talent, talent management

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From interviews with 18 HR leaders around the world, it was found that HR pathfinders challenge existing approaches to talent management, experiment with new ways of working and technologies, and more.

What does it mean to be a HR pathfinder? According to KPMG's global report, The Future of HR: Lessons from the Pathfinders, it means "to navigate the double disruption of COVID-19 and digital transformation, and shape the workforce for the future through focusing on integrated and mutually reinforcing capabilities such as employee experience, data and analytics, workforce shaping, and digital HR and learning." That must be quite chunky to understand.

If we can break the definition down for you, and make it simpler to decipher, to become a HR pathfinder is to essentially:

  • Tackle head-on the evolving challenges around inclusion, diversity and equity (IDE) in the workforce, and understand what this means for employee experience, culture, and the talent pool of the future;
  • Challenge existing approaches to talent management and embrace a new ’total workforce’ philosophy that fills talent gaps, go beyond the high-performers, and focus on everyone for both current and future skill needs;
  • Experiment with new ways of working and emerging technologies to help employees adapt to a disrupted reality, while rethinking pre-conceived notions of how work gets done, and
  • Question HR’s own strengths and opportunities and use data and analytics to explore how the function can work better with other business functions to shape the workforce of the future.

Continue below to learn how to achieve these four aspects and become a HR pathfinder in 2021.

#1 Tackling IDE

It was revealed that CEOs across the globe are increasingly investing in environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, with three in 10 (30%) looking to invest more than 10% of their companies’ revenues on ESG initiatives over the next three years. The report attributed this trend to the pandemic as an important component, with IDE being among the top concerns to address.

As a HR pathfinder, you should then embrace this trend. You should recognise how IDE can bring value to the organisation and its culture (i.e retain and attract employees) and, therefore, find and develop effective strategies to achieve it.

"The success of a business depends on the success of diversity in all its forms: gender, race, age, physical abilities, sexual orientation and so on," explained L'Oréal's Isabelle Minneci, Global Vice President of HR (Luxe Division) in the report. "It’s not just about hiring, but also involves developing an IDE mindset and culture across the workforce."

And one strategy to tackle this is the use of data to identify hidden biases and to recruit a diverse workforce, the report highlighted. Solutions have to go beyond ‘check the box’ diversity activities; it requires significant investment and management efforts to shift the way the company operates.

More importantly, organisations need to challenge the culture and organisational norms to enable diverse talent to progress and accelerate careers. This can include having diverse candidates considered for leadership roles, or panel interviews made up of diverse decision-makers in the company.

#2 Challenging talent management

Challenge can come in three forms:

The first is embracing a new 'total workforce' approach to talent. In this case, a HR pathfinder has to be more employee-centric, rethink performance management, improve digital enablement, and help employees build the skills they need — not only for today, but also for the coming years. Further, you should promote a more inclusive and diverse working environment.

All in all, create the right organisational culture and focus on the employee experience. This is crucial as employee experience can directly influence customer experience and centricity, the report noted. "Those who deliver superior customer service also tend to focus more on creating tailored and personalised experiences for their own employees."

Some strategies shared were: to create engaging apps for employees through all phases of their day (from entering time to COVID-19 health checks, collaboration, and getting relevant information for a specific employee's profile), or to invest in new L&D platforms and virtual working technologies.

The second involves reskilling and upskilling of the workforce. A HR pathfinder today would, for instance, look at how you can take people who are in roles that are at risk of displacement and reskill them to be more valuable, instead of buying talents. This notion, coupled with learning programmes, makes it easier to find talent throughout the organisation, identify skills gaps, connect employees to projects based on skill requirements, and empower employees to identify meaningful development opportunities.

The third is to relook the approach to performance management. This is crucial because "organisations recognise more and more that organisational performance is positively connected to teaming and collaboration. Companies that foster collaboration are five times as likely to be high performing."

And to relook is to redefine the meaning of performance, Claire Ainscough, Chief People Officer, Ocado Group, shared in the report. That is to understand the word 'performance' as a collective, and not an individual effort.

According to the report, this can be done through quarterly check-ins and transparent, real-time feedback in place of two heavyweight cycles at midyear and year-end, or even gathering feedback through various avenues (e.g. surveys, interviews, pilots), and providing solid evidence to show why changes should be made.

This, however, cannot be achieved without leadership buy-in and manager coaching.

#3 Experiment new ways of working

COVID-19 has pushed organisations to forgo their ideals about where and how work gets done. Thus, a HR pathfinder would find and experiment with ways to create a positive employee experience within that new environment. And this can be done by first removing the concept of a traditional work week (Mondays to Fridays, 9pm to 5pm), and then promoting flexibility hours, for instance.

If it fails, it fails; what is crucial here is that the organisation can learn together and adapt.

"Waiting to find the perfect solution before you move ahead would have put us at a competitive disadvantage,” said Tamara Hassan, HR Director, Mars Wrigley Asia, urging HR professionals to have the courage to fail because it provides an opportunity to try innovative things and learn from them. That, according to her, is a success.

COVID-19 has also highlighted the importance of employee listening. When traditional work routines shifted to remote work, employees needed a sense of connection and engagement, especially when the pandemic has blurred the lines between work and life.

Hence, consider employing a continuous listening strategy to allow employees to provide anonymous feedback, answer questions, and engage in conversations with leaders. This way, employee motivations can be understood, needs can be predicted, and issues can be resolved before employees even know they have them.

#4 Question ourselves as HR

While it is important to evaluate our surroundings to ensure things work out, it is also pivotal you assess yourself as HR professionals.

There are four ways to do this, as follows:

  1. Value - To engage in new conversations with both leaders and employees on how you can be more successful, engaged and purposeful. Ask questions such as "How can we engage Generation Z so that they experience a great early career as well as the benefits of hybrid working?" or "In what ways will our workforce shape, size, organisation, and skills be different in three years?"
  2. Delivery - To use data and analytics to find answers to the business’s most burning questions, or to better understand the workforce.
  3. End-to-end capabilities - To develop an approach and work with the business to unearth the questions and hypotheses that need to be explored and conducted; to help turn insights into action on the ground, and to make changes to policy, process, and practice.
  4. HR architecture - To be more integrated (i.e moving away from moving from siloed Centres of Excellence to Communities of Practice, such as ‘talent and learning’); to be less process driven, to be more focused on purpose, experience centricity, and business results, and to be more holistic in building the total workforce.

To read the full report, click here.


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