Five Things Outperforming Organizations Are Focusing on That You Don’t Want to Ignore

FOW21 Coverage:

Five Things Outperforming Organizations Are Focusing on that You Don’t Want to Ignore

Outperforming companies already thought about the future of work – way in the past.

Those organizations who had grabbed hold of all the cool stuff like cloud, automation, design thinking, user experience, gig economy, Internet of Things (IoT) and agile practices well before the coronavirus crisis even hit are the ones who are ahead now, according to the latest IBM research shared at IAOP’s Future of Work (FOW21) online forum.

The firms who had excuses and viewed these technologies and practices as non-essential and that didn’t understand the workplace to come are the underperformers whose survival may be in jeopardy.

In a compelling keynote address on Creating the New Future of Work, Jennifer Kirkwood, Partner-Talent Transformation, HCM & Date, IBM, opened by saying, “there is no other thing more exciting than the future of work.”

“We are putting the power in your hands and with great power comes great responsibility,” Kirkwood told the business and HR leaders attending the virtual event presented by IAOP’s Future of Work Center of Excellence and sponsored by IBM.

The rate of change is faster than ever and the pandemic forced companies to act.

Surveys conducted by IBM found that companies responded to a range of COVID-19-related changes far quicker than they thought possible before it occurred. While firms thought it would normally take 15 months to increase remote working and collaboration, they were able to actually accomplish it in 10 days or 43 times faster.

Companies also adopted technologies faster than they thought – from a projected 672 days to under a month or 26.5 days. And they increased their spending on data security in a lightning fast 23 days when they envisioned it would take 449 days.  

“Outperforming businesses put the pedal to the metal,” Kirkwood said. “This is what took the discussion of the future of work of the past and squeezed it and made it everyone’s business. You were either in the race or very much in the back.”

Areas Overperformers are Zeroed in On 

  1. ‘Anywhere’ workplace – Working remotely from home or under other flexible work arrangements is top of the mind on half of the CEOs surveyed while underperformers are spending their time worrying about market shifts.

“Outperformers expect challenges with the ‘anywhere workplace’ two times more than underperformers,” she said. “They are not afraid. They are expecting the anywhere workplace to be around in some shape or form. That’s not bad because the anywhere workplace tapped into a new channel of talent that wasn’t there before. It opened up a talent network and hub.” 

  1. Technology – Technology infrastructure is being emphasized by 62 percent out outperformers but only 32 percent of underperformers. The high-achieving firms are using technology to differentiate themselves.
  2. Cybersecurity – Outperformers identify protecting against new cyber risks as increasing in importance 26 percent more than underperformers. When companies quickly moved to remote work, they sacrificed security, resulting in the worst breaches we have seen, she said. Skills in this critical area will continue to be in demand in the future workplace.
  3. Employee engagement – All outperformers engage employees anywhere and deeply value employee wellbeing and inclusivity. The poll found 97 percent said they support the wellbeing of their employees even if it costs more or reduces profits. Inclusive practices and behavior are critical to leadership in 29 percent of the companies who responded.

Kirkwood noted that the pandemic brought many issues to the forefront that companies need to tackle including mental health, job-related anxiety and depression, loneliness and imposter syndrome.

“Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) is one of the most valuable things an employer can do from a consumer, customer and brand loyalty standpoint,” she said.

5.         Partnerships – All of the overachievers are partnering with others to drive innovation. According to the research, 97 percent of top companies identified partnerships as increasing in importance and nearly half, 47 percent, expect to pursue flexible partner networks.

“It’s about the ideas, the collaboration, innovation and ideation sourcing,” she said. “By using agile practices, we can do swift deployments like never before.”

The Skills Gap

Kirkwood explored the jobs that are here to stay (HR, trades, medical and IT analysts), those that will be automated and fade away (short-order cooks, taxi drivers and travel agents) and the skill gaps that exist (Data analytics, IT, customer service, front line management and finance).  

Organizations are facing many challenges related to skills, which will be core to everything. The top three are: addressing gaps in core skills for newly recruited employees (39 percent); accommodating multiple, diverse learning styles of employees (39 percent); and maintaining the skills currency of long-term employees (37 percent). 

Business leaders, HR and operations need to come together to build programs to reskill employees, train them in adjacent skills if their talents are becoming obsolete or hire for new capabilities.

Sharing data, transparency and agility in responding to business needs will be critical when it comes to skills development. Companies need to take an “all-in” approach to using new strategies and tactics for training.

The IBM research found it is getting more complicated for companies to close the skills gap and taking longer. The median time to close a skills or capability gap through training is 42 days compared to 36 days three years ago, representing a 17 percent increase, the data showed. 

“Outperforming companies are investing more now in their employees and the payoff was greater,” she said, sharing the example of a leading airline that invested in personal learning to model the performance of its best people when times were toughest during the pandemic.

Organizations that are effectively balancing hiring with reskilling are 50 percent more likely to be using robotic process automation in talent development to keep up with the fast pace of change.

“After our great resignation will come a great hiring wave,” she said. “It will balance out. Using RPA and automation will be essential to that.”

Future skills that will be needed by 2030 include cognitive flexibility, digital literacy and computational thinking, judgment and decision-making, emotional and social intelligence, and having a creative and innovative mindset.

Looking ahead, Kirkwood had this message for HR and business leaders:

“You’ll have to deploy workforce skills and capabilities to match competencies and opportunities within the market. You’ll have to identify and develop the next-generation workforce, lead globally with a diverse and effective workforce, and foster collaboration and diverse knowledge sharing just like we are doing in this forum.”

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