An employee value proposition for the future of work – is HR ready?

The opportunity to continually learn new skills is highly valued by employees.

As the ‘war for talent’ intensifies and organisations battle to stay ahead of digital transformation, HR strategies could hold the key to success in these turbulent times. David Perring, director of research at Fosway Group, highlights some of the main findings of its 2017-18 HR Realities research in partnership with UNLEASH conference and expo.

The editor of Wired magazine once said: “The world will never move this slowly ever again”. This encapsulates the experience of many of us at work – a sense of organisations moving faster and faster.

We live in a world where technology is constantly developing and that is having a huge effect on the world of work. Coping with this change, becoming more flexible and being able to harness new technology all ultimately represent an opportunity for HR.

The soundbite regarding the “war for talent” was originally coined by McKinsey & Company back in 1997.

But the scale of change organisations are now facing – with more diverse teams, wider age demographics, more flexible working arrangements – means there has never been a more challenging time to compete for the best people.

Almost 90% of organisations see skills gaps – from soft skills to leadership – remaining as significant, if not more so in the future. In order to close these gaps, employers need to rethink how they attract, recruit, develop and retain the right people.

Virtual working, sabbaticals, access to social media and informal dress codes are just a few of the growing requirements of today’s workforce. And organisations that are unable to compete risk getting left behind as the best of the talent either won’t work for them or will eventually leave to go and work somewhere else.

Learning is top priority

But this is where HR has the potential to positively influence and make a real impact. Five of the top six rated elements of the employee value proposition – why people want to work for your organisation – are owned by HR. This presents a business-critical position to ensure your organisation becomes an employer of choice.

The opportunity to continually learn new skills is ranked highest by employees. In fact, there is something growth-orientated in all six themes – learning, variety, coaching and personal responsibility, mentoring, regular role change and experiencing a wide range of cultures. Some might even say it’s a manifesto for the future of work – how organisations can effectively unleash the potential of their people.

But despite an improved focus on areas such as employer reputation and employer brand for well over 70% of businesses, there is too little focus from organisations on the differentiators that will retain top talent, such as career and talent management, especially when the availability of skills is so scarce.

Invest in innovation

One way to unlock talent management processes, including career planning and succession, is investing in the right HR technology. There are solutions available that not only support this activity, but – powered by artificial intelligence (AI) – can actually drive it. There are already chatbots acting as personal career coaches and internal vacancy assistants. This is not tomorrow’s technology, this is available now, although less than 12% are currently using it.

But there is too much emphasis being placed on transforming the management of core HR processes. Not that this is unimportant, but it is not about to differentiate your organisation in people’s minds. And one of the biggest challenges – and opportunities – that exists for HR might be resetting its primary role from transactional processes to truly maximising and realising the skills and performance of its people.

And despite cutbacks, investment in HR remains strong, with more than 70% expecting to increase spend on HR technology and innovation, and more than 60% expecting to increase spend on developing HR expertise in the year ahead.

Beware the hype

There is too much emphasis being placed on transforming the management of core HR processes. Not that this is unimportant, but it is not about to differentiate your organisation in people’s minds.”

Technology choices are not without their own challenges however. Fewer than one in four HR customers say their solution providers continue to innovate their systems frequently. And the satisfaction levels are generally underwhelming across the board – from payroll through to recruitment and talent management less than 20% are very satisfied with their HR systems.

Overall, employee engagement remains the number one measure for success in HR. Its biggest drivers reflect many of the top factors of the employee value proposition including the organisation’s brand, leadership behaviours and the importance of personal development. But many of the barriers to success sit outside of HR’s control – 88% cite the skills and attitudes of managers as a major barrier to employee engagement, for example.

This again highlights the need for HR to remember the ‘human’ element of its remit; to cut through the digital hype and extend beyond its traditional functional scope. The opportunity to act as a key partner in shaping the organisations of the future is there for the taking.

The data referenced here is based on Fosway’s 2017-18 HR Realities research  in partnership with UNLEASH with responses from more than 600 senior HR professionals from across Europe.

David Perring

About David Perring

David Perring is director of research for Fosway Group and has been a learning professional for over 30 years.
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