Business leaders struggling to keep up with demands of individuals and technological developments in the workplace

Organisations are struggling to keep pace with workplace shifts including skills gaps, the development of artificial intelligence, the demands of employees and new social expectations, according to the latest Human Capital Trends report from Deloitte. In its 2018 edition, The Rise of the Social Enterprise, Deloitte focuses on the growing expectations of individuals and the pace at which technology is shaping organisations’ human capital priorities.

With more than 11,000 HR and business leaders responding, this year’s Global Human Capital Trends report claims to be the largest longitudinal survey of its kind. The majority of respondents point to the need for a ‘symphonic C-suite’, defined in the report as a ‘team-based, cross-disciplinary approach to tackling complex issues’, with 85 percent calling this trend important or very important. The report points out that companies in which C-suite executives regularly collaborate are more likely to be growing than companies whose leadership operates in siloes. Despite being necessary to advance the enterprise, 73 percent say their executives do not regularly collaborate.

 

Filling society’s leadership vacuum

Increased transparency and heightened political awareness have drawn widespread attention to business’ role in society as a driver of change, according to the authors. Organisations find they are increasingly expected to exercise their ability to do social good, both externally for customers, communities and society, as well as internally for their employees. True social enterprises must take a total stakeholder approach to pressing public issues to maintain reputation and relevancy.

With more pressure on businesses to be good citizens and engineer solutions to critical social challenges, citizenship must be a core part of an organisation’s identity and mission. In fact, 77 percent of survey respondents cited citizenship as important or very important. According to the “Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017,” millennials’ high expectations for corporate responsibility is a strong contributor, with 76 percent regarding business as a force for positive social impact. Despite the emerging link between social impact and companies’ financial performance, only 18 percent of respondents say citizenship is a top priority in corporate strategy. Thirty-four percent have few or poorly funded citizenship programs, and 22 percent are not focused on this at all.

“Corporate citizenship is now a CEO-level strategy and critical to a company’s bottom line,” said Josh Bersin, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and founder and editor-in-chief of Bersin. “It’s not about check-the-box CSR initiatives, but integrating citizenship, fairness, inclusion, and purpose as core values across work practices. Customers and employees alike are holding companies to higher standards than ever before and rewarding companies who demonstrate socially-conscious behaviour with unwavering loyalty.”

Internal and external social forces are also driving attention to the aging global workforce. Extended life expectancies raise questions on how long careers will last and how aging workers will impact economies and public policy. Fifteen percent of survey respondents report that their organisational perspective is that older employees are getting in the way of rising talent. Despite the aging global workforce and the competitive advantages older talent offers, 49 percent of respondents indicate their companies have done nothing to help older workers find new careers as they age, and another 15 percent say older workers are viewed as an impediment to rising talent. However, the aging workforce remains an untapped resource of experience and knowledge for social enterprises to use to their advantage.

According to the report, tackling the ‘alternative workforce’ takes centre stage for socially-conscious organisations. By 2020, 37 percent of organisations expect a growth in contractors, 23 percent in freelancers, and 13 percent in gig workers. Despite this anticipated growth, only 16 percent said they have an established set of policies and practices to manage this variety of worker types. It is critical to successfully implement hybrid workforce strategies because they can have a significant impact on an organisation’s employment brand and external reputation.

 

The power of the individual requires a holistic approach to jobs and careers

In the past year, organisations have become laser-focused on how automation induced job shifts will impact individuals. The Deloitte research claims that more than 4 in 10 companies believe automation will have a major impact on jobs, and 61 percent are now actively redesigning jobs around AI and robotics. Additionally, 72 percent of HR and business leaders rated the topic of AI as important or very important.

Against this backdrop, companies and individuals realise the traditional career model is becoming defunct. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed consider building new career models and skills as very important. More than 54 percent have no programs in place to build the skills of the future, and only 18 percent feel they give employees opportunities to develop themselves. Espousing their role as drivers of change in the social enterprise, companies need to work to develop and implement robust solutions to decrease the growing skills gaps.

In addition to investing in employees’ professional development, organisations must also rethink how they invest in their employees on a personal level. Forty-three percent of those surveyed say well-being reinforces their organisation’s mission, 60 percent say it improves employee retention, and 61 percent say it improves productivity and bottom-line results. However, according to Bersin, only 3 percent of companies think their reward offerings are very effective at motivating talent. In a new social enterprise, companies must explore more frequent rewards and other incentives like vacation time or student-loan forgiveness.

“Personalized incentives and well-being strategies are key differentiators in talent acquisition and retention, particularly in a tight labour market,” said Volini. “Once-a-year reviews and bonuses are table-stakes in today’s enterprises. Expanding rewards and well-being strategies is critical for the C-suite if they want to attract and retain the right individuals.”

 

Leveraging technology for sustainable growth

With the deployment of AI, robotics, automation, and people analytics showing no signs of slowing down, companies are reconciling a demand for human skills and the need for increased productivity. While 72 percent of respondents see this area as important, only 31 percent feel ready to address it.

“Automation is here to stay and will improve scale, speed and quality,” said Brett Walsh, global human capital leader, Deloitte Global. “But it’s important to remember that as routine work is automated, new jobs will be created—jobs that are more service-oriented, interpretive, social, and play to our essential human skills. Only companies whose C-suite embraces this transformation and redesign how work gets done to leverage these skills will be able to stay a step ahead of their competition.”

Executives anticipate a growing requirement for complex problem-solving (63 percent), cognitive abilities (55 percent), and social skills (52 percent). To that end, 70 percent of respondents believe workers will spend more time on collaboration platforms in the future and 67 percent anticipate a growth in “work-based social media.” As a flood of new workplace communications tools augments team-based work, 47 percent of organisations cite the productivity of the hyperconnected workforce as a very important issue.

As technology permeates the workplace, people analytics is at the top of executives’ minds, with 84 percent of respondents rating it as important or very important, while only 10 percent of respondents feel very ready to deal with this challenge. With 64 percent of companies actively managing legal liability related to their organisation’s people data, only 22 percent have excellent processes to safeguard this data, exposing them to additional risks that can threaten their status as a social enterprise if not proactively managed.

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