New research finds four key priorities HR needs to focus on to keepÂ talent top of mind.
By Mike DiClaudio
Todayâs HR leaders continue to face disruption onÂ multiple fronts. Constant technology innovation isÂ changing the face of the workplace and the workforce.Â Unprecedented competition for recruiting and retainingÂ talent is changing the balance of power betweenÂ employer and employee. HR has to respond if itÂ wants to remain a relevant and influential part of theÂ organization.
KPMGâs recent survey, Future of HR 2020: Which path areÂ you taking?, finds that leading HR organizations haveÂ simultaneously targeted four key priorities: shaping theÂ workforce for the future, fostering the right companyÂ culture, enhancing the employee experience, andÂ leveraging data and analytics.
1. Ever-changing technology is shaping the workforce forÂ the future. The so-called âFourth Industrial Revolutionââthe convergence of artificial intelligence (AI), roboticÂ process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML), andÂ other cognitive platformsâis changing the nature ofÂ work at a foundational level. Having a clear grasp onÂ how to predict and respond to these changes is perhapsÂ the biggest challenge for HR leaders today.
It requires transforming the overall shape, size,Â composition, and skills needed in the workforce.Â HR leaders are focused on automating certain tasksÂ and hiring or contracting a variety of worker typesÂ (permanent, gig, contingent, and robots) to ensure thatÂ their organizations are staffed with the appropriate skillsÂ and resources. Organizations also need to put programsÂ in place to upskill workers, particularly to enhance theÂ digital capabilities theyâll need to seamlessly functionÂ together with AI and RPA to drive business value.
Workforce shaping is not just a case of doing traditionalÂ workforce planning harder and more quickly. TraditionalÂ workforce planning tends to anchor the outcomes, but itÂ doesnât properly factor in the enormous disruption andÂ potential opportunities driven by technology. WorkforceÂ shaping forecasts future business scenarios and thenÂ works backwards to frame the operational decisions thatÂ need to be made for success.
Do not underestimate the scope of whatâs needed forÂ workforce shaping and upskilling. Senior leadershipÂ needs to provide HR with adequate support and fundingÂ in order for HRâs efforts to be successful.
2. Company culture continues to be a differentiator.Â Company culture has risen to the top of the C-suiteÂ agenda, according to KPMGâs 2019 CEO Outlook Survey.Â CHROs and their teams must be prepared to play aÂ leading role in driving, shaping, and maintaining aÂ culture thatâs aligned with organizational businessÂ strategies.
This means coming up with a variety of strategies thatÂ shape cultural behaviors, like team-based awards,Â promotions, individual performance awards, andÂ training, in a way that fits in with senior leadershipâsÂ vision. For example, the 2019 CEO Outlook study foundÂ that nearly 85 percent of CEOs report that they wantÂ a culture where failure in pursuit of innovation isÂ embraced. But thereâs no one ârightâ culture for everyÂ organization. For example, a culture of regulatoryÂ compliance might be appropriate for one company,Â whereas a culture of digital innovation might be moreÂ suitable for others.
Regardless of what the right culture for a company is, HRÂ is responsible for shepherding, facilitating, and helpingÂ drive the culture change effort. HR should also makeÂ efforts to monitor and maintain the ideal culture.
3. Enhancing the employee experience will help withÂ recruiting and retaining strategies. With record lowÂ unemployment rates in the United States and globalÂ competition for talent, the demand for workers,Â particularly those with specialized skills, exceeds supply.Â So, itâs not a surprise that enhancing the employeeÂ experience also ranks high on the list of HR priorities inÂ the upcoming year.
Since workers have greater leverage than ever before,Â organizations need to be deliberate about the designÂ of their employee experience if they want to attractÂ and retain the most talented individuals. In additionÂ to offering meaningful, rewarding work, HR needsÂ to consider everything that touches an employee orÂ a recruit, including their digital experience, socialÂ experience, and environmental experience.
HR should scrutinize the work a person does, the toolsÂ theyâre provided with, and the environment theyâreÂ surrounded by as part of its employee experience strategy.Â In fact, âdesign thinkingâ is now ranked as a top skillÂ required by the HR function. In addition, many HR teamsÂ have found that working with the customer experienceÂ team can be very useful, as they use the same basicÂ approach and methodology for designing the customerÂ experience.
Another critical component of shaping the employeeÂ experience is measuring it. The measuring process canÂ employ formal survey tools, pulse surveys, focus groupsÂ and town halls, in-the-moment listening posts, and digitalÂ monitoring technologies. These all allow organizationsÂ to get a real-time feel for how the employee experienceÂ initiative is progressing.
4. HR needs to take data and analytics to the next level inÂ order to gather key insights about the workforce. LeadingÂ HR functions are also focused on utilizing the power of dataÂ science to generate insights that benefit the organizationÂ and directly inform workforce and business decisions. ThatâsÂ why nearly 40 percent of survey respondents list enhancingÂ HR technology, including analytics and automation (viaÂ RPA), as their top two technology investment areas.
Data and analytics capabilities can allow HR to understandÂ business needs in a more sophisticated way when it comesÂ to accurately predicting potential challenges and comingÂ up with creative solutions to deal with them. For example,Â HR is already using analytics to identify the root causesÂ of turnover, differentiate behaviors of high versus lowÂ performers, and spot potential candidates for burnout andÂ disengagement.
These efforts tend to be more successful when HR worksÂ closely with other functions in order to gather, integrate,Â and analyze data from a variety of sources in real time,Â including internally, from the broader organization, andÂ from external data sources like email, chat, calendar, andÂ social media. HR must also be open to hiring individualsÂ like data scientists with skills that traditional HR candidatesÂ donât possess. The survey ranks this as one of the top threeÂ roles that HR executives plan to invest in over the next twoÂ to three years.
HR teams worldwide are reassessing what they are doing,Â what they need to do, and how they can transform toÂ deliver needed services and be an employer of choice. ButÂ itâs also clear that this canât be done overnight.
A good way to start is by adopting a multi-year roadÂ map that integrates changes to service delivery, peopleÂ capabilities, technology, process, and data to create aÂ more worker-centric HR function. This will lead to a moreÂ holistic, whole system approach to shaping the workplace,Â improving company culture and embracing an increasinglyÂ digital workforce.
Mike DiClaudio is a principal for KPMG.