People management role to evolve into guardianship of data, change and culture

people managementNew research from The Adecco Group and the Center for Leadership in the Future of Work, University of Zurich claims that people management executives are moving further away from being “managers,” toward a dual role as both data scientists and guardians of change and culture. The report, The Chief People Officer of the Future: How is the Top People Management Role Changing as the World of Work Evolves? draws upon the views of 122 senior people management executives from 10 countries and regions, and who are responsible for a total of 3,110,419 employees, to assess how the landscape of people management is changing.

Professor Dr. Jochen Menges, Chair of Human Resource Management and Leadership and Director of the Center for Leadership in the Future of Work, University of Zurich, said: “The survey shows that executives recognize how important employees ‘emotions are for productivity, performance, and innovation. Yet it also indicates that executives lack solutions for shaping the emotions that pervade their business in a way that lifts employees up to be, do, and feel their best at work. We need more research to fuel HR innovation, develop such solutions and shape the future of work in a way that elevates people.”

The report outlines three main findings:

  • The changing role of the Chief People Officer
    • On average, 86.9 percent of people management executives believe that understanding data and people analytics will be a crucial competency for HR leaders in the future.
    • 50.8 percent of people management executives believe that HR technologies will be used to make employee promotion decisions in the future.
  • Understanding and improving employee emotions is key to productivity gains
    • Almost 70 percent of executives believe that the top benefit of improving how employees feel at work is increased productivity and performance.
    • Only 21.3 percent of people management executives said that their company assesses employees’ emotional skills — and 0.0 percent said that their company trains employees on emotional skills.
  • Bringing people back to work in a world of talent scarcity
    • While 68.9 percent of HR executives said their company offers support to reintegrate working women back to the workforce.
    • Only 40.1 percent said that they offer similar support for other workers returning after caring for adult dependents.


The duality of new skills and roles required of CPOs

Understanding data and people analytics has emerged as a crucial competency for people management executives, with 90 percent of respondents saying that this is an important skill over the next five years. However, when executives imagined the future in twenty years instead of five, they put a higher priority on human skills. There was a 5.4 percent increase in the number of executives who agreed that creativity is very or extremely important, and a 6.2 percent decrease in the number of executives who agreed that understanding data and people analytics is very or extremely important.

This demonstrates a shift away from a more traditional “people manager” role to one that involves a duality, with a focus on tech and data on the one hand, and fundamentally human aspects, such as leading people through change and maintaining a positive company culture, on the other.


The importance of emotions at work

For decades, emotions were considered a factor that interferes with work accomplishment, but the study showed that emotions matter for improved productivity especially through the pandemic. The role of the CPO is changing to focus more on people and socialemotional competencies.

The study revealed that many companies neglect to measure emotions and their effects, and companies use strategies to try and improve emotions surprisingly rarely, given their importance.


Unpacking myths about returnships

At a time of unprecedented turnover and labour shortages, fewer than one-third of executives believe that programs that reintegrate caregivers back into the workforce benefit the returner

The survey finds that while 41 percent of executives see that returnship schemes – programmes that offer support to those returning to work – have a great deal of positive societal impact, less than 37 percent said that returnships have many benefits for the organisation, while only 30 percent said that returnships benefit the actual returner.

This comes as the world continues to grapple with the gender inequalities compounded by the pandemic, with millions of women around the world leaving the workforce. 69 percent of executives in the survey said that their company offered programs to help integrate mothers back into the workforce, but only 40.1 percent (a 28.8 percent drop) said that they offer similar support to workers returning after caring for adult dependents or other. This demonstrates a need to unpack some myths about returnships: namely that they promote societal good, but do not end up benefitting the job seeker or the company that hosts the program.

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