What HR Can Learn from the Chicago Cubs’ World Series Title

Fans raise their hands in excitement at a baseball game.

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We hosted our Udemy for Business People Innovators event in Chicago last Wednesday, and it was exciting to bring together top People executives to share how HR is evolving in their organizations. I can’t help but think the fact that the Cubs won their first World Series title in 108 years on the same night we hosted our first HR event in Chicago was simply a coincidence.

Just as the Cubs won by transforming their game into a data-driven strategy, proving that analytics matter in the world of baseball, so too is HR redefining its game by leveraging big data. At the event, our panel of leaders shared their insights on how HR is undergoing its own makeover and evolving from an administrative, back-office function to a more strategic, decision-centric role.

Today’s HR function is no longer just about providing pay and benefits. Instead, HR is increasingly focused on two important issues: (1) nurturing the people at their organizations and (2) using people analytics to influence key business decisions. In fact, the label HR is currently being rebranded to “People” or “Employee Success” at companies across the U.S.

Beyond benefits and pay
As the administrative functions of HR take a back seat, new people-centric priorities set by the C-suite are coming into play.

“HR is shifting from being reactive to proactive. It’s not just about delivering benefits, payroll, or compliance anymore,” says Elissa Beckman, Head of Talent & HR at SpotHero. “Instead, we’re partnering with executives to discuss career paths and employee growth. Companies have prioritized career development over the day-to-day administrative functions of HR.”

The war for talent is still fierce. Companies realize employees aren’t just focused on pay or perks, but instead care deeply about career and personal development. Our recent Udemy 2016 Workplace Boredom Study, highlights how employees—increasingly powered by millennials—desire to map out their future in order to stay engaged and passionate at their jobs.

Talent is a company’s value proposition
Talent is central to an organization’s ability to thrive. It’s no wonder it has moved high on companies’ to-do lists.

“Talent is one of the most critical value propositions for a company,” explains Jorge E. Diaz, Senior Vice President of Global HR at Fleetmatics. “At the end of the day, the value of HR is about nurturing talent and harnessing the right people at your organization. This is what differentiates your company.”

The new world of HR puts people at the front and center of organizations. How you cultivate this talent affects your company’s performance and bottom line. Modernizing learning is a key element of enriching your talent. The content has to be fresh and relevant to employees. Moreover, it’s about engaging your employees in fun and innovative ways.

“Learning and development should be integrated into all aspects of the business,” says Namrata Yadav, Bank of America’s Senior Vice President and Head of Inclusion Strategy and Diversity & Inclusion Learning. “It’s also about changing the way you deliver training content. At Bank of America, we provide diversity and inclusion training in the form of a cool talk show or coffee chat ranging from taboo diversity topics to progressive inclusive culture topics. It’s not mandatory, but month over month, we’ve had a great turn out. It’s addictive like social media and people just want to be part of the dialogue.”

Making good people decisions
Beyond nurturing talent, new technologies that analyze all the “people” data at organizations are inciting their own revolution, and HR leaders increasingly have a seat at the table when it comes to shaping an organization’s strategic direction.

“My vision is an HR function that helps our leaders and managers make good people decisions every single day. This is the path to building a world-class company. We extend that logic to all aspects of our business,” explains Madan Nagaldinne, Chief People Officer at ContextMedia, Inc. “Every day our managers are making thousands of microdecisions about people, how do we hire, who do we promote, how do we assess, you name it. Our goal is provide a solid decision-making framework based on people analytics.”

With the new people-centric organization and HR’s rising influence in the C-suite dialogue, companies that only focus on the administrative, day-to-day functions of HR will be left behind.

HR departments that reinvent themselves like the Chicago Cubs and transform into a data-driven and people-focused company will be the organizations that succeed.