Is 2017 the year the definition of work changed?

A large workforce survey was recently conducted by Deloitte to discover what is happening in the world of work. The findings were startling and showed that talent acquisition is becoming one of the biggest concerns facing companies. EP explores why Deloitte believe a radical transition is already underway.

With job reinvention through technology and automation increasing, human aspects are becoming more important than ever. Deloitte surveyed more than 10,000 HR executives from 140 countries in their report, ‘Global Human Capital Trends’. The findings showed that the workplace shift is having big consequences across the talent management spectrum, from learning and management to executive recruiting.

It is somewhat unsurprising that talent is in the middle of the current changes taking place in organisations. HR and business leaders are trying to stay ahead and according to the survey – 90 per cent of them say building the ‘organisation of the future’ is their top priority. To get there, the workplace has to evolve – from focusing on networks of teams and recruiting to developing the right people.

Every business in some shape or form has experienced a radical work transformation
– whether digitally with social media, demographically or in other ways. In the report, Deloitte issues a call-to-action for companies to completely reconsider their organisational structure, talent and HR strategies to keep up with the disruption taking place. 

Keeping pace
Technology is advancing at unprecedented rates and these innovations are completely transforming the way people live, work and communicate. Organisations must now shift their mind-set and behaviours to ensure they can lead, organise, motivate, manage and engage the 21st century workforce.

New organisational models highlight the need for a networked world of work, but the report states HR leaders are struggling to keep up, with only 35 per cent of them rating their capabilities as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics are all transforming business models and work, to remain competitive, organisations must keep up.

Has the search for talent really improved?
As the workforce evolves,  organisations are focusing on networks of teams, and recruiting and developing the right people is more consequential than ever. Deloitte survey respondents point to talent acquisition as one of the biggest issues organisations face, with 81 per cent of companies citing it as ‘very important’ or ‘important’. Technology is used by leaders to bring talent into a company but there is a lack of differentiated employee experiences once they are acquired. Linked to this is a desire for a more personalised approach and a rising weariness of job boards and the more transactional approach that recruitment has become. It is one of the fascinating lessons of the present era – companies are experiencing a new digital age which increases the speed of communication and makes the world transparent but there is still a desire for good old fashioned personal representation and advice.

It is all natural. If one is seeking to appoint a senior executive, one wants confidentiality, discretion and some real thought in the process. However the last decade has changed the traditional search and recruitment consultancy to becoming more transactional and less personal.

The pendulum is now swinging back and for good reason. However it is swinging back with a difference. One of the most common discussion pieces over the last decade is why hasn’t more talent broken through and taken leadership roles. The natural place to look at is the talent itself but that is there and some exceptional talent seeking to break through. So the barrier is not the talent but how business has changed. The digital age has made companies focus on greater process, and compliance coupled with the management of risk. Companies have never been better technically managed. However talent is struggling to break through.

Shifting priorities
The desires of job candidates are also changing with culture and flexibility topping the list of preferences. Organisations need talented employees to drive strategy and achieve goals, but finding, recruiting and retaining people is becoming more difficult.

According to the report, taking an integrated approach to building the employee experience, with a large part centred on ‘careers and learning,’ rose to second place on HRs’ and business leaders priority lists, with 83 per cent of those surveyed ranking it as ‘important’ or ‘very important’. Now a higher premium must be placed on immersive learning experiences to develop leaders who can thrive in today’s digital world and appeal to a diverse workforce needs.

The importance of leadership as a driver of the employee experience remains strong according to the survey. The percentage of companies with experiential programs for leaders rose nearly 20 percentage points from 47 per cent in 2015 to 64 per cent in 2016. However there is still a crucial need for stronger and different types of leaders.

As organisations become more digital, leaders should consider disruptive technologies for every aspect of their human capital needs. Deloitte found that 56 per cent of companies are redesigning their HR programs to leverage digital and mobile tools.

Reinventing jobs
The trends in the Deloitte report show signs of reinvention on all fronts, including jobs themselves. They found 41 per cent of respondents reported having fully implemented or having made significant progress in adopting cognitive and AI technologies within their workforce.

However only 17 per cent of global executives reported they are ready to manage a workforce with people, robots and AI working side by wide – the lowest readiness level for a trend in the five years of the survey.

It is important to note that empathy, communication and problem solving are still seen as essential aspects of work. These human aspects are becoming more important than ever before. The insights and capabilities of employees are now also needed with only eight per cent reporting they have usable data. With a lack of knowledge of talent, organisations may lack the understanding that can drive performance.

So has the definition of work changed? Fundamentally it hasn’t but it is constantly evolving and organisations need to be aware and ready to adapt to the changing conditions. The Deloitte surveyed raised many values points and argued that organisations face a radically shifting content for the workforce, the workplace, and the world of work. Businesses must focus on getting better at organising, managing, developing and aligning their people at work.

The report should be taken as a call to action for HR and business leaders as a number of converging issues are driving the need to ‘rewrite the rules’. Technology is advancing, individuals are relatively quick to react to innovation but organisations are at a slower pace. There are gaps and now organisations must adapt to technology, help their people adapt to new models of work and careers, and help the company as a whole adapt and encourage positive change in all aspects.