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Today’s global organizations must navigate a “new world of work” that has turned traditional assumptions about talent management upside down.
In this new world, the barriers between work and life have been all but eliminated. Talent is in high demand, and many organizations cannot keep up. Millennials will soon make up 50 percent of the workforce—and they have different values than previous generations do. From a macroeconomic perspective, the world has entered a period of stronger economic growth.
With 2015 expected to be the year of the employee, it is increasingly imperative for organizations to reimagine and reinvent the way they approach talent management—or risk falling behind.
This year’s report spotlights the 10 trends that shape the new world of work. This is the largest-ever longitudinal global study of talent, leadership, and HR challenges and readiness, with more than 3,000 respondents from 106 countries responding.
We believe that 2015 is a critical year for HR leaders. These trends will serve as a guide for the new way of thinking and actions required to meet new challenges.
10 human capital trends for 2015 Percentage of respondents who say the topic is “important” or “urgent”
1. Engagement and culture – Create meaningful work (87%) 2. Leadership – Develop global leaders at all levels (87) 3. L&D – Reinvent the learning experience (86) 4. On-demand workforce – Engage all workers (80) 5. Reskilling HR – Align HR with business goals (80) 6. Performance management – Shift from evaluators to coaches (75) 7. People analytics – Need long-term commitment (75) 8. Simplifying work – Focus on what matters (71) 9. Machines as talent – Look for opportunities (57) 10. People data – Leverage inside and outside data (52)
But our study shows that HR is not keeping up with the growing demands of business. To put it bluntly, there’s a yawning gap between what business leaders want and what HR is delivering.
The findings For the third year in a row, “leadership” appeared as one of the top three most pressing business challenges. Nearly 9 out of 10 global companies cited leadership as a top issue—with 50 percent of executives citing leadership shortfalls as “urgent,” up from 38 percent last year. Organizations around the world are struggling to strengthen their leadership pipelines, yet over the past year businesses fell further behind, particularly in their ability to develop millennial leaders. Why is this? Too many organizations treat leadership as a short-term training program rather than as a strategic initiative that requires long-term, consistent investment. Most companies treat leadership sporadically, confining development opportunities to a select few employees, failing to make long-term investments in leadership, and neglecting to build robust leadership pipelines at all levels. For all the talk about leadership as a CEO-level priority, companies do not consistently invest in this area. What’s needed? A focus on leadership at all levels, coupled with consistent year-over-year spending in this area, is essential for organizations to remain competitive and effectively engage employees in the new world of work.
The findings Learning and development issues rocketed from the No. 8 to the No. 3 talent challenge in this year’s study, with 84 percent of survey participants rating learning as a critical or urgent problem. Despite this demand, capabilities in learning dropped significantly, and the gap between urgency and readiness is three times worse in 2015 than it was in 2014. Companies see an urgent need to build skills and capabilities and are now focused on transforming or fixing their learning and development organizations.
Why is this? Senior business leaders increasingly see shortages of skills as a major impediment to executing their business strategies. Only 28 percent of the executives in Deloitte’s survey believe their organizations have the skills they need to compete, down from 76 percent only one year ago. As the economy improves and the market for highly skilled talent tightens even further, companies realize they cannot simply recruit all the talent they need but instead must develop it internally.
What’s needed? Faced with gaps in talent and skills, HR needs to reinvent the learning process. In the past three years, there has been an explosion of new learning offerings, including MOOCs, digital learning tools, video offerings, and training systems. More than one-third of all learning now takes place on mobile devices, facilitated by video and learning apps. This is the kind of personalized, digital learning experience that employees increasingly want. Companies that transform their learning and development organizations are not only able to accelerate skills development and more successfully build their leadership pipelines, but also directly impact employee engagement and retention, one of the biggest challenges cited this year.
The findings In an era of heightened corporate transparency, greater workforce mobility, and serious skills shortages, the issues of culture, engagement, and retention have emerged as the top critical issues for business leaders—not simply an HR problem. Culture and engagement is the No. 1 issue companies face around the world; 87 percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, and 50 percent call the problem “urgent”—double the number in last year’s survey. Given this new transparency, an organization’s culture can become a key competitive advantage—or its Achilles’ heel. Culture is now a business issue, not just an HR issue. And there’s no place for organizations to hide.
Why is this? Today’s organizations live in a transparent era. Every corporate decision is immediately exposed and debated publicly. Once-private issues are now posted online for every employee—and every potential employee—to read. Culture drives many things within an organization, most prominently employee engagement and retention. That is bad news for a lot of companies. According to the Gallup polling firm, only 13 percent of the global workforce is “highly engaged.” Research from Bersin by Deloitte found that upward of half the workforce would not recommend their employers to their peers.
What’s needed? Organizations that create a culture defined by meaningful work, deep employee engagement, job and organizational fit, and strong leadership are outperforming their peers and will beat their competition in attracting top talent.
The findings Companies are taking a more sophisticated approach to managing all aspects of their workforces, including the hourly, contingent, and contract workforces. More than one-third (34 percent) of all workers in the United States are contract workers, and nearly half (49 percent) of companies say their needs for contingent workers will keep growing over the next three to five years.
Why is this? The “on-demand” workforce offers companies the ability to tap into extensive networks of innovators, technical experts, and seasoned professionals. Today’s workforce is no longer a set of employees who come into the office or factory each morning or shift and go home each night. More and more of the workforce consists of contingent employees who are working variable, often part-time, engagements or schedules, are compensated hourly, are operating remotely, or are actually working for an external consulting firm.
What’s needed? Companies are now beginning to realize that contract labor is often highly talented and should be managed strategically. To engage and retain these workers, companies should think broadly about how their HR programs, strategies, and analytics tools could be applied not only to full-time employees but also to contingent and part-time workers.
The findings Performance management processes affect each of the top business challenges: leadership, engagement, and capability. Most companies tell us that an “up or out” performance management process alone simply does not help solve these problems and, in many cases, makes them worse. Innovative new performance management models are now becoming an imperative as businesses modernize and improve their talent solutions. Change is happening: 86 percent of respondents recently changed their performance management process or plan to change it within 18 months.
Why is this? A well-functioning performance management process should facilitate good management by good managers who are trained as coaches and mentors rather than evaluators and graders. Organizations used to think of performance management as a backward-looking assessment program owned by HR. No longer. Performance management is being reinvented for a new, forward-looking purpose: to serve as an efficient, focused business process that improves employee engagement and drives business results. This redesign focuses less on evaluation and more on agile goal setting, regular feedback, coaching, and development. It shifts the focus away from forced distribution and much more toward helping managers coach people to succeed. By changing this one HR “ingredient,” it is possible to affect many others.
What’s needed? Companies leading this transformation are redefining the way they set goals and evaluate performance, focusing heavily on coaching and feedback and looking for new technologies to make performance management easier. Done well, performance management can be one of the most inspiring and developmental events in an employee’s career and drive performance improvements and organization-wide positive results.
The findings HR needs to deliver greater business impact and drive HR and business innovation. Accomplishing this will require an extreme makeover. While CEOs and top business leaders rate talent as a key priority, only 20 percent of HR professionals give themselves high marks when it comes to addressing their companies’ talent needs. HR’s self-assessment showed virtually no improvement over the previous year. 39% see an urgent need to reskill the HR function.
Why is this? HR is being forced to redefine its role from “service provider” to enabler and builder of talent. HR’s traditional employee service mission is now handled through shared service centers, modern human capital management technologies, and easy-to-access online and mobile applications. This frees HR to advise and consult executives on people-related strategies.
What’s needed? HR needs to dramatically raise its game by aligning its skills and capabilities with the organization’s overall business goals. In this new world, HR is shifting from a group of generalists to a team of highly skilled business consultants. HR can drive operational value by eliminating much of the daily HR transactional work. Companies are moving beyond talk to action: revisiting the operating model, building HR universities, and modernizing relationships with business partners.
The findings Data and analytics are key to solving many of the top challenges we identify in these trends: engagement, leadership, learning, and recruitment. Still too few organizations are actively implementing people analytics capabilities to address complex business and talent needs. Three in four companies (75 percent) believe using people analytics is important, but just 8 percent believe their organizations are “strong” in this area—almost no change over 2014.
Why is this? Leading companies are using analytics to gain a competitive advantage by understanding all elements of the workforce, including to: Understand and predict retention Boost employee engagement Expand talent sources and improve quality of hires Profile high performers in sales and customer service Yet, our survey confirms that most organizations have been slow to get started, showing very little progress in implementing analytics. In fact, this year’s study shows that there has been no year-over-year improvement in analytics capabilities.
What’s needed? People analytics, a capability built over years, is one of the biggest differentiating factors for high-performing HR organizations today. Without early, substantial investments, it is difficult to get traction. Companies must therefore make a serious commitment to this discipline, search for robust solutions from their core system vendors, and hire people into HR who have an interest and background in analytics and statistics.
The findings HR and talent organizations are expanding their HR data strategies by harnessing and integrating external data from social media platforms and other external sources. This trend is accelerating as more employee data appears online—and 39 percent of companies are now significantly leveraging social data for recruiting, engagement, and understanding of the employment brand. While analytics programs based on internal data can be tremendously valuable, the most powerful solutions will leverage external data as well as internal data for most critical talent decisions.
Why is this? Today’s forward-thinking HR organizations are leveraging the treasure trove of data available through outside sources, such as social networks, to monitor and build employment brand, identify and recruit talent, better understand compensation strategies, recognize flight risk, and monitor employee satisfaction and engagement.
What’s needed? The time has arrived for HR to leverage the valuable insights people data can yield—from internal and external sources. Organizations that do so while remaining cognizant of important privacy laws will greatly improve HR functions across the board—from talent recruitment and acquisition to engagement and retention.
The findings Organizations are simplifying work in response to employees feeling overwhelmed by increasing organizational complexity, growing information overload, and a highly stressful 24/7 work environment. More than 7 out of 10 organizations rated the need to simplify work highly, with more than 25 percent citing it as an urgent problem. Ten percent of companies have a simplification program; 22 percent are working on one.
Why is this? Technology, globalization, and compliance needs continuously add complexity to work. Left unaddressed, this leads to an organizational environment that damages employee engagement, lowers quality, and reduces innovation and customer service. Some steps are already being taken. Some companies are waking up to the need to “simplify the work environment,” reduce workloads, eliminate steps, and engineer simpler applications that don’t require lots of training or time to use.
What’s needed? In 2015, successful companies will continue to take steps to simplify work, reduce administrative burdens, and streamline complex processes. Business and HR leaders should put “simplification” on the agenda for 2015 and focus on individual, organizational, and work-specific programs that reduce complexity and help people focus on what really matters. Taking these steps will ultimately help drive engagement and productivity.
The findings Exciting cognitive computing technologies are now able to perform many tasks once considered solely the domain of humans. Speech recognition, visual perception, sensor technology, and artificial intelligence are all converging to produce machines that talk, see, read, listen, and learn. With cognitive machines in the workforce, work can become better, faster, and safer. Nearly 6 out of 10 executives surveyed rated this trend as important, but less than 1 in 10 professed to understanding its implications.
Why is this? The increasing power of computers and software to perform cognitive skills is challenging organizations to rethink the design of work and the capabilities their employees need to succeed. About 50% of jobs are likely to disappear within five years. HR’s role is to focus on the opportunities cognitive technologies offer through collaboration between people and machines to make companies more efficient, productive, and profitable, and jobs more meaningful and engaging. In the coming era of human-machine collaboration, jobs, organizations, and management practices will need to be thoughtfully and deliberately redesigned. Employees—as well as executives and managers—will need to acquire new skills. Both business leaders and HR professionals should seize this opportunity to think creatively in helping their organizations take full advantage of emerging cognitive technologies.
What’s needed? By staying abreast of changes in cognitive technologies and focusing on strategies to help redesign work, HR can drive productivity improvements—and help people redefine their roles—while maximizing the benefits of these new technologies.
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The full Human Capital Trends 2015 report goes much deeper. You’ll find stories of how leading companies are leveraging these trends for competitive advantage. And if this all seems overwhelming, we’ve incorporated practical advice for companies and HR leaders on where to start.
Our advice is straightforward: Jump into the fray with enthusiasm. Seize ownership of these trends and exert leadership in addressing them. Make 2015 a year of boldness in your human capital strategies. Innovate. Reinvent. Reimagine.