Career

Learn about the latest diversity & inclusion trends emerging in 2019. Promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is a critical element of talent management as it cultivates employee engagement and enhances the employee experience. In an inclusive culture, team members feel valued, respected and accepted as individuals—and are therefore encouraged to fully participate and contribute as their authentic, unique selves. A diverse staff provides companies with different perspectives and new skills that infuse company culture with innovation and creativity, which are key to thriving in digital transformation. Cultural evolution, emerging markets, advancing technology, generational differences, widespread immigration and a widening skills gap are contributing to an increasingly complex corporate environment that challenges old processes and necessitates new ways of building a workforce. These forces—while presenting challenges for HR leaders in recruiting, developing and retaining top talent—also open doors. Innovation comes from all corners of the globe. Strong D&I improves a company’s performance because it opens new talent pools and expands points of view and experiences. Businesses that do not recruit from diverse talent pools are at risk of missing out on qualified candidates and incurring higher recruitment costs. Why Diversity & Inclusions Matters   D&I progress not only helps organizations fill positions with qualified candidates more efficiently—it also raises the employer brand, which is becoming increasingly important for attracting the right talent. According to research from Glassdoor, 67% of active job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers and 57% of employees think their companies should be more diverse. Having a diverse, multilingual workforce from varying ethnic backgrounds can also be helpful for companies that want to expand or improve operations in new markets locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. As millions of new internet users sign online each year for the first time, companies have an unprecedented opportunity to communicate and captivate new customers and draw in talent. D&I can help accomplish this, as diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets.  A large-scale shift toward diversity and inclusion workplace policies can make waves around the world. For example, the World Economic Forum has projected that correcting gender segregation in employment and developing women’s entrepreneurship could increase productivity globally by as much as 16%. Trending Now: Diversity & Inclusion   The compelling business case for D&I means that more companies will adopt stronger policies and become more adept at integrating a myriad of individuals into one cohesive workforce. D&I will therefore become the norm rather than the exception. Keeping a strong pulse on the D&I trends emerging in the workplace can help a company stay a beat ahead of the competition and prepare for the future of work. 1.  Deploying artificial intelligence (AI) technology to remove unconscious bias. Unconscious bias has become a hot topic of the D&I conversation in HR, as companies make strides toward becoming more diverse and inclusive. Companies cannot afford to ignore implicit bias for it has serious consequences on the employee experience, whether in hiring/recruitment, employee feedback, performance reviews, or development. The Center for Talent Innovation found that employees at large companies who perceive bias are: ·  Three times as likely to plan to leave their employers within the year. ·  More than twice as likely to have withheld ideas or solutions in the past  six months at work. ·  Five times as likely to speak about their company in a negative manner on social media. Even if a company commits itself to fully eliminating unconscious bias, it still proves to be difficult because these predispositions operate automatically and act without us even knowing it. All humans, whether we notice it or not, engage in unconscious bias to some degree. It’s often involuntary and rooted in the brain. Furthermore, there are far too many biases to manually remove them from our decision-making processes. Because unconscious bias is an ingrained human trait, some experts suggest that the best way to overcome it is via non-human solutions—such as artificial intelligence (AI). A notable feature of AI in HR technology is its potential to mitigate the effects unconscious bias companies face in the hiring and development 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 naturally hindered by. AI for human resource systems can be also programmed to automatically ignore a candidate’s demographic information, such as gender, race and age. It can take a step beyond protecting the basic demographic information and disregard other details that may indicate racial or socioeconomic status, such as school names and zip codes. When it comes to assessment and development, L&D programs can be strengthened with machine learning to identify high-potential employees with the skills and qualifications the company needs. Strikingly, it has been found that the employees ranked highest by the machine learning software aren’t usually those on the promotion track. Instead these high potential employees may exhibit qualities such as introversion that find them being overlooked when undergoing traditional methods of assessment. 2.  Using data to assess D&I climate, identify focus areas & quantify the success of initiatives. Among the challenges for implementing D&I initiatives are knowing where to begin, how to focus efforts and how to measure success. When seeking a buy-in from leadership for a diversity program, it is important that the HR department sets out a strategy for quantifying its ROI. To satisfy this, many companies are now turning to data-driven ways of assessing the D&I climate, focusing efforts and determining if an initiative was successful. Before implementing any D&I initiative, the company’s starting condition—its current D&I environment—should be diagnosed. D&I is a vast realm so narrowing down focus areas can help a company in implementing or improving practices. The diagnosis can help identify focus areas and drive diversity initiatives forward in a tailored way that will fill the company’s distinct gaps. To gather useful D&I data, some companies conduct regular employee engagement surveys, asking questions that focus on company culture and inclusion. From the onset, these surveys, especially when done consistently, can serve as a barometer of the company’s D&I culture since it is based on first-hand feedback directly from employees. It is also key to evaluate employee data, such as turnover rates, promotion and salary. Some sample metrics that can be used to assess D&I practices include for each employee: the velocity of mobility (which is the length of time it takes to hire, promote and move up within the company), pathways for employees, percentage of diverse employees with mentors, results of mentorship in terms of career progression and employee engagement. This data can help uncover systemic issues like a gender pay gap. Companies can also look across employee reviews online, such as on Glassdoor, or conduct a social media audit to detect if there is any evidence of bias.  After all key areas for improvement have been identified, there must be organizational consensus on how to measure changes. Some companies rely on retention and attrition rates of different groups as an indicator for success. When implementing D&I training, it is helpful to perform employee surveys both prior and after to gauging the program’s success. Storing data from evaluations and all D&I initiatives can help measure changes along the way. The end goal of a more inclusive, diverse team is of course central to D&I but there should also be methods of measuring success along the journey. Each company is different and there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to D&I but consistent data collection can help companies implement, modify and quantify their success. 3.  Increased leadership accountability & support for D&I programs. Corporate leadership is recognizing that a solid D&I strategy is not merely a “nice-to-have” add-on carried out solely by the HR department but is instead a business imperative in today’s competitive landscape. Among the best practices for D&I implementation are executive buy-in and a strategic emphasis on D&I as a valued competitive advantage. Some companies are taking it a step further and modifying the structure of an organization’s leadership to enrich its approach to D&I. In a top down approach, some companies are making headway on D&I by creating an executive role in the form of a chief diversity and inclusion officer. The D&I executive can outline goals, establish targets, identify key improvement areas and then lead the organization through the steps of meeting goals. While this person interfaces with all areas of the organization in various capacities, the D&I’s department takes ownership and spearheads D&I initiatives. An employee-led grassroots approach forms a decentralized company-wide D&I council that draws on feedback directly from employees. While it still requires executive buy-in, the council’s reach is distributed through the entire workforce. The council appoints representatives from various departments or segments of a company and meets regularly to improve the company’s D&I culture as it pertains to recruitment, engagement and development. Some companies might opt for a hybrid approach to D&I leadership, which would involve appointing a D&I-specific executive and a D&I council. Instead of being solely led by employees, the D&I council is supported by the HR department and guided by representation from both the D&I executive and employees. Initiatives are cooperatively strategized and outlined by the D&I executive, HR and employees. The three groups agree upon how initiatives will be spearheaded and what role each group will play in their execution. 4.  Interview standardization will continue & reduce bias. Inconsistent recruitment practices will yield inconsistent (or, even worse, illegal) hiring results and may also open floodgates for unconscious bias in hiring processes. For quality and compliance, HR should have policies in place that ensure the hiring process is standardized from the time they list the job all the way through to when the hired employee steps in the door (or signs online if they’re remote) for their first day of work. Establishing and implementing hiring best practices provides a company’s recruiters with control and guidance for hiring. This type of standardization enhances transparency, allows for a fair comparison of candidates and reduces the risk of violating applicable labor laws. It also helps promote a company’s E&D profile. Striving for behavioral interviewing methods is an ideal strategy because a person’s behavior is an indication of future performance, especially when it comes to soft skills. According to research from LinkedIn, 57% of HR professionals struggle to assess candidates’ soft skills while 80% report that soft skills are increasingly important to company success. This makes sense because soft skills are one area where automation and AI cannot fully compete with humans. Many companies want the initial introduction with a candidate to be as blind as possible. This might mean starting out with a phone interview, which will eliminate visually-based unconscious bias upfront. Some companies are taking it a step further to accomplish the “blind interview,” using voice modulation apps for technical interviews so the interviewer won’t know the candidate’s gender or be able to pick up on any accent that might distinguish background attributes of the candidate. Behavioral interviewing seeks to uncover how an individual will react in critical job situations and can potentially provide more insight about a candidate’s qualification for the job than what is written on their resume or what you hear when you ask a candidate about their professional background. These questions could start with, “What would you do in…” or, “Tell me about a time when you…” Using an example of a customer service representative interview, the interviewer might present prospective candidates with a hypothetical customer situation and have them explain their approach to addressing it.   Asking the typical behavioral interviewing questions reduces the risk of legal or ethical pitfalls in the interview questions. Formally planning and asking all candidates the same questions saves time and prevents duplicate questions from being asked by multiple interviewers (unless intentionally done, so as to confirm consistency in the candidate’s response). This brings up another key point of having multiple people interview each candidate when possible. Engaging multiple interviewers can help overcome unconscious bias in interviews and offer a wider perspective for determining a candidate’s standing. However, even behavioral interview questions can be answered untruthfully by candidates. Pre-employment assessments can validate or negate the data derived from an interview. There are many options available to companies for hiring assessment tools that quantify and use objective, impartial data to evaluate candidates. Results from pre-employment assessments can provide an accurate snapshot of a candidate's strengths and weaknesses. The results can even be input to create hiring benchmarks that candidates can be compared to. 5.  Diversity & inclusion will be embraced across products & services for customers. D&I has gone mainstream. In the age of customer-centricity, there is mounting pressure on companies across industries to launch inclusive products and solutions that meet the needs of all customers. The 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting identified ‘empathy for the end-user’ as a key competitive advantage for succeeding in the digital age. In the age of digital transformation, companies will have to become more accessible to wider customer bases—and invoke messages and values that resonate with audiences across cultural and geographic boundaries.  According to LinkedIn, nearly half of employers said that they emphasize the importance of diversity to better represent their customers. This number is likely to grow as customers, who are increasingly accustomed to personalized products and services, will expect D&I to be embedded in the customer experience. Meanwhile, 70% of millennials are more likely to choose one brand over another brand if that brand demonstrates D&I in terms of its promotions and offers. As an industry that has been spearheading corporate D&I efforts for years, HR has deep expertise and can play a prominent role in leading the customer experience transformation. As companies look to amplify their market-relevance, HR departments will be charged with strategically staffing companies in ways that enrich the D&I profile and foster greater connections with customers. The moral case for building fairer and more inclusive workplaces is clear: people matter and organizations have an ethical and legal obligation to ensure their people management strategies do not disadvantage any groups. But equally important, D&I has evolved from being an HR-led initiative to being one that is reverberated to all corners of a company as a key business strategy. As global unemployment reaches its lowest point in 40 years and we enter an employment economy, the hiring landscape is only becoming more competitive. In this landscape, D&I is fast becoming one of the most powerful tools a business has. By keeping pace, HR can help companies leverage D&I to reimagine people management and elevate brand-loyalty among employees, customers and investors. 

Sophia Powe | 12 Aug 2019
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Career

The storied rivalry between Alibaba and Tencent continues to rage across digital technologies and apps throughout China. The digital transformation set into motion by Jack Ma and Pony Ma, the founders and spiritual forces behind the two e-commerce juggernauts, is accelerated by an intense competition to win China's middle class. The stakes are high. China's middle class is expected to increase from 430 to 780 million by the mid-2020s, a population largely represented by urban residents who are tech-savvy and conditioned to shopping online for everything from cosmetics to electronics.1 An Emerging Centralized Cybersphere   There was a time when Alibaba and Tencent kept their distance from each other. Alibaba focused on driving e-commerce through its mega-popular site Taobao, and Tencent dedicated its energy to WeChat, which has more than 1 billion active users.2 However, as China's population — like the rest of the world — became increasingly and inextricably integrated into the digital realm, the once comfortable boundaries separating the two empires began shrinking. Middle-class consumers desired ways to centralize the fragmented aspects of their digital lives — from banking, e-wallets and financial services to travel itineraries, online shopping accounts and communication platforms. Today, Chinese consumers have to decide which brand of internet bests serves their particular needs: the Alibaba incarnation or the Tencent one. The decision is critical to both businesses. After all, once a consumer commits to an online banking, shopping and communications environment, loyalty remains high due to the inconvenience of switching accounts and changing contact information. For Alibaba and Tencent, first-time adoption is key. Ultimately, individual consumers will determine which version best streamlines the sprawling tentacles of the internet. Two Powers, Two Divergent Cultures & Strategies   The internal cultures and strategies of each company are as different as the personalities of their founders. Alibaba still embodies the sensibility of the outspoken Jack Ma, who has returned to his teaching roots and more philanthropic work; Alibaba seeks to acquire more influence by purchasing significant, controlling stakes in affiliates to complement its well-known e-commerce companies, such as Fliggy, Tmall, Hema Grocery and the popular online payment services provider Ant Financial. Tencent, however, pursues a broader approach by securing minority stakes in a wide range of businesses that offer varying degrees of alignment with its flagship, WeChat, the objective being to establish relationships that will open doors for its technologies.3 Both strategies are ultimately designed to engage China's middle class, which increasingly expects high-quality products offering reliability, convenience and personality. Empowered with armies of cute cartoon mascots and sophisticated marketing strategies, the Alibaba vs. Tencent rivalry has changed the digital marketing landscape in China. While each company differentiates itself from the other through internal cultures, strategic planning and divergent brand identities, they have the Chinese middle-class marketplace in common — and this shared interest has led Alibaba and Tencent deep into Chinese traditions, culture and spending behaviors. Customs & Traditions: The Digital Gateway to China's Middle Class   The Game-Changing Red Envelope Hongbao Campaign   In 2014, WeChat launched the Red Envelope campaign, which quickly became a powerful example of how harmoniously new technologies can assimilate into human dynamics. The initiative capitalized on the centuries-old Chinese tradition of offering red envelopes containing cash to family and friends on holidays, such as New Years and other celebrated occasions. The campaign was perfectly timed for a middle class in China that had unprecedented wealth, spending power and a growing obsession for digital technologies and devices. China, a nation renowned for celebrating its heritage and ancient traditions, fully embraced digital transformation into its culture and consciousness. Alibaba, in response, launched its own Red Envelope campaigns that, like the WeChat campaigns, featured virtual money that could be distributed to individuals or groups — facilitating transactions among friends and family members at home, as well as colleagues at the workplace. The shift from cash offerings to digital currency was swift and revolutionary. Today, both brands are using cutting-edge technologies, like AI, to gamify payments and customs tied to this historic tradition. Together, Alibaba and Tencent have forever influenced how Chinese families and communities experience Hongbao — a cultural inflection point for the cybersphere and the real world. The Battle for Single's Day   As Alibaba and Tencent compete for China's middle class, cultural traditions beyond Hongbao have become effective consumer engagement opportunities. Single's Day, 11 November, China's most popular shopping day, is celebrated by both young Chinese singles and those in meaningful relationships. (The date 11/11 looks like four single people.) The holiday, which began in 1993, has exploded into the world's most lucrative online shopping event largely due to Alibaba's ability to leverage the holiday, beginning in 2009. In 2017, Alibaba's Single's Day sales garnered a record-setting $25.3 billion.4 Though Single's Day has been mostly ignored by luxury brands that craft their images around exclusivity and quality, high-end fashion brands and luxury products are now embracing the holiday by selling discounted merchandise through their WeChat mini-stores on 11/11. WeChat's reach provides these upscale brands with a powerful platform to advertise their products and sell to customers.5 Though Single's Day still belongs to Alibaba, WeChat will certainly explore ways to gain prominence in the world's most profitable 24 hours. As Alibaba and Tencent compete for future fortunes in profits, both empires know success means winning the hearts and minds of China's growing middle class. As middle classes in countries around the world continue to expand and strengthen their purchasing power, Alibaba and Tencent demonstrate that the key to creating unprecedented growth opportunities is understanding the power of people. Game on. 1Babones, Salvatore. "China's Middle Class Is Pulling Up the Ladder Behind Itself." Foreign Policy, 1 Feb. 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/01/chinas-middle-class-is-pulling-up-the-ladder-behind-itself/ 2Hollander, Rayna. "WeChat Has Hit 1 Billion Monthly Active Users." Business Insider, 6 Mar. 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/wechat-has-hit-1-billion-monthly-active-users-2018-3. 3Lashinsky, Adam. "Alibaba v. Tencent: The Battle for Supremacy in China." https://fortune.com/longform/alibaba-tencent-china-internet/. 4Lashinsky, Adam. "Alibaba v. Tencent: The Battle for Supremacy in China." https://fortune.com/longform/alibaba-tencent-china-internet/ 5Pan, Yiling. "4 Takeaways for Luxury Brands from China's 2017 Singles Day Bonanza." Jing Daily, 14 Nov. 2017, https://jingdaily.com/4-takeaways-2017-singles-day-bonanza/

Sophia Powe | 09 May 2019
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Career

The ongoing evolution of the global economy is a reflection of powerful changes occurring within the human population. Economies once historically sidelined by political headwinds, poor infrastructure and underutilized workforces are using digital technologies and access to interconnected resources to build unprecedented wealth and influence. But growth economies are doing more than catching up with traditional markets. They're now leading profound changes in the future of work and throughout the global economy. India has surpassed the U.S. and Japan as the leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) technologies;1 Latin America's once stalled economy expects stable growth throughout 2019;2 and the purchasing power of China's middle class has forever changed e-commerce and how consumers find, purchase and acquire products and services.3 Business leaders, understandably, can feel overwhelmed by the pace and scope of modern change and what it means for their organizations and workforce dynamics. These three leadership qualities can guide them to success in an uncertain future. 1. Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence & Soft Skills   "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." — Maya Angelou Leaders must be truthful to their own feelings while acknowledging the feelings of others. The era of lifetime employment and guaranteed pension plans is ending in many regions, which means employees around the world harbor fears about job security and long-term financial well-being. Moreover, Mercer's 2018 Global Talent Trends report shows that employees are increasingly searching for roles that allow them to work with purpose, putting additional pressure on leaders to connect with their workforce on a deeper level. Business leaders who internalize this reality and take meaningful steps to curtail their employees' anxieties command the respect of workers. Candidness is the cornerstone of true communication. Leaders must actively develop their emotional intelligence (EQ) and soft skill quotients, so they can inspire individual employees and entire workforces by speaking to their emotions while always delivering the truth. Reality always prevails. People respect leaders who treat them with respect and prepare them with information that will impact their lives. Emotional intelligence and soft skills should become priorities for business leaders who wish to thrive in the future of work. Being able to relate to the aspirations, sensibilities and challenges of other human beings requires a concerted effort to listen, understand and take action. As workforces, especially in growth nations, gravitate from rural areas to emerging megacities, leaders must proactively address their concerns about finding affordable childcare and transportation, accessing financial investment opportunities and pursuing professional development programs. Soft skills allow leaders to communicate information instead of dictating information. This connection builds strong relationships and productivity among workers who then feel critical to the business' objectives and success. Because, in truth, they are. Genuine appreciation is a powerful motivator. 2. Have a Passion for Technology   Leaders who feel they have "made it" are doomed to irrelevance. The image of a business leader in a corner office with teams of employees to carry out their orders and promulgate their communications is becoming obsolete. Technology is always evolving, and business leaders cannot rely on others to fill the gap when it comes to proficiency with modern digital devices, platforms and strategies. Learning new technologies takes time, and for many leaders, time is a precious commodity. Digital transformation, however, demands that business leaders passionately engage with developing technological innovations and trends that impact business operations, consumer engagement and sales strategies. The future of work requires leaders to have the technical ability to communicate across the latest digital ecosystems and media channels. This acumen demonstrates their understanding of how technology is evolving and how it drives business in a hyper-interconnected world. Business leaders should regularly ask employees and outside vendors (and even competitors) to "show me" or "teach me," because these questions demonstrate a passion for learning and an emotional intelligence that appreciates the need to stay informed and relevant. Being technologically savvy also allows leaders to connect the dots in terms of operational resources, workforce skillsets and the need to pivot priorities and growth investments. When in doubt, there is no shame in asking how to use the latest application or device. The future waits for no one. 3. Know All Growth is Global   Think about your smartphone. It probably contains lithium from Chile, indium from China and coltan from Rwanda.4 Even the most local business relies on the global economy, and leaders who can contextualize business opportunities with an international mindset are poised for success in the future of work. In 2025, the world's population will reach 8.1 billion people — which represents a historic level of business opportunity, untapped markets and revenue sources waiting to be discovered.5 Growth is the result of forward-thinking initiatives that plan for where business is heading. As western economies continue to struggle with political turmoil — from the implementation of Brexit to uncertain U.S. international trade dynamics — growth economies can wield increased influence across all industries. Growth-focused leaders, however, face the challenge of building consensus and securing buy-in from various stakeholders. From C-suite executives and employees to investors and shareholders, leaders must be able to communicate a vision and strategy that captures the potential of the future of work. Leaders must always think in terms of a globalized economy, because that is where the opportunity resides — in the hearts, minds and needs of an expanding population. This will continue to propel businesses in the future, so long as leaders provide a vision moving forward. Growth economies offer business leaders more than lucrative sales markets. They provide valuable supply chains and investment opportunities in assets ranging from infrastructure and manufacturing to human capital and digital technologies. In a globalized world, the future of work belongs to leaders who understand that opportunities will come from economies on the rise and leaders who understand the influence EQ, technology and a global mindset will have on their ability to succeed. 1Some, Kamalika. "India Leads US and Japan in Driving RPA and AI Based Technologies." Analytics Insight, 2 Oct. 2018, https://www.analyticsinsight.net/india-leads-us-japan-driving-rpa-ai-based-technologies/. 2"Latin America Outlook 3Q18." BBVA Research, https://www.bbvaresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Latin_America_Outlook_3Q18.pdf. 3Riming, Nie. "How China's Middle Class Will Dictate the Future of E-Commerce." Sixth Tone, 16 Jan. 2018, https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1001560/how-chinas-middle-class-will-dictate-the-future-of-e-commerce. 4Olingo, Allan. "Minerals in Your Mobile Phone." The East African, https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Minerals-in-your-mobile-phone-/-/2560/2739730/-/xveeqw/-/index.html 5Olson, Alexandra. "U.N.: World Population to Reach 8.1B in 2025." USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 13 June 2013, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/06/13/un-world-population-81-billion-2025/2420989/.

Sophia Powe | 25 Apr 2019
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