HR’s role in creating future proof talent


HR’s role in creating future proof talent

Navigating the business to overcome their people challenges

Organizations face challenges of adapting to their quickly changing and increasingly complex environment and customer demands on a daily basis. Their human capital is key to successfully overcome these challenges, but massive changes are taking place in the composition of the workforce and their expectations. This blog describes the biggest challenges in the employee life cycle and advises how to re-invent your talent management to overcome these challenges

Daniëlle Pannekoek & Bart Moen

It’s time for a new approach

On a daily basis organizations face the challenge of adapting to their quickly changing and increasingly complex environment and customer demands. Increasing numbers of organizations are looking for opportunities to organize around speed and agility, while ensuring efficiencies. They are restructuring and adopting methods like Agile, DevOps and Lean Start-up. Combined with a high level of automation, the work, worker and workplace are changing.

The pace of technological developments and innovations is ever increasing and impacting required capabilities and competences. Skills that are relevant today can rapidly become obsolete and almost 50 percent of today’s jobs will be gone within 10 years. In parallel, workforce composition changes are taking place. Never before has the workforce consisted of five different generations. By 2020 millennials will make up 50% of this population and they have different expectations around work and careers compared with previous generations. Further, increasing globalization and collaboration are leading to more diversity, resulting in both opportunities as challenges.

Organizations are looking for HR to answer questions like; what type of employees and leaders do we need, what are their skills and how do we design careers? In every step of the employee lifecycle – from recruitment to development – a new approach is required. This blog gives an overview of the main challenges per phase and provides direction for HR to navigate the business managing these challenges.

How do we effectively design the organization and execute workforce planning?

Many organizations are designed on principles to realize efficiencies. These organizations often have fixed teams in which expertise is bundled. The organization of the future however, requires more flexibility and teams that can easily combine their expertise. Teams that are equipped to change as needed and ultimately form a network of teams, teams that are able to work independently and deliver with speed.

In order to make the best use of these teams, organizations need to have a clear view on their required capabilities. Strategic workforce planning (SWP) creates insights into long-term workforce requirements. Providing clarity on which competences and skills their (future) workforce need to possess in order to make well informed decisions on how to (co) build, buy, or borrow these. The speed with which workforce demands are changing, combined with and accelerated by technological developments and automation, make this process even more complex. SWP therefore needs to be a continuous joint effort of HR, the business and other functions like Finance and IT.

The business plays a key role in identifying future capabilities and line-managers in assessing whether employees possess the right competences or are able to develop them. For years the rise of technology placed a greater demand on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills. The importance of creative thinking and visual design has been acknowledged and resulted in adding the “Arts” skill to traditional STEM skills (STEAM). However organizations realize that essential human talents are dominated by cognitive and social competences. Examples of these competences are complex problem solving, critical thinking and active learning. These competences focus on an employee’s ability as well as attitude and behavior, and can often be linked to the core value of organizations to strengthen the “DNA” of the organization and its employees.

How do I attract my future employees?

Attracting talented and motivated employees is a challenge, especially in a scarce labor market, but essential for growth and profitability. Successful organizations have a compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP), clearly stating how their organization is different from others and reflecting the “soul” of the organization. The EVP should give insights into what the organization asks from their employees and what they will give in return. Combined with a strong Employer Brand this increases the chances of successfully attracting talent.
Digital innovations and social media provide improved access to the labor market and transparency about organizations to potential candidates. This is useful because an organization’s future workforce will likely be comprised of fixed employees, contractors, crowdsourcing and even robots. This leads to challenges in identifying and attracting the right talent, chances of success can be increased by integrating cognitive analytics and developments.

How do I manage talent and employee performance?

Changes to the work, worker and workplace require new approaches to performance management. Research shows that 80 percent of the millennials want to provide upward feedback and receive continuous feedback. New performance management is focused on the team, not just the individual and data is captured throughout the year, enabling leadership to make informed career decisions. By moving away from ratings and forced distribution, performance conversations can focus on instant, useful, and insightful feedback to drive high performance instead of a numerical ranking compared to peers.

Results of performance management are key input for career management and succession planning. Improved insights into performance and more frequent conversations about development and growth will provide answers to whether the employee is willing and able to move to the next level. After all, managing succession and careers is challenging enough with the average career lasting 60 years and a decrease in tenure to 4,5 years on average. In addition to that, fewer employees are interested in a traditional career path and steadily climbing the corporate ladder. Millennials are significantly more likely to accept career opportunities at an organization where they are able to make a difference, and overall this opportunity will lead to greater levels of loyalty within a workforce.

Organizations are changing the design of careers and “open career models” are gaining traction. These models focus on facilitating the work by assembling the most appropriate talent. Career movements are based on the intersection of an employee’s interest and the organization’s needs. This not only requires a redesign of careers but a redesign of work as well. Shifting the focus from optimizing processes to strengthening the collaboration between humans and machines in order to get the best of both worlds. Offering your employees sufficient opportunities for continuous learning is a pre-requisite to success.

How do I realize continuous learning and development?

Our digital and connected world provides an enormous amount of learning material, often of high quality, low costs and only a mouse click away. HR’s challenge is to integrate this content into the learning curriculum and to create a personalized and unique learning experiences. One focusing on context over content and contributing to a culture of continuous learning in which employees take ownership for their own growth and development. HR plays a key role in developing the ‘employee of the future’. These employees have a deep content knowledge as well as the ability to look across the boundaries of their own expertise. Therefore they are able to look at problems from another perspective leading to more effective collaboration and more flexibility in your workforce.

How do I create a culture and leadership which enables these changes?

Culture and leadership can contribute largely to increased employee engagement and productivity. However, despite numerous attempts by many organizations to improve culture and leadership, engagement rates remain flat year on year. A new approach is required – one that builds on the foundation of culture and engagement, focuses on the employee experience more holistically (13) and acknowledges the complexity of the current work environment. The objective is to understand, create and improve the employee experience throughout the employee life cycle. Based on this understanding, targeted and integrated interventions can be launched, positively contributing to the culture of the organization and making culture more quantifiable and predictable.

The role of leadership remains an important one, but leadership requirements are changing as a result of changes in organizational structures and ways of working. Empowered employees require inspirational leaders with a clear vision, leading based on trust and transparency, focussing to further build on individual’s strengths and stimulate continuous development. Leaders of the future facilitate collaboration, innovation and experimentation to increase individual and organizational performance. These characteristics can largely differ from the ones in play today, therefore a shift in approach for leadership selection and development is needed.

And what about my network of partners?

The level of collaboration is not just increasing within the confines of the organization but moves beyond. More and more organizations acknowledge the value of their network of partners and suppliers, their so called ecosystem. External partners become an integrated part in delivering the work and the employees of your partners are actively contributing to the performance of your organization. Involving them into your talent management therefore makes perfect sense.

Let’s get to work!

More than ever, the importance of building the right capabilities, with the use of human talents – and supported by technology - is acknowledged. HR has the opportunity to prepare organizations and employees to be ready for the future. However this requires a transformation of thinking and approach of HR itself.
Changes in each phase of the employee life cycle are required, and while these phases are interlinked and cannot be seen in isolation, changes can start small and be sequential. Where and how HR starts making these changes is of lesser importance, as long as these changes originate from a thoughtful and intentional talent strategy, so let’s get to work!

More information on Future-proof talent management?

Do you want to know more on Talent Management? Please contact Bart Moen or Daniëlle Pannekoek via the contact details below. 

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