CAREER

HR Trends: Learn What's Shaping The Human Resources Space

22 July, 2019


"While new HR technology trends and evolving values are disrupting talent management and changing how companies operate, the workforce is still people-centered."

Learn about fascinating HR trends that are emerging in the human resources space in 2019 and beyond.

We live in the age of disruption, guided by emerging technologies, public policy developments and shifting cultural values. While every industry, job and organization races to keep pace with rapid changes, the human resources industry is on the front line of responding to movements in how we live and work. HR professionals, armed by new technology amid a deluge of innovation, are charged with implementing solutions across all phases of talent management while also agilely accommodating the evolving expectations of employees and job seekers.

According to Mercer’sGlobal Talent Trends 2019report, a staggering 73% of HR leaders predict significant industry disruption in the next three years—up from just 26% in 2018. For example, more than half of the HR departments surveyed believe that artificial intelligence automation (AI) will replace one in five of their organization’s current jobs. However, AI and automation will also create 58 million net new jobs by 2022, according to estimates from theWorld Economic Forum, which will keep recruiters and hiring managers busy for years to come.

The unprecedented restructuring of the workplace—powered by smart technology—presents boundless opportunities for the HR industry, well into the future. But the shifting workplace and a widening skills gap also demand that a company’s HR team aptly respond to emerging trends to stay ahead of the curve. Organizations that fail to implement new workforce strategies will fall behind the competition when it comes to talent management and meeting human capital needs.

The following HR trends are impacting companies of all sizes across various industries and represent tremendous opportunities for HR leaders to adapt, plan and strategize for the future of work:

1. Organizations are increasing their employee engagement spending to create experiential workplaces.

Employee engagement—the level of emotional connection, involvement and commitment that an employee has with their organization—is a critical tool for maintaining a healthy bottom line. Dedication and enthusiasm grow when employees feel valued and empowered in the workplace. In turn, employee engagement also increases employee retention, enhances performance and maximizes productivity.

Companies suffer when employee engagement is low and unfortunately many companies currently suffer from poor engagement. As Gallup reports, only 13% of over 31 million respondents worldwide are truly engaged at work. HR professionals are observing the problem with 43% reporting low or declining employee engagement as a top concern for their organization, according to Mercer’sGlobal Talent Trends 2019report.

It is expected that organizations will respond to these concerns by ramping up efforts to boost employee engagement. More specifically, these efforts will be aimed at redesigning the employee experience. Organizations will strive to create a company culture that people want to contribute to and be an integral part of each workday—not just a place where they report to so they can receive a paycheck. Some examples of this effort might include regularpulse surveysand transparency reports, employee-centric events, experiential onboarding programs, rewards programs, thank you cards, employee-led teaching sessions, wellness programs, social media campaigns, personal coaching, and stay interviews to retain top talent.

The added investment in employee engagement will likely pay off for companies, asexperiential organizations have more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue.

2. Organizations are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) technology to eliminate unconscious bias.

While many companies want to remove unconscious bias from the hiring process, it proves to be difficult because these predispositions operate automatically and act without our awareness. Furthermore, there are far too many biases to manually remove them from our decision-making processes.

Unconscious bias is an ingrained human trait and some experts therefore suggest that the best way to overcome biases is via non-human solutions. A notable feature of AI is its potential to mitigate the effects of unconscious bias in the hiring process. With AI, candidates are sourced, screened and filtered through large quantities of data. The programs combine data points and use algorithms to identify who will likely be the best candidate. These data points are looked at objectively, completely removing the biases, assumptions and oversight that humans are susceptible to.

AI for human resource systems can be also programmed to automatically disregard a candidate’s demographic information, such as gender, race, and age. It can take a step beyond protecting the basic demographic information and also ignore other details that may indicate racial or socioeconomic status, such as school names and zip codes.

AI offers the opportunity for human resource professionals to cross-check results with the processes in place, identifying where unconscious bias may exist. Unlike traditional methods, the results of AI can be tested and validated by creating a profile based on actual credentials of successful employees, providing hard data that either validates or disputes beliefs about what qualifications to search for in candidates.

3. More companies will use virtual reality-based sexual harassment training.

Though training programs are widely in place to address sexual harassment,it still remains a pervasive problem in the workplace. Historically, sexual harassment has been viewed by companies through a legal and risk mitigation lens. With many companies still drawing from content that focuses on how to avoid litigation, they are not being prescribed actual strategies to prevent harassment in the first place.

But some companies are now employing virtual reality (VR) programs to prevent workplace incidents, placing employees directly in training scenarios that unfold depending on how the user reacts. By mimicking conversations, VR-based programs invoke a deeper sense of empathy and make employees more acutely aware of social cues beyond just what they’re saying to another employee—such as eye contact, body language and personal space.

VR is an effective sexual harassment prevention tool—more so than the traditional videos, presentations or handouts—because it allows employees to learn under the same conditions they would be in if the situation were to actually occur in the workplace. As more personal stories of harassment are shared and society takes measures to address the epidemic of sexual harassment in the workplace, it is likely that more companies will update their approach and adopt immersive VR-based programs.

4. Companies are implementing remote-friendly work arrangements that enhance engagement.

To compete with the gig economy and respond to demands for work-life balance, more employers are taking a cue from startups to offer flexible work arrangements, including flextime and telecommuting options. As coworking spaces grow in popularity and millennials and Gen Z become more prominent in the workplace, organizations are pushed to recognize the value of hiring remote workers. Flextime arrangements are also seen as a means of accommodating rising demand for work-life balance.

It is clear that the demand for flexible working is increasing year on year. Worker demand for remote working capability has reached75%, up from 70% in 2017.

The benefits of a remote workforce go beyond just higher employee satisfaction and well-being though. It has been found that remote workers can bemore productive, healthier and help companies reduce costs. Furthermore, it allows companies to draw from a larger pool of prospective employees to attract the world’s best talent.

Upcoming trends in remote work will find companies addressing some of theengagementandIT challenges that arise when your employees are logging in from locations around the globe. Companies will explore specialized technology regulations, onboarding, training, engagement, wellness initiatives, and events aimed at engaging the remote workforce.

5. Learning and development (L&D) is becoming more personalized.

The golden age of choice, flexibility and control is upon us. As consumers, we are accustomed to enjoying personalized experiences based on our unique needs. For example, we can customize our news feeds to show us the updates and specific topics we want to see. Netflix recommends programming we may be interested in, based on our previous activity.

Historically, HR practices have focused on standardizing L&D for a company, offering “one-size-fits-all” solutions that put the company’s needs as the starting point. But, going hand in hand with the need for higher employee engagement, the traditional approaches to L&D are no longer cutting it in the new workplace. The expectations for training programs have advanced from simple content tutorials to adaptive machine learning experiences that are tailored to the unique needs, levels, functions, preferences, and interests of each individual employee.

Companies that adopt personalized L&D tools will save money in the long run, turn out more productive employees and make processes more effective. This is because personalization detects behavior patterns and reveals correlations in such behavior among employees. As similarities and parts start to be identified, employees can then be segmented accordingly. Through this segmentation, HR leaders are able to effectively deliver relevant L&D content that meets the individual needs and goals of each team member.

6. Companies are using people analytics to improve processes.

For years, people analytics was considered just a small part of the HR function. But companies today are using people analytics as a critical business instrument that can be applied at every level of an organization, ranging from the recruiting process all the way to talent management.

When it comes to performance management, people analytics helps remove the human bias that often comes with evaluations. It also allows for an evaluation of both the process and outcome, which can help HR teams separate variables (such as luck) from real skill. Overall, people analytics can help paint a more clear, structured and honest picture of an organization’s performance.

When it comes to staffing, people analytics can increase the chances of finding the right people for the right jobs. It can also be useful for building employee engagement and satisfaction, as it cultivates data about employees’ attitudes and moods. It can also facilitate collaboration within an organization, providing insights about how well certain people and groups work together.

As staffing, collaboration and performance processes are improved, people analytics can then be leveraged to help the HR team uncover employee behavior patterns, track employee development within the company and monitor employee engagement.

7. The employer brand is becoming a critical recruitment and retention tool.

In today’s competitive hiring landscape, the HR department is being tasked with marketing the company to recruits and employees. People are increasingly wanting to work for a company whose values align with their own. In an internationalGlassdoor study, 77% of workers said they would consider a company's culture before applyingand millennials reported that they care more about work culture than salary. Meanwhile, applicants and employees also have access to more information than ever before. For example, numerous websites allow for employees to write about the company culture and social media can allow for partners and customers to share experiences.

The employer brand is therefore becoming an important tool for HR, often deciding if an applicant will say yes to a job offer or whether a current employee will stay long term. Applicants are coming to interviews not just aware of an employer’s advertising campaigns and brand communications. They also readily read up on the company’s charitable giving and the way it treats employees. Meanwhile, current employees are more conscious of the company’s corporate social responsibility activities and the way it treats partners and contractors. If values don’t align, a company could miss out on prospective talent and lose valuable employees.

8. Robotics and autonomous (HR technology) agents are saving valuable time.

Within the realm of AI, many companies are incorporating chatbots and apps into their HR systems. This can provide immediate and consistent answers to common questions related to holiday leave, compensation, benefits, company policies and legal rights.

As self-service platforms, the bots and apps free up time for both employees and employers while still delivering the right information at the right time. This HR technology also allows the team to focus on more urgent questions and complex issues that require special attention.

9. Nudge-based technologies are facilitating work flow.

HR technology is being implemented to suggest behaviors for employees and improve workflow. For example, a software program can monitor employee activity at a computer workstation and, after a certain amount of time, send a message to the employee that it might be time to take a break. Technology can also analyze data from e-mail, calendars and internal collaboration systems to measure a manager’s productivity and provide suggestions for how they might be able to improve their team’s performance. It can also let them know how much time they spent with each of their direct reports or how many emails were exchanged ahead of a project.

Nudge-based technologies can also be used in lieu of repetitive communication from the HR department. For example, automatic reminders can be sent to managers to fill out performance evaluations.

10. The skills gap can only be closed by hiring lifelong learners and offering constant reskilling.

Gone are the days of vertical careers, fixed titles and detailed job descriptions. The workforce is shifting from fixed job titles and detailed job descriptions to ever-revolving roles. It doesn’t matter how talented or motivated new hires fresh out of university are—nor what stellar technology training they’ve received. At the current pace of technology growth, chances are that many of these technical skills will be obsolete within a few short years.

It is therefore no longer enough to hire for the skills in demand today. Companies need to focus on hiring lifelong learners who have the ability to constantly learn new skills and navigate technology that might not even yet exist. This often requires a deeper assessment of a candidate’s soft skills and personality, not just their past history. To help delve into these traits—which do not often appear on a candidate’s resume—some organizations are implementing virtual reality, automated simulations and gaming tools in their recruiting. These HR technologies can help them observe how a candidate handles unfamiliar situations in real-time and how effectively they absorb new information to troubleshoot nebulous problems.

Because many of the skills of tomorrow don’t even exist yet, employers won’t be able to always adequately recruit for them. Some companies are looking inward to develop these skills within their current workforce, providing current employees with constant access to training and offering them meaningful incentives to continuously reskill.

While technology demands new skills and experiences from workers, the hiring landscape is also becoming more competitive for employers. These compound trends can make it difficult for HR teams to keep up with hiring needs. Instead of constantly hiring for new skills and restructuring staff, HR departments can help fill the widening skills by ensuring that lifelong learning becomes an embedded part of company culture.

The future of HR innovation presents both challenges and opportunities for companies around the globe as they compete for top talent. While new HR technology trends and evolving values are disrupting talent management and profoundly changing how companies operate, the workforce is still people-centered. As companies look to adopt new workforce strategies, the successful ones will look at these bourgeoning trends through the lens of the human experience to identify what will best inspire and innovate.

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Everyone’s job has, in some form or another, a job title. Be it a Brick-layer, Accountant or CEO. The common understanding is that the job title depicts the respective job and its roles and responsibilities. Our work with different clients of different sizes, with different structures, maturity levels, and in different economic and cultural environments, however, suggests that there is much more heterogeneity in job titles than one would suspect. In one organization, for example, an Accountant is called ‘Financial Advisor’ whereas in another organization, s/he is called ‘Finance Officer’. In Mercer’s 2019 Global Total Remuneration Survey, on a sample of 182 organizations based in the United Arab Emirates, as an example, the Mercer Job Library position ‘Accountant–Experienced Professional’ is tagged against more than 180 different job titles. This suggest that more than 99% of organizations included in the data set label this type of job in a unique, idiosyncratic manner. 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For instance, a ‘Financial Advisor’ may execute on the classical accounting tasks, such as processing accounts receivable and payable, but the job title, however, indicates that the job holder would spend some time interacting with stakeholders and provide advice on financial matters. The lack of defined possibilities to engage in such activities may constitute a psychological contract breach, leading to cynicism towards the organization, turnover, job dissatisfaction, reduced commitment and an overall decrease in performance. 3.   Another important issue to consider is an employees’ propensity to boost their current job title. This is linked to two mechanisms. Firstly, boosting one’s job title ultimately serves to enhance one’s status and self-identity[1]. Secondly, an enhanced job title is likely to attract attention on the external job market. 4.   Perceptions of fairness may decrease due to inconsistently labelled jobs. For instance, a job may be called ‘Finance Lead’ that is, in terms of roles and responsibilities as well as qualifications required, very similar to a ‘Head of Finance’. For most people, a ‘Head of Finance’ is classified as a higher ranked job despite both jobs being very similar in nature and potentially having the same job grade. This can create perceptions of injustice leading to employee turnover, lower levels of extra-role behavior and greater levels of withdrawal, deviant and retaliatory behaviors[2]. 5.   Purposeless job titles may also be detrimental for internal and external communications. Internally, there might be a certain degree of ambiguity to what the hierarchy level of a an incumbent is and consequently how messages should be phrased. Externally, purposeless job titles may further lead to misunderstandings in terms of authority levels and responsibilities an employee holds. Reasons for purposeless job titling   The reasons for these five issues are manifold. First and foremost, only few organizations seem to have adhered to a coherent, up-to-date and intuitive job titling framework. In fact, in many organizations job titling is either left to the line manager or, in some cases, left to the job incumbent. This, by definition, is likely to create a certain degree of heterogeneity among job titles. In addition to that, even in leading organization, there is often no clear, well-defined organizational process in place to govern this element of organizational life. We advocate, and outline in greater detail below, that there should be a process in place including clear roles and responsibilities in terms of who sets and ultimately approves the titles of jobs. We also see that organizations often seek to develop job titles that adhere to the specific cultural contexts in which they operate. This, as a consequence, also adds to a certain degree of incoherence in job titling. Lastly, the high degree of change to which many organizations across the globe are exposed to, also contributes to incoherent job titles. To be specific, when organizations adopt new structures and amend roles and responsibilities of their jobs, job titling should also be considered. However, for many organizations this is an issue of limited importance of the time of restructuring so this tends to get neglected. As a consequence, especially with numerous rounds of re-structuring, a heterogeneous, incoherent landscape of job titles is likely to emerge. Conducting purposeful job titling   The above-mentioned observations raise the question of how organizations can move forward to actually create purposeful job titles. Meaningful or purposeful job titles usually consists of two key elements. Firstly, purposeful job titling should indicate the actual function and with this associated roles and responsibilities the job incumbent is tasked with. If an employee in Finance is responsible for maintaining the Finance IT systems, then the job title should indicate that this employee looks after IT for Finance, as opposed to more generic IT activities. Secondly, a purposeful job title also indicates the hierarchical level, or, to be more specific, should hold reference to the actual job grade the job has been mapped onto. In our work across the globe, we see a certain degree of inconsistency and incoherence in this respect. Frequently, strict hierarchical levels are used to create job titles, even though the job evaluation may not indicate such job titling. For instance, the responsible job incumbent for managing financials in a country managing set-up of a small to medium sized enterprise owned by a multinational corporation may be called ‘Chief Finance Officer’. This job title indicates a fairly senior position. In reality, however, such a job more closely resembles the activities of a ‘Financial Accountant’ or a ‘Finance Manager’. Such discrepancies between the actual roles and responsibilities of a job and its titling typically become clear when job evaluations are performed. As such, we advocate a certain adherence to job grades when it comes to job titling in order to derive purposeful job titles. In Figure 1, we outline how an approach to purposeful job titling could look like. It indicates the main components of a job title, i.e. (a) what the job’s hierarchical level in the organization is, (b) its function or area of expertise, (c) to what organizational unit the job belongs, and (d) what the actual scope of responsibility of the job is. For instance, a ‘Senior Vice President Finance EMEIA’ uses the elements A, B and D of the framework. Element C, the organizational unit, in this case is not required. For professional jobs, as another example, an ‘Advisor Finance Downstream Abu Dhabi’ would have all elements in her or his job title. This way, the same protocol and nomenclature for different job titles is applied universally across the organization, and thereby meets the requirements of purposeful job titling set out above.                           Figure 1: Mercer’s Purposeful Job Titling Framework In addition to adopting such a framework, organizations should consider who owns and governs job titling. The governing department should make sure that there are employees who have ownership of this process, and that no job requisition and its related activities as well as any internal re-structuring fails to comply with the framework. This way, purposeful job titling gets embedded and institutionalized in the organization. Sources: 1. 2017, ‘The talent delusion: why data, not intuition, is the key to unlocking human potential’, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Piatkus. <a href="#"> 2. 1994, ‘Human resource practices: administrative contract makers’, Denise M. Rousseau and Martin M. Greller, Human Resource Management, 33-3, page 386. <a href="#"> 3. 2005, ‘Understanding psychological contracts at work: a critical evaluation of theory and research, Neil Conway and Rob B. Briner, Oxford University Press.<a href="#"> 4. Ibid. <a href="#"> 5. For an interesting review see: 2019, ‘The five pillars of self-enhancement and self-protection’, in the Oxford handbook of human motivation, Constantine Sedikides and Mark D. Alicke. <a href="#"> 6. For a good overview please refer to: 2001, ‘The role of justice in organizations: a meta-analysis’, Yochi Cohen-Charash and Paul E. Spector, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 86-2.

More from Voice on Growth

Engage Brazilian Employees With Personalized, Digital Experiences
Stefani_Guerrero |27 Mar 2020

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming employee satisfaction and career management through customized digital experiences and modern employer branding strategies. As technological advances continue to reshape workforces, and the need for digitally savvy workers grows, individual employees are taking a more proactive role in their own professional development. This is especially true in Brazil, where people view jobs as opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. In fact, according to Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 report, Brazilians seek greater control over their careers and rank being recognized for their contributions, having access to learn new skills and technologies, and being empowered to make their own decisions as their top three workplace concerns. Employers in Brazil must internalize the evolving needs of their Brazilian workers and implement processes and strategies that encourage professional development and harness the power of individualized career paths. The Power of Employer Branding   To attract top talent in their respective industries, Brazilian businesses must focus on building strong internal brands. Employer brands are built on a system of values that should permeate every aspect of workplace culture — from onboarding practices and everyday meetings to telecommuting policies and, especially, career development opportunities and digital experiences. Employers that cultivate a reputation for investing resources into an employee's career journey entice the best job candidates and will have employees who are more productive, successful and engaged with their responsibilities. According to Mercer's HR 2025: Talent, Technology and Transformation Magazine, &quot;Thriving employees are three times more likely to work for a company that understands their unique skills and interests. And 80% of thriving employees say their company has a strong sense of purpose.&quot; Creating a clear and powerful mission statement that defines a company's purpose and how employee growth is a key element of that purpose will result in a more aligned and dynamic workforce. Employer brands must communicate and deliver career advancement opportunities to employees in ways that suit their personalities and individual sensibilities. Bespoke Career Management   In Brazil, employees are not only playing a key role in their own professional development, they are also pressing employers to offer more streamlined digital experiences and customized learning opportunities utilizing a variety of resources. Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 report explains, &quot;In an environment where knowledge is widely and freely accessible, the corporate learning function must shift its focus to continue adding value. Curated learning is not new; what's changing is how it is being used to shape content relevant to a particular ambition, close a known skills gap, or build connections among peers who can share expertise.&quot; Employers can leverage digital experiences to address the uniqueness of each employee's goals, talents and learning styles. Online web portals, smartphone apps and other digital training materials can be customized according to the user's preferences, skill sets, learning ability and career goals. These digital experiences offer employees the chance to learn at their desired pace and develop skills that will lead to greater responsibilities and opportunities to advance their careers and income. The same Mercer reports explains that, &quot;When curated learning works well, people stay and progress through the organization because their learning helps them accelerate their career.&quot; The Digital Transformation of Human Resources   Robust benefits portals, personalized training and educational digital experiences are only a few hallmarks of how digital transformation is revolutionizing human resources in Brazil. By creating digital tools that map and guide an employee's developmental journey, businesses can also better understand the overall health and value of their workforces. Cloud-based systems that use Software as a Service (SaaS) models are creating unprecedented transparency within the employer-employee relationship. However, for large multinational companies in Brazil, implementing these resources can be exceedingly difficult. Legacy systems, aging applications, technical incompatibilities and unintuitive interfaces pose serious challenges to effective implementation. Finding ways to navigate these technical obstacles is critical to future success. Digital transformation is redefining the roles and capabilities of HR departments and revolutionizing workplace cultures. Skilled, upwardly mobile workforces are not only more productive and add value to the bottom line, but also provide businesses with effective ways of differentiating their brand, services or products from competitors — a key advantage in competitive marketplaces. Employees who feel engaged, listened to and valued make their employers more competitive. Mercer's HR 2025: Talent, Technology, and Transformation Magazine elaborates, &quot;Organizations typically pore over compensation and benefits numbers. Yet it is often the actions beyond salary — such as promotions, transfers and healthcare spend — that have a greater impact on business outcomes. Understanding which elements make a company competitive, and which are differentiators, can go a long way in delivering an employee value proposition that resonates.&quot; By investing in the futures of employees and their careers, employers in Brazil are also investing in their own long-term success.

Continuing Business When Business Continuity is Interrupted
Kate_Bravery Kate Bravery |26 Mar 2020

As with all unforeseen threats, COVID-19 is prompting individuals, small- and medium-sized enterprises, and large corporations to reevaluate habits that have long gone unchallenged. The outbreak is stress-testing our resolve and our resilience. Those that will emerge fighting fit will balance tough economic decisions with empathy. For, while the pandemic remains foremost a human tragedy that requires constant vigilance and swift action, thoughts about the way we work are also coming to the fore. Who can work remotely? Do we really need that conference? How can we make virtual meetings more engaging, inclusive and productive? How ready are we to embrace digital working? Even before the crisis, one in three employees said they were anxious about job security, data from Mercer’s forthcoming 2020 Global Talent Trends Study reveal. The novel coronavirus will do little to calm those fears. And so, while organizations prepare to ensure business continuity in response to different scenarios, we find ourselves needing to experiment with new work patterns. Companies ahead of the curve will be those that place empathy at the heart of their mandate. It is the balance of empathy and economics that will win in an evolving and unpredictable world — in other words, companies that care enough to put people and productivity metrics side by side, both while confronting COVID-19 and its economic fallout, and further ahead as they build better, brighter futures. This year’s forthcoming Talent Trends Study points to how companies can respond to the pandemic and focus on what matters by applying the new decade’s empathetic imperative. Commit to stakeholders &nbsp; With the vast majority of business leaders (85%) agreeing that an organization’s purpose goes beyond shareholder primacy, now is the time to match actions with words and make decisions with empathy and equity for all stakeholders. This includes supporting supply chains and the economies that rely on the company. For example, Microsoft has committed to paying normal hourly wages to non-employees (such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers) whose pay might be interrupted by the many Microsoft employees working from home. Another imperative is to provide a sense of security and trust. Indeed, trust is a significant factor in employees’ sense of thriving. The 2020 study found that thriving employees are seven times more likely to work for a company they trust to prepare them for the future of work and twice as likely to work for an organization that is transparent about which jobs will change. Building a strong community around a common purpose and sharing the vision is vital to communicating that the company cares and has a plan for different scenarios. How employers respond to well-being issues like stress, burnout, and uncertainty will be a hallmark of their attitude towards responsibility and sustainability And as people worry about their health, this is the time to confirm the organization’s commitment to well-being. Calm messaging, employee assistance, and mental health apps all have their place day-to-day. It also may be prudent to reexamine the relevance of company benefits: virtual yoga sessions or discounts for online shopping might become highly valued. The good news is that 68% of employers are likely to invest in digital health in the next five years. And if the pandemic lasts for a long time, fundamental issues of well-being will be at stake. Epidemics are historically associated with a rise in depression and anxiety. And this year a clear majority of employees said they feel at risk of burnout before 2020 even got started. Are employees’ partners covered by income protection? Do benefits extend to family members? What financial advice is on offer? For instance, outdoor retailer REI has modified its paid leave policy to guarantee the income and benefits of employees who miss work or have to care for family members. All these need to be communicated clearly. How employers respond to well-being issues like stress, burnout, and uncertainty will be a hallmark of their attitude towards responsibility and sustainability — a critical attitude given that 61% of employees trust their employer to look after their health and well-being. Kick start skills &nbsp; Executives are swiftly adopting future of work strategies to compete in response to a possible economic downturn. If macroeconomic conditions continue to be unfavorable, companies see this as an opportunity to double down on new ways of working such as strategic partnerships (40%), using more variable talent pools (39%) and investing in automation (34%). Front of mind is modelling supply and demand under various scenarios and interventions, such as how to manage variable and fixed costs.&nbsp; With the quickened pace of automation, it’s no surprise that executives and employees are reflecting on how this will impact careers. The Mercer study reveals that business leaders rank reskilling as the top talent activity capable of delivering ROI this year, while employees say the #1 factor in thriving is the opportunity to learn new skills and technologies. Yet, for employees the biggest hindrance to learning is lack of time, according to our study. In this respect, the current crisis may offer the opportunity to kick start reskilling. Providers such as General Assembly and edX offer on-point courses and, with potentially more time to spare, employees can take advantage of online learning to explore new directions. But to realize learning’s full benefit, organizations will have to be transparent with employees about the new roles reskilling could lead to. Take the time to have clear career conversations with employees about the skills required to move along a pay range and/or qualify for other jobs within or across departments. People who feel well-informed about their future career path are more likely than others to take up reskilling opportunities (83% versus 76%) and are more likely to stay with the company (54% versus 46%). Share what you know &nbsp; In the last five years, HR has moved data up the value chain and seen a significant jump in its use of predictive analytics. This is a major development in the growth and value of workforce analytics. Finally armed with insights, organizations are shifting their focus toward gaining measurable value from analytics and honing their market-sensing and analytics capabilities to enhance talent management practices. But as companies weigh the impact of the disease, are organizations measuring the right things? This year, the study shows 53% of companies are tracking the drivers of engagement, yet insights on training (down 6%) and burnout risk (down 25%) declined in prevalence. Digital ways of working bring more data sets we can mine, but also challenge our models of workplace success. Exploring what metrics are most relevant and sharing them with employees provides insight into productivity inputs in a new remote working and distracted climate. Many employees would be happy to receive meaningful findings and advice on how they are working or on their well-being indicators. Finally, as the workforce science discipline gathers force, it can supply vital forecasting insights to build future business resilience. Key to workforce forecasting is an enterprise-wide culture of experimentation. HR can work closely with executives, finance leaders and data scientists to explore how to mitigate the productivity and well-being fallout of such scenarios. Promote the remote &nbsp; For many organizations, the novel coronavirus has been a wakeup call to the possibilities of remote working and its impact on the employee experience. JPMorgan Chase, Twitter and Sony’s European offices are just some of the many companies asking employees to work from home. The challenge has been that only 44% of companies assess every job for its ability to be done flexibly. So what helps? Thriving employees say the most important factors for successful flexible working are: colleagues that are supportive of people with flexible work arrangements, a company culture that encourages flexibility, and managing performance on results not hours worked. Design thinking with pilot teams working remotely are critical to seeing what needs to change to better suit these times. Still, if not done well, remote working can exacerbate challenges with inclusion, accessibility and emotional support. Some simple tips for staying connected in times of social distancing can help: Inclusive teaming when working remotely requires effort. To make sure every team member’s voice is heard, communicate expectations and agendas in advance, encourage people to be visible on the call, ask people to come with comments/questions, and set up discussions by hangouts and chats in between calls. Pre-brief senior people in your team to be vocal and embracing. Create an informal climate up front with small talk. Remote calls require a redesign of the meeting. As a rule of thumb, halve the time you would allocate for a face-to-face meeting for a call where people are dialing in. Leverage pre-reading to ensure those who are more introverted or reflective feel ready to contribute. Small group preparation and post group actions are vital to building team spirit. Establish new rituals. &nbsp; Take time to address the emotional, not just the practical. Take a few minutes at the start and end of a call to find out how everyone is feeling. Pulse-checking questions people can type responses to in a chat function (e.g. “Use one word on how you feel about what we’ve just shared”) can be a great way to take a temperature check. Communicate that managers are still accessible by phone, even if not in person. Use old and new technology (phones as well as video conferencing services) to stay personal, especially with workers not used to working remotely. Don’t let email (and even chat) be the only way you communicate. The volume can become deafening if not managed. Leverage community sites and project boards to train people in how best to stay connected. In our study, 22% of employees believe that some necessary human interactions have been lost, so finding ways to inject warmth and a bit fun into exchanges is a good idea. &nbsp; The social distancing required in response to COVID-19 has, rightly, got many companies reexamining their digital work experience. Forty-seven percent of executives are concerned about employees’ digital experience — or the energy-sapping nature of not having it. Nearly half of employees believe there is room to improve on digital transformation: 20% of employees today say HR processes are complex, and a further 29% say they have been simplified but still have a long way to go. In the longer term, it will be valuable to revisit the company’s EVP and interrogate how technology-enabled HR processes are today and how capable working tools are with coping with mass remote services. Intermediaries such as ServiceNow, Mercer’s Mobility Management Platform and digital outplacement solutions can help. How we care is how we win &nbsp; Employees are understandably concerned about the health of their families and communities and organizations are quite rightly putting the health of their people first (their #1 workforce concern this year). But financial market volatility, and the impact on individuals’ jobs is a mounting concern that is weighing on people’s minds. Meanwhile, businesses are examining whether their practices are agile enough to withstand unpredictable events such as COVID-19, if they are resilient enough to sustain themselves through this period of hardship, and innovative enough to stimulate demand afterwards. We’re being challenged to do things differently — in companies big and small, on new platforms and with new technology, and we see emerging new ways of caring for one another. And in their wake we will not go back to how we operated before. Necessity breeds innovation. We are on the cusp of new ways of working and living that, if executed well, will build a bright future.

A Way Forward Towards Purposeful Job Titling
Dr._Sebastian Dr. Sebastian Fuchs |26 Mar 2020

Everyone’s job has, in some form or another, a job title. Be it a Brick-layer, Accountant or CEO. The common understanding is that the job title depicts the respective job and its roles and responsibilities. Our work with different clients of different sizes, with different structures, maturity levels, and in different economic and cultural environments, however, suggests that there is much more heterogeneity in job titles than one would suspect. In one organization, for example, an Accountant is called ‘Financial Advisor’ whereas in another organization, s/he is called ‘Finance Officer’. In Mercer’s 2019 Global Total Remuneration Survey, on a sample of 182 organizations based in the United Arab Emirates, as an example, the Mercer Job Library position ‘Accountant–Experienced Professional’ is tagged against more than 180 different job titles. This suggest that more than 99% of organizations included in the data set label this type of job in a unique, idiosyncratic manner. In a similar vein, Mercer’s 2019 data from Australia shows more than 360 different job titles across 313 organizations. A similar report for India from 2019 shows over 520 different job titles across 360 organizations for this type of job. In Brazil, Russia and the UK, the same analyses produced very similar results. This means, to be specific, that similar jobs even in the same organization are often labeled in a heterogeneous, unconcerted way. Problems associated with purposeless job titling   While the Accountant example provides some insight into the actual responsibilities of the role, we often see organizations labelling jobs in less meaningful, purposeless ways. For instance, we find job titles such as ‘Senior Supervisor Financial Accountant’, ‘Business Analyst’, ‘Finance Executive’ or, more recently, creative titles such as ‘Accounting Guru’, ‘Accounting Ninja’ or ‘Accounting Rockstar’ in this area of organizational life. In our view, this creates five key issues: 1.   In markets that are suffering from employee disengagement, the rise of passive job seekers and a growing appeal of self-employment and entrepreneurship[1], a job opening with an inaccurate job title faces two key problems. Firstly, the job applicants may be over or under qualified for the position at hand and, secondly, potentially suitable applicants may not apply as they believe the job is not a good match. 2.   Breaches of the psychological contract between employees and their employer may occur. To be precise, “the psychological contract encompasses the actions employees believe are 1.      expected of them and what response they expect in return from the employer”[1]. To this end, a purposeless job title may provide an inaccurate view on the actual roles and responsibilities to be performed by the new joiner. For instance, a ‘Financial Advisor’ may execute on the classical accounting tasks, such as processing accounts receivable and payable, but the job title, however, indicates that the job holder would spend some time interacting with stakeholders and provide advice on financial matters. The lack of defined possibilities to engage in such activities may constitute a psychological contract breach, leading to cynicism towards the organization, turnover, job dissatisfaction, reduced commitment and an overall decrease in performance. 3.   Another important issue to consider is an employees’ propensity to boost their current job title. This is linked to two mechanisms. Firstly, boosting one’s job title ultimately serves to enhance one’s status and self-identity[1]. Secondly, an enhanced job title is likely to attract attention on the external job market. 4.   Perceptions of fairness may decrease due to inconsistently labelled jobs. For instance, a job may be called ‘Finance Lead’ that is, in terms of roles and responsibilities as well as qualifications required, very similar to a ‘Head of Finance’. For most people, a ‘Head of Finance’ is classified as a higher ranked job despite both jobs being very similar in nature and potentially having the same job grade. This can create perceptions of injustice leading to employee turnover, lower levels of extra-role behavior and greater levels of withdrawal, deviant and retaliatory behaviors[2]. 5.   Purposeless job titles may also be detrimental for internal and external communications. Internally, there might be a certain degree of ambiguity to what the hierarchy level of a an incumbent is and consequently how messages should be phrased. Externally, purposeless job titles may further lead to misunderstandings in terms of authority levels and responsibilities an employee holds. Reasons for purposeless job titling   The reasons for these five issues are manifold. First and foremost, only few organizations seem to have adhered to a coherent, up-to-date and intuitive job titling framework. In fact, in many organizations job titling is either left to the line manager or, in some cases, left to the job incumbent. This, by definition, is likely to create a certain degree of heterogeneity among job titles. In addition to that, even in leading organization, there is often no clear, well-defined organizational process in place to govern this element of organizational life. We advocate, and outline in greater detail below, that there should be a process in place including clear roles and responsibilities in terms of who sets and ultimately approves the titles of jobs. We also see that organizations often seek to develop job titles that adhere to the specific cultural contexts in which they operate. This, as a consequence, also adds to a certain degree of incoherence in job titling. Lastly, the high degree of change to which many organizations across the globe are exposed to, also contributes to incoherent job titles. To be specific, when organizations adopt new structures and amend roles and responsibilities of their jobs, job titling should also be considered. However, for many organizations this is an issue of limited importance of the time of restructuring so this tends to get neglected. As a consequence, especially with numerous rounds of re-structuring, a heterogeneous, incoherent landscape of job titles is likely to emerge. Conducting purposeful job titling   The above-mentioned observations raise the question of how organizations can move forward to actually create purposeful job titles. Meaningful or purposeful job titles usually consists of two key elements. Firstly, purposeful job titling should indicate the actual function and with this associated roles and responsibilities the job incumbent is tasked with. If an employee in Finance is responsible for maintaining the Finance IT systems, then the job title should indicate that this employee looks after IT for Finance, as opposed to more generic IT activities. Secondly, a purposeful job title also indicates the hierarchical level, or, to be more specific, should hold reference to the actual job grade the job has been mapped onto. In our work across the globe, we see a certain degree of inconsistency and incoherence in this respect. Frequently, strict hierarchical levels are used to create job titles, even though the job evaluation may not indicate such job titling. For instance, the responsible job incumbent for managing financials in a country managing set-up of a small to medium sized enterprise owned by a multinational corporation may be called ‘Chief Finance Officer’. This job title indicates a fairly senior position. In reality, however, such a job more closely resembles the activities of a ‘Financial Accountant’ or a ‘Finance Manager’. Such discrepancies between the actual roles and responsibilities of a job and its titling typically become clear when job evaluations are performed. As such, we advocate a certain adherence to job grades when it comes to job titling in order to derive purposeful job titles. In Figure 1, we outline how an approach to purposeful job titling could look like. It indicates the main components of a job title, i.e. (a) what the job’s hierarchical level in the organization is, (b) its function or area of expertise, (c) to what organizational unit the job belongs, and (d) what the actual scope of responsibility of the job is. For instance, a ‘Senior Vice President Finance EMEIA’ uses the elements A, B and D of the framework. Element C, the organizational unit, in this case is not required. For professional jobs, as another example, an ‘Advisor Finance Downstream Abu Dhabi’ would have all elements in her or his job title. This way, the same protocol and nomenclature for different job titles is applied universally across the organization, and thereby meets the requirements of purposeful job titling set out above.                           Figure 1: Mercer’s Purposeful Job Titling Framework In addition to adopting such a framework, organizations should consider who owns and governs job titling. The governing department should make sure that there are employees who have ownership of this process, and that no job requisition and its related activities as well as any internal re-structuring fails to comply with the framework. This way, purposeful job titling gets embedded and institutionalized in the organization. Sources: 1. 2017, ‘The talent delusion: why data, not intuition, is the key to unlocking human potential’, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Piatkus. <a href="#"> 2. 1994, ‘Human resource practices: administrative contract makers’, Denise M. Rousseau and Martin M. Greller, Human Resource Management, 33-3, page 386. <a href="#"> 3. 2005, ‘Understanding psychological contracts at work: a critical evaluation of theory and research, Neil Conway and Rob B. Briner, Oxford University Press.<a href="#"> 4. Ibid. <a href="#"> 5. For an interesting review see: 2019, ‘The five pillars of self-enhancement and self-protection’, in the Oxford handbook of human motivation, Constantine Sedikides and Mark D. Alicke. <a href="#"> 6. For a good overview please refer to: 2001, ‘The role of justice in organizations: a meta-analysis’, Yochi Cohen-Charash and Paul E. Spector, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 86-2.