July 1, 2021
HR leaders trying to navigate a rapidly changing workplace environment now have a clear set of objectives to focus on: digitisation, talent, and the future of work. That is the central finding of a new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA). The report is titled Creating People Advantage 2021: The Future of People Management Priorities.
BCG and WFPMA have collaborated on similar studies dating back to 2008, and this year’s analysis is the most comprehensive one yet. The authors surveyed more than 6,600 respondents in 113 countries and interviewed more than 30 executives at leading companies and startups worldwide, resulting in highly detailed quantitative and qualitative findings.
“Our results offer critical guidance for CHROs, senior people management executives, and all other leaders—including CEOs—aiming to build a future-proof workforce and workplace to support execution of their company strategy,” said Jens Baier, a senior partner at BCG and coauthor of the report.
The data suggests that in the UK, diversity and inclusion objectives are directly integrated into core HR processes, to a much higher extent than the average globally. However, the UK is behind the rest of the world when it comes to dedicated HR teams taking end-to-end ownership for their respective topics (e.g., for the whole recruiting process).
Three clear priorities
The report ranks 32 people management topics on two dimensions: the future importance of each topic, and companies’ current capabilities for addressing each one. Assessing these dimensions in tandem enables the authors to highlight three areas where the need for innovative action is most urgent:
• Digitisation, including the use of new technologies such as people analytics, cloud-based applications, AI, and robotics
• Talent, comprising strategic workforce planning, leadership development, upskilling and reskilling, and working with an ecosystem of employees, contractors, and other types of labor
• The future of work, including more agile HR, the incorporation of “smart” work, and change management
An employee-centric approach
Another key finding in the report is the need to create personalised experiences for employees. Among survey respondents, 85 percent say that focusing on employee needs and expectations is a key success factor in the intensifying competition for talent. That figure represents the highest level of agreement in the entire study, underscoring the importance of an employee-centric approach.
“Companies today must navigate an exceedingly challenging business environment—and strong, proactive people management is the only way to ensure that companies have the right talent in place to succeed,” said Bob Morton, president of the WFPMA and a coauthor of the report. “A data-driven, objective approach that places people at the front and center of work can help HR leaders allocate scarce resources to the most urgent priorities.”
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