision.   


At the same time, employers wax lyrical about the benefits of teamwork, collaboration, flexible working, training and professional development, all factors that are greatly enhanced through the use of today’s digital technologies.

Given the choice between a workplace where technology is frowned upon or actively discouraged and one where it is actively embraced to deliver a better working environment, a talented young worker is faced with a relatively easy decision.

It’s important to remember that just implementing digital technology for its own sake, or merely in order to placate the demands of a young workforce, has little value. To be effective, these tools should not be stand-alone entities but deeply embedded within existing business processes to enable workers to connect with any and all HR processes. Rather than being add-ons, mobile and digital technology should become natural parts of employees’ day-to-day work.

Digital technologies also help build engagement between workers and managers. In fact ensuring line managers are able to effectively communicate with their employees plays just as crucial a role in driving engagement. Oracle’s research found half of employees say poor communication from managers is the most frequent cause for them feeling less engaged at work. In light of this, it’s never been more important for employers to make the most of their communications technologies.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to pay lip service to the ideals of employee engagement, but to effect real change HR teamsneed to instil a high-level culture of engagement throughout their organization, from the managing director down to line managers and their teams on the front lines. A good HR team will take ownership of the business’ engagement strategy and ensure that line managers have the attitude, the tools, and the data required to ensure their employees are both productive and happy.

If a business seeks to differentiate itself and avoid becoming a “commoditized workplace” it must commit to exploring new ways of training, appraising and engaging with its workers. Those that do not will find themselves losing some of their best talent to rivals who can provide a truly unique place to work.


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