How next-gen HCM solutions will set the people profession free

In Josh Bersin’s latest story he says that we need “HCM systems that are ‘employee systems first, HR systems second”. In this article we talk about all the ways that next generation HCM systems can do that. Let’s jump in the SenseHR time machine and look at the future of HR software!

Sat Sindhar • 
How next-gen HCM solutions

There’s a problem with your HR management software. No, put that telephone down—it’s not something that tech support can help you with.  

The problem is this:  

The workforce and workplace of the 2020s is almost unrecognisable compared to the workplace of the 2010s. But HR professionals are forced to manage their people using a software architecture that was conceived in the last century… literally.  

Yup. We’re talking the 1970s, baby. Ted Heath was prime minister. The Vietnam War was coming to an end. Disco was king. And the first faithful implementations of the relational database model were popping up.  

And that’s what most legacy software is still built on today. 

The eruption of remote and flexible working means that work life is disconnecting from defined space and time. This can be liberating, empowering and rich with opportunity. But our existing tools can no longer support HR professionals as they seize these opportunities. Nor can they help to overcome the challenges presented by this brave new world. 

As Josh Bersin says in his Next Generation HCM story, “We now need HCM systems that are ‘employee systems first, HR systems second.’ We want the system to be a ‘system of productivity,’ not just a ‘system of record.’”  

As this article explores the evolutions in people management unfolding all around us, and imagines the future of the people profession, you’ll find yourself asking:  

“Should we scrap our existing legacy software now, or later?” 

Our answer? “There’s no time like the present”.  

And here’s why.  

Employee as a customer 

The idea of viewing an employee as a customer is nothing new but it hasn’t gained the traction that it deserves.  


Because organisations didn’t have the right tools to make it happen.  

There’s a natural synergy between customer experience and employee experience.  

Firstly, motivated and engaged employees are more likely to deliver a great CX.  

Secondly, it’s hard to trust an organisation to perform well for its customers, if it can’t provide a good experience for its own workforce.  

The 600-year-old idiom ‘Charity begins at home’ sums it up nicely and is as true now as it was then. 

Even if you’re not a fan of the employee as a customer idea, the fact remains that your employee is someone else’s customer. And while they’ve been working from home, they’ve been flitting between WhatsApp and Teams, TikTok and their HR portal.  

When comparing the gamification that makes these social media apps extremely engaging, we can see why legacy HR software loses out. 

Employees and customers are looking for the same things: instant, intimate, frictionless, interconnected value. A feeling of wellbeing. A feeling of belonging. A feeling of fulfilment. 

So, let’s have a look at some of the ways that next gen HCM solutions can shape employee experience to better serve our workforces, now and into the future.  

A tapestry of talent 

When it comes to reskilling, upskilling, and lifelong learning, legacy HR software is holding you and your people back.  

That’s because everyone’s working life is a unique tapestry of skills, experience, knowledge, networks, and talent. It’s not a direct path that can be listed on a page. And it’s impossible to map and track the daily evolution of complex, causational, interrelated data with a relational database—let alone make use of any resulting analytics.  

But with next gen solutions, built on graph databases, you and your people can track and visualise their unique characteristics, talents, and learning paths. That means you can recognise and apply their strengths where and when they’re needed. And you can plan for career development that makes sense for the individual and the organisation.  

In a McKinsey survey conducted in May 2019, nearly 90 percent of the executives and managers surveyed said that their companies faced skill gaps.  

Of these, only a third indicated any intention to deal with the problem.  

That’s because it’s not a simple problem to tackle.  

Effective reskilling means… 

  • Knowing what skills are needed, both now and in the future.  
  • Finding the suitable candidates internally. 
  • Evaluating what does and doesn’t work. 
  • Tailoring learning opportunities to plug skill gaps.  

Next gen solutions take care of all of that. And where gaps can’t be filled internally, HR managers will have the data that they need to accurately define the required roles.  

Legacy software struggles too when it comes to managing vital organisational training. That includes policies, regulations, and wellbeing. As well as adapting everyone to the requirements of automation, digitisation, and intelligent technologies.  

Whilst current software can cover the basics, it can’t track whether training has been effective and notify the right people of enduring problems or skill gaps.  

It certainly can’t predict shifting future requirements, which can help keep your HR department and your people ahead of the skill curve.  

Nor can it deliver just-in-time training, so that everyone has access to the correct information and high quality knowledge at exactly the right time—because everyone learns more effectively when material is relevant and applicable to their tasks.  

Next gen solutions can do all of this.  

And it’s not just people managers and the organisations that benefit.  

Deep-data profiles helping employees to understand when and how they work best, can be coupled with self-service features. So, people can access and be ready for new opportunities as they emerge, empowered to choreograph their own upskilling and reskilling adventures.  

That’s the kind of environment that fosters loyalty, employee satisfaction, and a positive brand perception. 

In fact, improving employee experience, or EX is the main winning function of next gen solutions. 

Flexible schedules and remote working 

When women took up the call to work during WWII, there wasn’t much thought of what that would mean when the war was over.  

We now know that it laid the foundation for women in the workplace on a permanent basis.  

In times of great change, fate throws her dice, and nobody can be sure where it’s going to land but one thing’s for sure, like Neo in the Matrix, once our eyes have been opened to a more authentic paradigm, there’s no going back. 

We’re now living in the wake of a worldwide pandemic, rather than a war, and the impact on the workplace is just as profound, if yet to be fully realised. 

But an explosion of remote work, variable working patterns, and persuasive arguments to address work-life balance are some of the clearer outcomes.  

The revolution is just getting started and legacy HR software is stumbling at the first hurdles. Built to serve the 9 to 5 hours popularised by Henry Ford in the industrial age, flexibility isn’t their strong point.  

With the emergence of an optional 4-day week and personalised working patterns to suit chronotypes, energy levels, diverse lifestyles, time zones, and much more, flexibility is no longer a nice-to-have—it’s essential. 

A next gen HCM solution can provide that level of time-tracking flexibility, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of collaboration or productivity. Because powerful scheduling tools and peer-to-peer management, mean that teams can self-regulate and work in the way that suits them. 

The system itself can link up employees too. So, people who need help or can offer help, and those who want to collaborate on projects can do so easily. And as studies show, autonomous innovation is more likely to succeed.  

Redefining roles and shaking up the hierarchy 

Just like rigid schedules, rigid hierarchies are being swept away.  

Leadership is becoming more about driving purpose, inspiring employees, and staying agile. Managers are edging away from a command-and-control function and instead, becoming organisational conductors—facilitating teams and individuals in performing together. Instead of giving orders, they’re keeping time, mentoring, guiding, and looking at the bigger picture.  

And for the rest of the organisation, matrix teams that share goals and cross collaborate with fluidity are gaining popularity too.  

And we’re not talking about replacing top-down hierarchies with a bottom-up model. Because with graph database technology, there’s no bottom and there’s no top—and that’s the point.  

Innovation, creativity… the voice of a leader—it can come from anywhere at any time.  

That kind of fluidity and autonomy can’t be supported with legacy HR solutions.  

While traditional hierarchies melt into something better, individual roles are changing too.  

A recent McKinsey report found that employees only spend about 40% of their time on role- specific tasks—that is, the things they were employed to do.  

With a next gen HCM solution, roles are defined by the data, not a job listing.  

And they can adapt with individual and business requirements over time.  

Freelancer, employee, or worker 

The definite lines that used to exist between employment types are blurring too.  

Freelancing and the rising gig economy are two existing models that have been helping people to achieve a good work-life balance. But the trade-off for autonomy has always been job insecurity.  

That’s changing. UK workers now enjoy the same statutory benefits as employees. At the same time, growing numbers of employees are experiencing the flexibility and autonomy that was only afforded to freelance and self-employed workers.  

But whilst gig workers, freelancers, contractors and others have started to reap some employee-only benefits in the real world, most legacy HR management software leaves them out in the cold.  

They can’t access feedback or training resources and aren’t encouraged to feel part of the company culture.  

In fact, in many existing systems, they’re clearly an afterthought, tacked on to workflows. 

Just another example of how legacy systems aren’t looking to the future—they’re not even keeping up with the present.  

Company culture front and centre 

Distributed workforces, remote working, flexible hours, fluid roles—with all this autonomy and nobody running the show, what’s the glue that binds us? 

A strong company culture.  

Or in other words, people should know what their company expects and thinks without having to look it up in a manual.  

Next generation HR software can support that by providing a central hub for community, collaboration, sharing, and innovation.   

Intelligent technology 

With some notable exceptions—we’re looking at you Elon—the narrative around intelligent technology in the workplace is changing.  

Instead of suspicion and fears of replacement, or worse — people are beginning to see the opportunity for empowerment and support.  

In a 180° turnaround, organisations that implement intelligent, next-gen HCM systems can cultivate trust and transparency, rather than erode it.  

That’s because the systems, the analytics, and the data that employees can access isn’t filtered or manipulated.  

That same technology will force companies to be more aligned with their policies.  

Next gen systems can incorporate intelligent technology to support a healthy work-life balance by easing administrative burdens, enhancing productivity, monitoring health, and encouraging practises that support wellbeing.  

Eventually, employees can even have their own PDAs (personal digital assistants) to mentor and coach them for new roles. And in an environment where intelligent technology takes care of repetitive tasks—humanness and creativity become highly valued commodities. These are the very factors that foster feelings of wellbeing and job satisfaction.  

Of course, not all these capabilities, features, and functions are going to arrive with the first versions of the next generation of HR software, but with a foundation of graph databases, it’s all possible.  

That sounds nice, but we’re a 5-person start-up 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the local greengrocer or the CHRO of a multi-national corporation, next gen systems are agile. They can scale up or down.  

You can tailor them to be as basic or as comprehensive as they need to be.  

You can create workflows—no code required—within an open eco-system.  

And with SenseHR you’ll never need to pay for more than you use.  

These systems will grow with you and be shaped by your unique data.  

They’ll help you make the best decisions to serve your organisation and your people.  

And, they’ll provide a fun platform to bring everyone together, whether everyone is 2 or 2 million … yup, Walmart has over 2 million employees. 

And while there are too many moving parts for any one HR professional, HR department, or organisation to predict how the future of the workplace will develop, with next gen HCM solutions, you won’t have to. It’ll be moulded by the future that you and your data dictate.   

Can giants do gymnastics?  

We know, we know. You don’t want to change your core HR system from your current legacy provider. But even if the legacy HR giants can learn to mimic the HCM of the very near future—and that’s a big if—they won’t do it well.   

Some of them are working on implementing some next gen features but the solutions that they offer are modular and expensive.  

That means that most SMEs can’t afford to experience some of the cooler next gen EX features. And pricing is complicated.  

Not so with SenseHR.  

The foundation of these intelligent systems is graph databases.  

The problem for all the existing, legacy solutions, is that they must find a way to completely overhaul their entire architecture, slowly test and integrate each aspect into their customer facing solution—charging for each add-on along the way—and cross their fingers that they can achieve all this elegantly, without too much disruption to service, and in a relatively timely manner.  

That’s a tall order. And an expensive one. And guess who’ll pay for all that extra R&D?  

That’s right—you. Their loyal customers. And that’s whether you initially sign up to the new features or not.  

On the other hand, brand new solutions, starting from the ground up, don’t need to worry about current system users because there aren’t any. There’s no need to protect the integrity of all the existing data because… what existing data?  

There’s no requirement for complex and seamless transfers because there’s nothing to transfer.  

Which means, there are no limits on what we can achieve. And the R&D is cheaper and faster too. Guess who’ll benefit from that?  

That’s right—you. The previously loyal customers of legacy giants.  

You’ll reap the benefits of our agility too. We can put a product out quickly, get feedback, iterate, and optimise.  

That means our customers can keep on benefiting as we respond to their needs and the ever-changing environment of the modern workplace. And because we’re adaptive and agile, you can be adaptive and agile too. Nobody wants to be held back by their HR software, but that’s exactly what will happen to anyone that sticks with the hierarchical, relational databases that serve the hierarchical business models of the 20th century.  

So, there really is no time like the present. The likelihood is that whatever you’re using now, your HR software will be obsolete in the next couple of years.  

Whatever brand name is emblazoned across your current solution, doesn’t matter, because you’re set for an overhaul whether you’re ready or not.  

So why not hop in the driving seat and choose change, instead of just riding the stream?    

And we want your people to be excited about using this software. We want them to open up your organisation’s HR portal instead of TikTok.  

So, with our HR software system you won’t even have to try and provide a great employee experience. Because our great CX, is your great EX.