People and Purpose: Redefining Talent Strategy in an Unpredictable World

May 23, 20168:20 am468 views

CEOs increasingly believe that the very best talent will only join and stay with organisations that have strong values, ones that mirror their own and are focused on benefitting society, according to research by PwC in a report titled ‘People and Purpose: Talent Strategy in a Digital World.’

CEOs see a business world that is fast-moving, unpredictable and fragmented. Surrounded by uncertainty, they realise that a strong corporate purpose centered on broader societal values can provide the anchor many employees and customers are looking for.

CEOs are now so conscious of this that 69% of the 1,409 CEOs interviewed by PwC say their organisation’s purpose is focused on societal value – and 24% changed their purpose in the last three years to make it so.

Led by the Millennial generation, people want to support and work for organisations they can trust. They are looking for more responsible and ethical goods, services, brands, companies and employers – and CEOs are looking to provide it. 75% of CEOs are making changes to values, ethics and codes of conduct in response to wider stakeholder expectations.

Strategy to Execution

Another key magnet for attracting key talent is the right people strategy.

67% of CEOs think that in five years, rather than going for the biggest pay check, talent will prefer to work for organisations with social values that match their own and they are making changes to their talent strategy accordingly.

But while CEOs know it’s imperative that they get talent strategy right and they have excellent strategic intentions, they’re struggling to translate these intentions into tangible steps.

For instance, 72% worry about the availability of key skills, but just 30% are focused on upgrading the skills and adaptability of their people. And despite CEOs agreeing that technology is important in responding to stakeholder expectations, only 4% of CEOs recognise the value of predictive people analytics in their talent strategy.

Jon Andrews, leader of PwC’s global people and organisation practice, said:

“CEOs clearly recognise the importance of attracting and retaining talent. They are also clear on the importance of their organisation’s values and purpose in achieving this. The challenge for CEOs and their HR function is in knowing where to start in creating an organisation that not only has a clear and compelling set of values and purpose, but that it lives and breathes these on a day-to-day basis.

“What is surprising in these results, in a world where digital is becoming the norm, is that only 4% of CEOs perceive there to be value in the vast amount of data they hold on their people and the role this can play as a predictive and insight based decision support tool.

“The implementation of workforce data and measurement can give an organisation a competitive edge in talent management – and it’s essential in monitoring and measuring the impact of employer values on employees.”

See: Talent Management: Myths and Insights

CEOs must navigate an extraordinarily complicated path. They must prepare their organisation for a future where anything seems possible and make sure it’s agile enough to adapt at speed. They must make sure that they have the people they’ll need for a future they can’t predict, in a workplace where employees, contingent workers and automation sit side by side.

CEOs know its imperative that they get talent strategy right; but while they have excellent strategic intentions, they’re struggling when it comes to execution. The impact of technology on the workplace is adding a new dimension to the race for the talent.

Already, entirely new worker ecosystems are developing – a heady mix of automation, employees and contingent workers. ‘Work’ requires an additional classification: digitally, remotely, flexibly. Managing people in such a complex world is intensely difficult but the more immediate problem for CEOs is that the skills their business will need five or ten years from now are becoming impossible to predict.

The World Economic Forum’s recent report The Future of Jobs makes the point that changes to the business model in reaction to technological change almost immediately impact the skills that businesses need. Chief HR Officers surveyed for the report believe that, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skills of most occupations will be made up of skills that aren’t considered crucial to the job today.

There’s no doubt that CEOs and their organisations are facing a perfect storm of economic woe and disruptive change. The future is more unpredictable than ever; success increasingly depends on an organisation’s ability to rapidly adapt, reskill and deploy people to wherever the next opportunity arises.

Cost pressures continue unabated but it would be folly for any organisation to neglect their investment in people in this environment. Talent is a crucial driver of value; get it right and costs are reduced while revenue improves. It’s people who power your bottom line.

The difficulty for CEOs is where to best target valuable resources: our survey shows that they have realised that shared values and a sense of purpose are becoming critical to talent strategy, but where should they start?

Creating a true sense of purpose – one that reaps real dividends in terms of productivity, loyalty and the employer brand – demands a thoughtful approach. It means focusing on the wellbeing of employees, on encouraging adaptability and diversity throughout the organisation and, most critically, it depends on making effective and intelligent use of data analytics in talent strategy. This all comes down to people: its people that will drive through change.

Also read: Data is the New Currency, Talent is the New Investment

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