- Talent Edge Weekly
- Talent Edge Weekly - Issue #200 Best of September
Talent Edge Weekly - Issue #200 Best of September
Includes 15 of the best articles and resources from September. Topics span workplace trends, talent practices, and HR effectiveness.
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THIS MONTH’S CONTENT
This "Best of September" issue brings you the 15 most popular articles and resources from the September issues of Talent Edge Weekly. The resources are categorized into 3 themes.
Workplace Trends. Remote and hybrid work; the impact of AI on company business models, jobs, and skills; employee engagement.
Talent Practices. Succession, internal mobility, workforce planning, talent metrics, skill-based talent, leadership development, and executive coaching.
HR Effectiveness. HR’s expanding role, HR offsite strategy meetings, and the impact of AI in HR.
Also included are the 2023 Job Cuts and Layoff Tracker and the Chief HR Officer Hire of the Month.
Let’s dive in.
THIS MONTH’S EDGE
I. WORKPLACE TRENDS
Remote and hybrid work; the impact of AI on company business models, jobs, and skills; employee engagement.
Numerous organizations continue to mandate that employees return to the office, typically for at least a few days each week. This article underscores the significance of setting "in-person" office expectations based on "moments that matter" instead of enforcing a minimum number of office days. It suggests that teams should customize their approach to suit the nature of their work, pinpointing key occasions or reasons for in-person meetings. The article highlights research identifying three scenarios where in-person connections offer distinct advantages: 1) Strengthening team cohesion, especially vital in the context of increasingly dispersed organizations. 2) Facilitating effective onboarding for new roles, teams, or companies, as face-to-face interactions foster trust and relationship-building during the initial stages of a new job. 3) Initiating a project, particularly in its early phases, to align team members, stimulate innovation, and share tacit knowledge. Regarding projects, I am sharing a Gartner article illustrating one example of how a team embarking on a six-month, five-phase project could convene in person at pivotal points during the project. While this approach may not be universally applicable, it offers an alternative to the prevailing "days per week" model many organizations have been adopting. As suggested in the Microsoft article, organizations should ask: "What are the moments that matter for us?" This answer can provide guidance for determining when in-office interactions are likely to be meaningful and deliver value.
I recently shared an HBR article that explored varying perspectives on hybrid work across global regions. Drawing from a survey conducted by the INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute and Universum involving 651 managers from 50 countries spanning EMEA, APAC, and the Americas, the results show that while some similarities emerged, such as positive impacts on work-life balance and carbon footprint, a few differences are evident, including: Desire to Return to a Physical Office: APAC displays a stronger desire compared to EMEA and the Americas. The Americas region was more positive about remote productivity. In this additional newly released article, Nicholas Bloom and his colleagues explore remote work from a different angle: senior management perception on the return-to-office push. The article discusses how CEOs are publicly advocating for a return to the office, but privately, they expect remote work to continue growing. A recent survey conducted in July 2023 reveals that senior executives at various U.S. businesses anticipate both fully remote and hybrid work models to increase in the next five years. Several factors contribute to this expectation, such as employees value remote work as much as an 8% pay increase. As the debate on remote work continues, here is my one-page curated playlist of five resources to help leaders evaluate different aspects of remote work. While some resources are more recent than others, they all address essential topics in the ongoing discussion on remote work.
This 32-page report delves into AI’s impact on company business models— focusing on how AI integration will affect business operations, job roles, and skills. Drawing insights from surveys involving 3,000 C-level executives across 28 countries and 21,000 workers in 22 countries, the findings reveal that 40% of executives foresee the need for workforce reskilling within the next three years because of AI adoption. Encouragingly, 87% believe that generative AI will enhance job roles instead of replacing them, reinforcing the notion of the “augmented workforce.” This collaborative synergy between humans and machines has the potential to unlock productivity and deliver substantial business value. For instance, as technology becomes more user-friendly, employees can achieve more with less technical expertise (e.g., using no-code software development platforms). And as machines assume routine and mundane tasks, there is a growing emphasis on essential people skills like team management, effective teamwork, communication, and adaptability to change. Figure 2 illustrates how these people skills are becoming increasingly critical for workers to possess, considering advances in AI and technology. Beginning on page 22, the ‘Action Guide’ offers practical strategies for organizations navigating this evolving human-machine partnership. Several other ideas are discussed.
Employee engagement and productivity remain pressing concerns for organizations, especially with ongoing changes in how, when, and where people work. Recent research by McKinsey sheds light on six distinct employee personas, each exhibiting varying levels of satisfaction, engagement, and performance. And while I don’t prefer the names of the labels used, the archetypes are: 1) The quitters (estimated at around 11%) are those on their way out or already gone. 2) The disruptors (estimated at 10%) are actively disengaged and likely to demoralize others. 3) The mildly disengaged (approximately 32%) are performing at the minimum level. 4) The double-dippers (about 5%) spread across the satisfaction spectrum, including full-time salaried workers who hold two or more jobs simultaneously, often without their employers' knowledge. 5) The reliable and committed (about 38%) consistently going above and beyond. 6) The thriving stars (4%) are the top talent in an organization bringing disproportionate value. While employee archetypes and frameworks have existed in the employee engagement domain for many years, these classifications can sometimes help pinpoint talent risks and strengths, guiding tailored talent actions. The article outlines actions for each archetype. As a bonus, here is my employee retention risk template, which can help identify and address unwanted retention risks.
II. TALENT PRACTICES
Succession, internal mobility, workforce planning, talent metrics, skill-based talent, leadership development, and executive coaching.
Each week, well over 1,000 new subscribers join Talent Edge Weekly. In their new subscriber survey, readers share their top talent and workplace priorities. Despite varying priorities across subscribers, several consistent themes emerge. To enhance accessibility to resources aligned with these common interests, I've compiled a one-page PDF featuring 15 categorized resources addressing five popular talent and workplace topics: Employee Wellbeing, Remote Work, Succession Planning, Workforce Planning, and Internal Mobility. Each category offers three resources with a brief description and a link to the source document. These resources tackle issues such as leadership's impact on employee wellbeing, effective strategies for remote work, succession planning metrics, the role of skills-based talent platforms in workforce planning, and talent movement best practices within an organization. I hope you find this PDF helpful in quickly accessing resources that might be of interest. If you still need to complete the 90-second subscriber survey, please take a moment to do so, as your feedback helps me tailor future newsletter content to your preferred topics and formats.
Many organizations are increasingly embracing skills-based strategic workforce planning (SWP). Nevertheless, transitioning to skills-based SWP can be a lengthy endeavor, particularly as numerous organizations lack a shared language for discussing and organizing skills. And in instances where a common language does exist, tracking skills and their fluctuations can prove to be a formidable task. However, as highlighted in this article, skills intelligence technology offers a solution by enabling organizations to automate the compilation and integration of skills data from internal and external sources, making it easier to update databases as employee skills evolve. This article provides an overview of skills-based technology platforms and explores how one company, Unum, leveraged such a platform to implement a scalable, real-time SWP approach. However, implementing skills intelligence platforms is not as simple as "flipping a switch" and will require organizations to carefully consider their specific needs and goals in this process. Key questions arise, such as: 1) What internal and external data sources will the AI engines of these skill platforms utilize to infer employees' skills? 2) How will skills be verified? Will employees self-assess their skills and rate their proficiency, or will managers and others be involved in assessing the skills of their colleagues? Answering these and other questions can increase the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption of skills-based talent platforms.
This new article by Marc Effron discusses two crucial questions for evaluating an organization's ability to create value through talent: 1) Is your organization able to sustain individual high performance? 2) Do you have appropriate talent depth in your most important roles? Regarding the first question, Marc highlights three scientifically validated enablers of performance: 1) effective goal setting involving clear cascades, concise objectives, and ambitious goals; 2) transparent coaching; and 3) establishing accountability for performance-driving behaviors. Concerning talent depth— having "ready within 6 months" leaders for vital roles—strategies include identifying pivotal roles with significant strategic impact and accurately assessing individual potential based on cognitive abilities, personality traits, and motivation—criteria backed by research. Drawing on my role as an internal HR practitioner, a recurring challenge in identifying critical roles is when assessors attempt to evaluate roles using less valid criteria, such as 1) job level (e.g., executive); role criticality is agnostic of level. 2) how difficult a role is to recruit for (a role can be challenging to fill but may not be critical); 3) the incumbent rather than the role's impact on organizational value. Also, assessors need to be reminded that a role deemed critical may not maintain its criticality, as criticality can shift with evolving business strategies. As Marc states, "You can use the critical role definition that works best for your organization, but it should cover any role where an unplanned departure would cause meaningful financial, operational, or reputational challenges."
As organizations shift increasingly towards team-based work, harnessing the potential of team-based performance management (PM) is paramount. While not a new concept, team-based PM is garnering increasing attention, especially considering the emphasis that many senior executives have placed on teamwork and collaboration when articulating the narrative of the "return to the office." However, many organizations still prioritize individual contributions in their PM approach, as evidenced by a recent Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study revealing that only 28% of organizations base performance incentives on measurable team metrics. This article sheds light on eight PM strategies to promote team-based performance, such as identifying the required shifts in organizational culture that bridge the gap between individual and team success. The article also emphasizes measuring team performance at four levels: organization, stakeholders, the team, and individual team members—a practice that can be enabled by HR technology that helps gather and analyze performance feedback. Is your organization transitioning increasingly toward team-based PM? If so, are you able to articulate the shifts it needs to make across the eight PM levers—from culture to feedback delivery and rewards? In case you missed it, check out my Performance Management Playlist, which includes five PM resources.
This in-depth article delves into the limitations and potential reinvention of the executive coaching industry in preparing leaders for future challenges. It identifies four flaws in the traditional coaching model and proposes solutions. One cited flaw is the oversimplification of "effective leadership" within executive coaching, neglecting unique contextual factors in each organization. Addressing contextual questions, such as the particular problem sets leaders need to tackle within a company and the varying stakeholder and cultural considerations, is paramount for providing relevant and practical executive coaching. Additionally, the article stresses the need for coaching engagements that cultivate "collective leadership capabilities" essential throughout an organization's leadership ecosystem, rather than solely focusing the engagement on individual needs. My 2016 article, "Identifying Leadership Capabilities That Drive Business Performance," discussed the importance of building collective leadership capability. Given the escalating demands on organizational leaders, pinpointing the required leadership capabilities and leveraging them as a competitive edge will be critical.
This article discusses the growing trend of organizations investing in leadership development despite implementing cost-cutting measures in other areas. The authors emphasize the necessity for companies to understand the return on their investment in leadership development and present five key success factors for an evidence-based approach to measuring its impact: 1) Embedding Measurement Throughout the Learning Journey, 2) Defining Success in Tangible Terms, 3) Diagnosing Baseline Data, 4) Developing a Data-Informed Learning Experience, and 5) Determining Early Indicators and Adapting Incrementally. Regarding point #2 (defining success in tangible terms), the focus is on aligning business stakeholders and the L&D team on metrics that will signify the journey's success. Questions aimed at driving this alignment include: What business problem(s) are we trying to address? How can learning assist? What business outcome(s) are we seeking to achieve? Which business key performance indicators (KPIs) should we target? When can we expect to see significant movement in these KPIs? The table on p.4 illustrates a practical example of how these questions might be answered using three business imperatives. While isolating the impact of leadership development on organizational outcomes is difficult to do, these five steps can take organizations one step closer to demonstrating the ways in which leadership development enables business performance.
Many organizations continue to make the transition to skills-based talent practices (SBTP)—where the focus is more on an individual’s skills rather than job titles, academic degrees, or years of experience when it comes to attracting, hiring, developing, and redeploying talent. However, the shift to SBTP can be a long journey, requiring practitioners to answer various questions about the operationalization and implementation of SBTP. As talent practitioners think through the various aspects of this transition, I have curated 10 Q&As from various reports, such as Deloitte’s 101-page report, Building Tomorrow’s Skills-based Organization (SBO): Jobs Aren’t Working Anymore. The 10 Q&As address questions such as: How many organizations have successfully transitioned to being a SBO? How effective are organizations at classifying and organizing skills into a skills taxonomy or framework? What are the top three barriers business and HR executives cite as obstacles to skills-based talent practices? Which areas are organizations starting with when introducing skills-based talent practices? What tangible, practical things can organizations do to start their journey to a skills-based organization? This reference includes the question, an answer, and a link to the document from which the information was sourced.
III. HR EFFECTIVENESS
HR’s expanding role, HR offsite strategy meetings, and the impact of AI in HR.
I recently shared a LinkedIn post where I featured 15 resources aimed at helping Chief HR Officers enhance personal, team, and organizational effectiveness. These resources encompassed a wide range of topics, including AI in HR, transitioning into a new CHRO role, and HR strategy. To add to this list, this new paper by Gartner delves into how the rapidly evolving workplace landscape is pushing HR to support areas where it may not be the primary expert or provider—such as AI, mental well-being, and social issues. It highlights the growing need for CHROs to equip their functions to collaborate with leaders and experts from across the organization to find innovative solutions for emerging and diverse challenges. This role requires HR to continue the transition from an "own-and-operate" mindset to a "convene-and-catalyze" approach—where the focus is on bringing together the right stakeholders, orchestrating decision-making frameworks, and inspiring new ideas and ways of working. While many in HR already operate in this capacity, the article provides 3 ways HR can further make this shift, such as augmenting HR expertise with an understanding of a wider range of novel issues. A related Gartner article suggests that the HR function can augment non-HR expertise by having more flexible movement of talent into and out of the function. What is your strategy for integrating non-HR expertise into the HR function?
Many HR leaders and their teams are currently refining, finalizing, and communicating their 2024 strategies. A common practice in this endeavor is organizing an offsite strategy meeting—typically held in person and away from the office—to align HR's direction and priorities. This article focuses on how HR leaders can optimize their HR strategy offsite by intentionally managing three phases of the meeting: 1) Before (e.g., curating prereads, separating strategic from transactional topics, and allocating most time to transformative, strategic topics). 2) During (e.g., establishing a clear narrative between HR priorities and business strategy, aligning the functional deliverables to that narrative, and conducting scenario planning for how HR strategy and tactics may shift if certain scenarios unfold). Figure 4 includes four scenarios that can help HR leadership think through responses to specific scenarios. 3) After the Offsite (e.g., harmonizing and cascading the HR strategy across different HR units or regions to drive performance). While the article is angled toward the HR function, the tactics and approaches are adaptable to any function or business unit. As a bonus, here is an article by Pyn that provides ideas for running a successful HR strategy offsite.
Generative AI (GenAI) is poised to unlock capacity within the HR function. A recent BCG analysis I shared revealed GenAI's potential to boost HR productivity by up to 30%. To effectively harness GenAI's capabilities, HR leaders and their teams can benefit from the insights in this new article by Josh Bersin. One point Josh emphasizes is the importance of first identifying specific problems that HR wants to solve rather than rushing to adopt GenAI technology. This approach enables teams to think through, refine, and prioritize their requirements, which can help pinpoint opportunities for how GenAI can help solve problems and deliver value. In conversations and social media discussions about GenAI in HR, I have observed a segment of opinions fall into two extremes: some oversimplify GenAI’s benefits as plug-and-play solutions, while others overemphasize pitfalls and risks and downplay its advantages. Nevertheless, most practitioners fall somewhere in the middle and acknowledge the need for thoughtful planning and execution to reap GenAI's benefits. As Josh notes, "this entire domain is both over-hyped and under-estimated." Starting with small-scale initiatives, involving IT teams, and getting hands-on experience, as he suggests, will unveil remarkable business benefits in the various HR use cases of GenAI. To complement this article, you can explore i4cp’s summary of a discussion with 70 HR leaders on how they are experimenting with GenAI and thinking about using it in the future. And as a bonus, here is my playlist of 5 resources on AI in HR.
New research from i4cp examining AI's impact on HR shows that the majority of organizations are still in the early stages of experimenting with AI tools, adopting a 'watch and wait' approach. This group of organizations, termed AI Enquirers (one of three archetypes), primarily focuses on researching Gen AI while waiting for other organizations—known as AI Innovators—to implement, test, and share their Gen AI learnings and practices. As HR teams unlock Gen AI's potential through innovative ideas and solutions, Josh Bersin's new article highlights ideas for how HR can embrace this challenge. Josh mentions: “HR professionals have the opportunity to take the lead in this new era, but only if they step up to the challenge. HR leaders must learn about these AI tools and prepare to integrate them with their experience in organization design, training, rewards, and leadership. They will have to be willing to experiment and develop a deeper armory of skills.” He adds: “Sound like a lot to handle? To me, our field has no choice. The AI wave has arrived. If we all lean in and learn, we can thrive in the new AI-powered era.” As we 'lean in and learn,' check out Josh’s other new article on how organizations are utilizing hackathon-like competitions to ideate and test AI use cases (e.g., CocaCola's "promptathon," where 20 different functional groups experimented with ChatGPT to develop winning use cases).
2023 JOB CUTS AND LAYOFF TRACKER
Here is my tracker, which includes announcements from a segment of organizations that have announced job cuts and layoffs since the start of 2023.
A few firms that announced job cuts in September include:
Airtable. The cloud startup, once valued at $11B, announced its second round of layoffs in less than a year. This round will impact 237 employees. In December, the company cut 250 positions.
Roku, Inc. (NASDAQ: ROKU). Plans to layoff 10% of its employees, roughly 300 workers. These layoffs are the third round of job cuts the company has undergone in less than a year. Shares of Roku soared almost 10% after the announcement.
Zebra Technologies (NASDAQ: ZBRA) is laying off 700 employees, or more than 7% of its workforce, amid a slowdown in sales. It is a significantly deeper cut than previously expected.
Click here or the image below to access all listed announcements from 2023.
CHIEF HR OFFICER HIRE OF THE MONTH
SAP (WALLDORF, GERMANY) [NYSE: SAP]—a market leader in enterprise application software—announced that Gina Vargiu-Breuer has been appointed Chief People Officer, effective February 1, 2024. She will succeed Sabine Bendiek, who will be leaving the company at the end of the year. Vargiu-Breuer is currently SVP, Global Human Resources, Siemens Energy. READ MORE
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