Image: iStock/natasaadzic

Employers have apparently turned their focus onto the wrong important issues, and don’t realize what their employees actually want and need, a new IBM study found. “Accelerating the Journey to HR 3.0,” which gathered insights from more than 1,500 global HR executives in 20 countries and 15 industries with the help of HR expert Josh Bersin, revealed the most pressing concerns the workforce is experiencing.

Seven of 10 HR executives acknowledged a need for reinvention, and plan to double efforts in the next two years to skill their teams to new capabilities.

Workers feel employers need to do more

A majority of employees (62%) feel they lack skills and their employers don’t help them develop skills or learn the skills necessary for their jobs and to learn in new ways. HR executives (74%) believe that they’re doing a “good job” with reskilling.

While 46% of employees claimed their company supports their physical and emotional health, 54% feel their employers do not; 80% of executives feel their company is supportive across the board. The coronavirus pandemic altered, permanently, the expectations of employees.

Clear communication can cure many an ill, and with transparency and guidelines for working in today’s environment, it’s critical.

  • Only 51% of employees felt there is a lack of transparency in their company
  • 86% of executives said their companies provided clear communication and guidelines for how to work in today’s environment, while only 51% of employees agreed

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

A significant disconnect

The main problem the study found is “significant disconnect” between what leaders and employees believe about how effectively companies are addressing gaps, i.e., employees wanting company leaders to take an active role in supporting their physical and emotional health, while those leaders are focused on what they consider their “biggest hurdles to progress:” Organizational complexity, inadequate skills, and employee burnout.

  • 74% of of executives said they help employees learn the skills needed to work in a new way
  • 62% of employees disagree and do not feel employers are helping them learn the skills
  • 80% of employers said they support the physical and emotional health of their workforce
  • 54% of employees said they don’t feel that support

Bold steps the world’s best companies are taking

A “radical reinvention,” the IBM report found, is an imperative need, and more than two-thirds of executives surveyed said “the global HR function is ripe for disruption.”

Five imperatives for the future of HR

Image: IBM/joshbersinacademy

The report cited 10 action areas, noted the implications for the enterprise, and the impact the actions will have if executed. The action areas are measuring employee performance continuously and transparently, investing in the new role of leadership, building and applying capabilities in agile and design thinking, paying for performance and skills in a fair and transparent way, continuously building skills in the flow of work, design intentional experiences for employees, modernizing the HR technology portfolio, applying data-driven insights, reorienting and reskilling HR business partners, and sourcing talent strategically. The impact of the first four are “very high,” and the rest are “high.”

Image: IBM/joshbersinacademy

Action area 1

Companies must measure employee performance continuously and transparently, use employee performance to coach workers toward higher performance, and make skills growth a key part of performance management.

Key actions: Establish a rhythm of perpetual feedback throughout the year, promote transparency with employees through shared goal setting, apply analytics to link results to workforce growth and development.

Action area 2

Companies must invest in the new role of leadership, promote transparency through open dialogue with the workforce, create a sense of purpose by empowering teams.

Key actions: Invest continuously in leadership skills development and growth, leverage AI and predictive analytics to identify new leaders and foster transparency with the workforce through ongoing dialogue.

Action area 3

Companies must build up and apply capabilities in agile practices and design thinking because only 47% of all HR teams have expertise in agile practices today. Companies must also actively invest to upskill HR teams.

Key actions: Invest in upskilling the HR team in agile practices and design thinking, build trust with the workforce by co-creating employee solutions; release new solutions in iterative bursts and respond quickly to feedback.

Action area 4

Companies must pay for performance and skills in a fair and transparent way, by rewarding employees with essential or business-critical skills, and tie skill attainment to compensation.

Key actions: Establish pay transparency goals that align with company values, leverage AI carefully to identify and eliminate pay bias across the enterprise, and encourage targeted workforce development by commoditizing critical skills.

Action area 5

Companies must continually build skills in the flow of work, and use advanced analytics to know exactly which skills you have in the workforce, and use AI to identify the skills you’ll need for the future.

Key actions: Aim for deep visibility into the skills you have today, leverage digital tools to create personalized learning experiences for every employee, foster a culture of perpetual learning that rewards continual skills growth.

Action area 6

Companies must design intentional experiences for employees, create consumer-grade digital employee experiences and listen to the workforce for better experiences, and incorporate employee opinion into HR solution design.

Key actions: Tune in to the voice of the employee with advanced analytics, design employee experiences using rapid, iterative design principles, and build an employee experience coalition that crosses traditional organizational silos.

Action area 7

Companies must modernize HR technology portfolios, deploy a consistent, integrated HR architecture, define a common skill taxonomy and cultivate AI skills in HR.

Key actions: Move HR systems to the cloud for scalability and flexibility, leverage artificial intelligence across HR to improve the employee experience, and develop high-tech skills in the HR team in analytics, AI, and machine learning.

Action area 8

Companies must apply data-driven insights, source and analyze external data for future success, use AI and analytics to make better talent decisions, and invest to build expertise in data analysis.

Key actions: Look at data inside and outside the enterprise to get a 360-degree view of the labor force, invest in AI to decipher these valuable new sources of employee and candidate data, and put the data to work to continually improve business and workforce outcomes.

Action area 9

Companies must reorient and reskill HR business partners (HRBP) as strategic advisers, help HR professionals acquire business acumen, ensure clarity across all key roles in HR, and help HRBPs focus on advising senior business leaders.

Key actions: Rethink the role of HRBP as strategic adviser, develop strong business acumen and industry expertise in your HRBPs, and engage and foster relationships with business and line leaders to demonstrate value.

Action area 10

Companies must source new talent strategically, invest in AI to improve hiring, build a strong employment brand to secure the best talent, and use AI and emerging assessment techniques to find new talent.

Key actions:

Create personalized candidate experiences to source and woo top talent, define and build a strong employer brand that aligns with the enterprise strategy, and embrace AI ethically to build a diverse workforce that is flexible and adaptable.