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Ways COVID-19 Is Changing HR

Ways COVID-19 Is Changing HR

As many business leaders look to close the skills gap and cultivate a sustainable workforce amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, a new IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study revealed that fewer than four in 10 human resources (HR) executives surveyed reported that they had the skills needed to achieve their enterprise strategy.

Pre-pandemic IBM research in 2018 found that as many as 120 million workers surveyed in the world’s 12 largest economies might need to be retrained or reskilled because of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation in the next three years. That challenge has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. As many C-suite leaders accelerate digital transformation, they report inadequate skills is one of their biggest hurdles to progress.

Ongoing IBM consumer research also showed that the surveyed employees’ expectations for their employers significantly changed during the pandemic, but that there was a disconnect in how effective leaders and employees believed companies had been in addressing these gaps. Seventy-four percent of executives surveyed believed their employers had been helping them learn the skills needed to work in a new way, compared to just 38 percent of employees surveyed. Eighty percent of executives surveyed also said their company was supporting employees’ physical and emotional health, but only 46 percent of employees surveyed agreed.

“Today, perhaps more than ever, organizations can either fail or thrive based on their ability to enable the agility and resiliency of their greatest competitive advantage — their people,” said Amy Wright, managing partner at IBM Talent and Transformation. “Business leaders should shift to meet new employee expectations brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic such as holistic support for their well-being, development of new skills, and a truly personalized employee experience even while working remotely. It’s imperative to bring forward a new era of HR — and those companies who were already on the path are better positioned to succeed amid disruption today and in the future.”

The new IBV study, Accelerating the journey to HR 3.0, conducted in partnership with global independent analyst Josh Bersin of the Josh Bersin Academy, includes insights from more than 1,500 global HR executives surveyed in 20 countries and 15 industries. Based on those insights, the study provides a roadmap for the journey to the next era of HR, with practical examples of how HR leaders at surveyed “high-performing companies” — meaning those that outpace all others in profitability, revenue growth, and innovation — can reinvent their function to build a more sustainable workforce.

Additional highlights from the study include: nearly six in 10 high-performing companies surveyed report using AI and analytics to make better decisions about their talent such as skilling programs and compensation decisions; 41 percent are leveraging AI to identify skills they’ll need for the future, versus 8 percent of responding peers; 65 percent of surveyed high-performing companies are looking to AI to identify behavioral skills like growth mindset and creativity for building diverse adaptable teams, compared to 16 percent of peers. More than two-thirds of all respondents said agile practices are essential to the future of HR. However, less than half of HR units in participating organizations have capabilities in design thinking and agile practices; 71 percent of high-performing companies surveyed report they are widely deploying a consistent HR technology architecture, compared to only 11 percent of others.

“In order to gain long-term business alignment between leaders and employees, this moment requires HR to operate as a strategic advisor — a new role for many HR organizations,” said Josh Bersin, global independent analyst, and dean of the Josh Bersin Academy. “Many HR departments are looking to technology, such as the cloud and analytics, to support a more cohesive and self-service approach to traditional HR responsibilities. Offering employee empowerment through holistic support could drive larger strategic change to the greater business.”

Report findings suggest three core elements to promote lasting change.

According to the report, surveyed HR executives from high-performing companies were eight times as likely as their surveyed peers to be driving disruption in their organizations.

Among those companies, the following actions are a clear priority: Accelerating the pace of continuous learning and feedback; cultivating empathetic leadership to become a more health-oriented company and support employees’ holistic well-being; Reinventing their HR function and technology architecture to make more real-time data-driven decisions.

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