Career

Why Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement Are Critical to the Future of Work in Japan

2 May 2019
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"In Japan, female career development, reform of working practices and diversity have become popular trends."

In Japan, female career development, reform of working practices and diversity have become popular trends. In September 2015, the Active Women’s Act was enacted, and in June 2018, a reform of working practices was enacted. On top of that, a number of other factors have also played into women's social advancement in Japan, including labour force declines (due to low birth rate and longevity), improvement of work consciousness (supported by the rising university advancement rate), and low economic growth (which has led to a decline in male income), as well as a steady increase in the number of female employers. As a result, it became clear that women's social advancement into society was inhibited by childbirth and childcare, but the so-called "M-curve" has improved in recent years — even though it has not yet lessened when compared to foreign countries.

However, the M-curve is reducing due to the spread of childcare leave systems and the development of childcare centres. Now, it is becoming more possible for women to continue to work, largely thanks to the increase in irregular employment of women. Women can choose low-income, non-regular work for specified reasons, such as: "can work in their own convenient time" or "easy to co-exist with family circumstances, such as housework, childcare and nursing". Moreover, in Japan, the percentage of women in executive officer and management positions is still low. Women’s employment is gradually progressing, but their professional duties remain in supporting roles, and they face many challenges in terms of career formation and development.

Hereafter, Japan will likely confront an unprecedented shortage of labour, along with a workforce decline. Therefore, it is a must for Japanese companies to secure not only women but also employees of all generations and various nationalities and promote their activities over the short and long term. Not only can diverse employees co-exist in the company or organization (diversity), each one should also be respected as a member of the organization and participate in organizational decision-making and activities (inclusion). This increases every employee’s willingness to contribute voluntarily and display their power (improvement in engagement), which can directly increase the competitiveness and productivity of an organization.

There are various initiatives in Japan to improve inclusion and engagement, but they are entangled together. Even if individual efforts are implemented, it’s often not possible to see the effects. In order to link these efforts together and reconstruct a company's competitiveness, we need to follow three steps: ① build trustworthy relationships, ② encourage time/location flexibility, ③ respect diversity and individuality.

①    Will it be helpful to build trustworthy relationships at work?

 

"Workplace" rather than "company" plays an important role in increasing inclusion and engagement in an individual. At the workplace, each and every employee can be oneself; in other words, they can freely express their thoughts, which allows for a sense of security and a trust to be heard — huge factors when it comes to promoting inclusion. This is similar to "psychological safety," which is the key to productivity improvement.

For example, various forms of open communication and information sharing or other efforts, such as visualization of work and role allotment at a workplace, should help in building a trustworthy relationship between an organization and its people. Also, building a trustworthy relationship is more important than anything — it brings out the ability and creativity of each and every employee, and this can lead to increasing the productivity of the entire team.

②    Do you want to improve flexibility?

 

In Japan, traditionally, organizational operation has been carried out by relying on employees who can accept the "3 unlimitedness” rule: the unlimitedness of job content, work location and working hours. However, in recent years, with the increase in employees who work while nursing or caring for children, the increase of dual-income households and the increase of employees who have health and mental problems, the number of employees who can accept this "3 unlimitedness" rule is decreasing.

When superiors speak of approving and promoting long working hours, employees who cannot deliver due to various circumstances feel that "I am not 100% permitted in this workplace," and it prevents them from displaying ability and creativity. Moreover, when information is shared only with people at the workplace, employees who work from home or remotely feel alienated.

Increasing the flexibility of when and where an individual works — and by promoting environment and work process improvement to increase participation awareness of employees who have various circumstances — can transform an organization into one that empowers everyone.

③    Have you included a point of view that respects diversity and individuality?

 

In the structure of employee management and personnel systems, we have redefined diverse needs of employees from a broad perspective to actively support the career and ability development, work-life balance, health, etc. of each individual.

i. For example, in some Western companies, so-called "no rating" has been introduced. Rather than linking evaluation results to numbers, evaluations aim to frequently give feedback, promote development and growth, and emphasize individuality of employees. In Japan, the idea of linking evaluation results to numbers is still strong, but more companies are looking to try out this new evaluation system to encourage the growth and career development of the individual employee.

ii. In terms of compensation, rewards don’t always need to be viewed monetarily. A reward should provide opportunities for career and ability development and encourage the display of creativity and ability of employees, which will increase engagement.

In handling measures to increase inclusion and engagement, it is extremely important to justify objective facts and data on the issues in your current organization, what they should be and which areas should be prioritized. Moreover, advanced management is required for future leaders who want to innovate. For inclusion and engagement efforts to be successful, the existence of inclusive leadership is also essential.

Moving forward, you should aim to construct trustworthy relationships between your employees and your organization and maintain an environment for working flexibly. You should also build a workforce on diversity and individuality; this is the largest safety net for individuals. In an organization like that, individuals will work on their own, with a high willingness to contribute. With such highly engaged employees, your company will become a stronger, more competitive and resilient organization.

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| 11 Jul 2019

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’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report, 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 the World 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’s
Global Talent Trends 2019 report. 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 regular pulse surveys and 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, as experiential 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 reached 75%, 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 be more 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 the engagement and IT 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 international Glassdoor study, 77% of workers said they would consider a company's culture before applying and 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.

Lewis Garrad | 11 Jul 2019

We live in a period of transformative change. It's difficult to talk about any aspect of business these days without touching on what the "future of work" means and what its implications are for individuals, companies and societies. Part of the reason for this is that we are all increasingly aware of the technological advances, changes in government policies and shifting employee expectations that are reshaping what we know as work. As artificial intelligence (AI) and automation infuse into everyday life, the opportunities to reinvent how people will work and live are significant. What does this mean for the employee experience in this age of disruption? How does an organization build an employee experience program that's relevant for this modern world? The Role of HR: Connectivity in the Human Age   According to Mercer's 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 73% of executives predict significant industry disruption in the next three years — up from 26% in 2018. Along with the constant change that disruption brings is the emergence of several human capital risks, such as a decline in employee trust and an increase in employee attrition. Organizations are realizing that people-centered transformation is the key to transferring the shockwaves of disruption into sparks of brilliance. This translates into a need for HR to lead at the drafting table, yet only two in five HR leaders participate in the idea-generation stage of major change projects today. To ensure the Human Agenda remains at the heart of change, HR needs a permanent place in the design process, rather than being a late-to-the-party guest. A critical contribution the HR function will make is helping to design and deliver exceptional employee experiences. Understanding the Employee Experience   How do you capture the moments that matter in an employee's life cycle? From onboarding to having a new manager or getting promoted, critical experiences help shape an employee's connection to the organization. Each employee is different, with diverse needs and talents — and over the course of a career people are exposed to different events and experiences. Some experiences enhance their fit with the organization, some do not and others undermine it. This translates into varying levels of employee and business performance. A more digital HR team, combined with data and analytics that new tools bring, can help leaders understand these experiences at a deeper level. Although it is still common for organizations to conduct episodic surveys of employee attitudes once a year, many are now looking to augment their employee-listening strategy with more fluid pulse surveys to provide deeper insight. Using an employee experience platform, HR teams can now conduct on-demand surveys as and when needed, and employees can give feedback when it's most relevant, with actions aligned to specific needs and timing. Platforms, like Mercer's Allegro Pulsing Tech, enable HR teams to take an active-listening approach to understand experiences over time. This generates better insights into multiple touchpoints, providing HR the opportunity to design more engaging experiences across the employee life cycle. This sets in motion a culture where employees feel heard and are supported and encouraged to do their best work every day. Increasingly, organizations acknowledge that the employee experience is as important as the customer experience. Research has shown that companies leading in customer experience often do so via exceptional cultures and engaged people. The importance of investing in the employee experience can't be ignored. Building a 21st Century Employee Experience Program   Enabling employees to thrive requires intentional redesign of critical employee experiences, using new technology and AI to make work more inclusive, personalized and focused. To do this, organizations need an employee-listening program that uses multiple methodologies to generate deeper insights for diverse stakeholders, including the employees themselves. This new type of organizational research takes an evolving approach to measurement and uses new technology to support more integrated analyses and more experimentation within the organization to generate real learning. The goal is for everyone to have a broader and deeper understanding in an optimal manner to generate a more compelling employee experience, more effective teams and a higher-performing organization. In this age of disruption, as the pace of change accelerates, individuals need support in finding new ways to adapt and contribute. Without help, individuals, organizations and societies will fail to thrive. As more tasks get automated, HR — as the guardian of the employee experience — is best placed to lead this reinvention.

Mercer | 10 Jul 2019

Having trouble picturing AI in your workplace? It’s already here. Robots are learning to respond to external stimuli. And while it looks simple, it’s actually a massive step forward into the future of work. Creative response and problem solving are critical if AI is going to work alongside people in the office. So what looks like an opening door, is actually an unlocked future. The future of work is here. Can you see it?  Our deep expertise, powerful insights, and real-world solutions help the people and organizations we serve take steps today to secure a better tomorrow.

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Jackson Kam | 11 Jul 2019

Is the next global financial crisis just around the corner? If so, will it be markedly different from the last crisis? And is there a possibility the contagion will come from today's emerging markets, such as China, Turkey or Argentina? While the future is uncertain and uncontrollable, you can take calculated steps as a business leader to prepare now for what may come later. Emerging Market Economies Are on the Rise   The strength of emerging market economies was one of several top concerns for leaders in 2018, according to the Mercer Global Talent Trends study, and it continues to be a concern today. While Asia, Latin America and Africa steadily replace the North-Atlantic-centric economies as the world's engines of growth, the global economy is experiencing increasing impacts due to their growing strength. Ardavan Mobasheri, managing director and chief investment officer at ACIMA Private Wealth, believes the global leadership baton will have been completely passed to the faster-growing economies by 2030. He states, "By the end of the third decade of the century, the transition will likely be complete, with the anchors of global economic growth cast across the Pacific and the Southern Hemisphere." But as the world adjusts to the growing strength of emerging market economies, it must also adapt to those economies' inevitable speed bumps. "Speed Bumps" Are Starting to Form Globally   Emerging market assets are now retreating in the face of increasing headwinds across their geographies, including production slowdown, rising debt, higher inflation rates and slides in currencies.1 "The contagion in emerging markets happens through different channels, and it tends to be greater in periods of monetary tightening in developed markets," Pablo Goldberg, a senior fixed-income strategist with BlackRock, tells CNBC.2 "Liquidity is an issue. Investors will sell what they can sell." Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former deputy director for the International Monetary Fund's Policy Development and Review Department, writes that U.S. economists and policymakers are ignoring risks posed by emerging economies at their own peril. "They fail to see that years of massive Fed balance sheet expansion and zero interest rates created the easiest of borrowing conditions for the emerging markets," Lachman writes. "By so doing, they removed economic policy discipline from those economies and allowed large economic imbalances in those economies to develop, especially in their public finances." Now that more capital is flowing back into U.S. assets deemed safer than emerging market assets, the acute economic vulnerabilities built up within the emerging market economies during the years of "easy" money are being revealed. These vulnerabilities, if left unchecked, will likely continue to grow and spread globally, extending their implications even further into the years to come. Business Leaders Can Adapt — Here's How   To best prepare for an uncertain financial future and avoid those vast repercussions, you'll want to first take notes on the aftermath of the last financial crisis — it can teach some strong lessons on how the global economy and financial system work. For example, according to the Mercer report, "10 Years After the Global Financial Crisis: 10 Lessons to Learn," one of the most important lessons from 2009 shows that U.S. policymakers' policies, record low policy interest rates, vast liquidity injected into the banking system and quantitative easing produced unexpected outcomes across the globe. While the monetary policies haven't been inflationary in terms of consumer prices, they have been inflationary in terms of asset prices. Now, policy rates are increasing in some economies, but the full consequences of the last crisis' aftermath on all of the world's economies are still unknown, even today. Keeping that in mind, you can take these three steps as a business leader to prepare for the next crisis: 1.  Don't abandon diversification, widely known as "the only free lunch in investment." 2.  Be dynamic, and be prepared to rotate out of assets currently at close-to-record highs if they become unfavorable once investors realize their valuations may not be based on strong fundamentals, such as underlying growth in profits. 3.  Don't abandon active management, as conditions will inevitably change. Taking these three simple steps will allow you to stay nimble and flexible enough to adapt to any situation — even a financial crisis. As markets endure various metamorphoses, remember these lessons and keep these tips in mind to ready your organization for any crises to come. Sources: 1. Teso, Yumi and Oyamada, Aline, "Emerging Markets Retreat Amid Global Growth Concerns: EM Review," Bloomberg, February 15, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-15/emerging-market-rally-abate-as-trade-concern-returns-em-review./ 2. Osterland, Andrew, "Emerging markets, despite strengths, still get no respect," CNBC, October 1, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/01/emerging-markets-despite-strengths-still-get-no-respect.html. 3. Lachman, Desmond, "We ignore risks posed by emerging economies at our own peril," American Enterprise Institute, September 17, 2018, http://www.aei.org/publication/we-ignore-risks-posed-by-emerging-economies-at-our-own-peril/.

Lewis Garrad | 11 Jul 2019

We live in a period of transformative change. It's difficult to talk about any aspect of business these days without touching on what the "future of work" means and what its implications are for individuals, companies and societies. Part of the reason for this is that we are all increasingly aware of the technological advances, changes in government policies and shifting employee expectations that are reshaping what we know as work. As artificial intelligence (AI) and automation infuse into everyday life, the opportunities to reinvent how people will work and live are significant. What does this mean for the employee experience in this age of disruption? How does an organization build an employee experience program that's relevant for this modern world? The Role of HR: Connectivity in the Human Age   According to Mercer's 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 73% of executives predict significant industry disruption in the next three years — up from 26% in 2018. Along with the constant change that disruption brings is the emergence of several human capital risks, such as a decline in employee trust and an increase in employee attrition. Organizations are realizing that people-centered transformation is the key to transferring the shockwaves of disruption into sparks of brilliance. This translates into a need for HR to lead at the drafting table, yet only two in five HR leaders participate in the idea-generation stage of major change projects today. To ensure the Human Agenda remains at the heart of change, HR needs a permanent place in the design process, rather than being a late-to-the-party guest. A critical contribution the HR function will make is helping to design and deliver exceptional employee experiences. Understanding the Employee Experience   How do you capture the moments that matter in an employee's life cycle? From onboarding to having a new manager or getting promoted, critical experiences help shape an employee's connection to the organization. Each employee is different, with diverse needs and talents — and over the course of a career people are exposed to different events and experiences. Some experiences enhance their fit with the organization, some do not and others undermine it. This translates into varying levels of employee and business performance. A more digital HR team, combined with data and analytics that new tools bring, can help leaders understand these experiences at a deeper level. Although it is still common for organizations to conduct episodic surveys of employee attitudes once a year, many are now looking to augment their employee-listening strategy with more fluid pulse surveys to provide deeper insight. Using an employee experience platform, HR teams can now conduct on-demand surveys as and when needed, and employees can give feedback when it's most relevant, with actions aligned to specific needs and timing. Platforms, like Mercer's Allegro Pulsing Tech, enable HR teams to take an active-listening approach to understand experiences over time. This generates better insights into multiple touchpoints, providing HR the opportunity to design more engaging experiences across the employee life cycle. This sets in motion a culture where employees feel heard and are supported and encouraged to do their best work every day. Increasingly, organizations acknowledge that the employee experience is as important as the customer experience. Research has shown that companies leading in customer experience often do so via exceptional cultures and engaged people. The importance of investing in the employee experience can't be ignored. Building a 21st Century Employee Experience Program   Enabling employees to thrive requires intentional redesign of critical employee experiences, using new technology and AI to make work more inclusive, personalized and focused. To do this, organizations need an employee-listening program that uses multiple methodologies to generate deeper insights for diverse stakeholders, including the employees themselves. This new type of organizational research takes an evolving approach to measurement and uses new technology to support more integrated analyses and more experimentation within the organization to generate real learning. The goal is for everyone to have a broader and deeper understanding in an optimal manner to generate a more compelling employee experience, more effective teams and a higher-performing organization. In this age of disruption, as the pace of change accelerates, individuals need support in finding new ways to adapt and contribute. Without help, individuals, organizations and societies will fail to thrive. As more tasks get automated, HR — as the guardian of the employee experience — is best placed to lead this reinvention.

| 11 Jul 2019

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’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report, 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 the World 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’s
Global Talent Trends 2019 report. 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 regular pulse surveys and 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, as experiential 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 reached 75%, 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 be more 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 the engagement and IT 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 international Glassdoor study, 77% of workers said they would consider a company's culture before applying and 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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