OpenWork Conversations: Tim Sackett on Human Resources and Technology
by Tammy Nelson
Tim Sackett is a 20-year veteran of HR and recruiting who was practically born into the profession. Today, he’s president of HRU Technical Resources, an engineering and IT staffing firm founded by his mother.
OpenWork checked in with Tim on the current state of HR and how technology has impacted the industry.
OpenWork: As a long-time veteran of human resources, on both the vendor and corporate side, how have you seen the industry change?
Tim Sackett: Technology has sped up the game so fast, it doesn’t even resemble what it was when I started! Technology has really eliminated much of the traditional task work, so there’s been a shift in the people working in the industry from those who loved administrative work to those who are much more strategic about how talent can help drive what the organization is doing now and into the future. I also think that HR, as an industry, worked to reinvent itself by asking, “How are we adding value?” Many times the answer was they weren’t. That’s very sobering, and it forced HR leaders across the globe to develop teams, technology and systems that take cost away from the organization and increase talent.
OW: How important are employee-centric policies like job flexibility, wellness, telecommuting/remote work, parental leave and time off?
TS: From the beginning of time, organizations have adjusted as the competition for talent evolved. Today’s policies, like flexible work arrangements, wellness, telecommuting, etc. are just a product of the competitive landscape. Are these advancements for workers important? Heck, yes! Anything that will increase productivity and increase retention in a competitive landscape is good. If an organization doesn’t believe these types of policies are important, they’re putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage within the marketplace.
OW: Which of these benefits are candidates seeking out most often, and which are employers most likely to offer?
TS: The one I see candidates requesting the most is flexible work schedules. Most organizations today work in a technology environment that would easily allow this, but their work culture still struggles to accept it with attitudes like, “Well, I didn’t leave at 3 p.m. to watch my kid play soccer! Why should you?” The reality is, there is no reason why someone can’t do this, then get done what they need to later in the evening when it fits better into their life-schedule.
Currently, employers are most likely to offer programs that will benefit them the most, while leaving a perception that they also benefit the employee. As in, “We’ll give you a wellness program because it’s great for you! But, it also helps us lower our healthcare cost, and you’re more likely to be more productive at work.” In a for-profit world, that is just the reality.
OW: How important are transparency and trust in the workplace, and how can employees and employers foster them?
TS: I like to trust and verify. Our reality is we live in a world where technology allows us to know if our employees are being productive and doing what they should be doing. This, then, makes it really easy to provide various arrangements where your employees can have the flexibility they desire. In the end, I could care less if I see you or not, as long as the work is getting done. That’s the problem with many organizations, they haven’t defined what a productive employee is, so they define productivity by having your butt in a seat for eight hours. It’s easy for an organization to trust when they define what productivity is, and they have systems and processes in place to measure that.
OW: Your website and bio make it clear that being a husband and father are priorities in your life. Have you seen a change in how men approach work-life balance and family leave in recent years?
TS: When my first son was born, I worked for my mother. She refused to give me FMLA because of my “executive” status in the company! My own mother! All I wanted to do was take a day a week off to watch my son, so my wife could finish college. I saw firsthand how men are treated in a modern-day workforce. We still have a ton to get over culturally so that men feel comfortable being defined as a father first, and a business success second.
OW: What are the biggest issues and challenges that human resources as an industry is facing today?
TS: Increasing and keeping their talent is by far the biggest issue of almost all organizations. This brings in both talent acquisition and human resources. You need attraction, but you also need retention and development. It’s a full spectrum of what a great HR function should be performing.
OW: What are the most exciting developments and innovations that are benefitting human resources today?
TS: Predictive analytics is something that is just revolutionizing how we practice HR. To have technology be able to show you who in your organization is most likely to be your next turnover, which candidate is the best for you and for your hiring manager, etc. The technology is far outpacing the human capacity.