How to Maximize Workforce Performance: What’s at Stake? Why Act Now?

0517_IBMIn Part 2 of this series, we discuss the importance of evolving your organization for business growth and employee recruitment/retainment.

We live and work in turbulent but exciting times! Ever-evolving technological capabilities, new business models and digital transformation of companies are all driving market disruption like never before. Companies are changing their business models and strategy to incorporate all these new developments and become more agile. The nature of work is changing and demand for digital expertise is soaring, while other skills are becoming relatively unimportant. And, as leaders go about changing the fundamental fabric and processes of their companies, there’s a dawning realization that successfully transforming into a digital business is not just dependent on having the right technology.

It’s not so much about putting the iPad in the hands of your people as about having the right hands to put that iPad into. It’s about needing to rethink the talent systems, processes and approaches that people have had around the company. And HR is the key to success in those digital transformations. 

“Coping with these upheavals will entail finding people with new, sometimes scarce skills; dealing with sensitive issues such as job displacement; managing a more flexible, transient workforce; and helping individuals at every organizational level handle enormous amounts of change.” (Redefining Talent: Insights from the Global C-suite Study – The CHRO perspective)

HR is under increasing pressure to hire people who can help drive the new business strategy. It’s no longer about filling jobs; it’s about finding specific people that have the right skills, experience, expertise and personality traits to take the business to the next level of success. To do this, companies now need to recruit from wider, more diverse talent pools, and be able to broaden their appeal and attract candidates by using techniques that marketing typically uses. They need to change the way they manage talent, designing a better employee experience that makes work easier and more collaborative, offers employees opportunities for growth and development, increases engagement and productivity, and encourages them to stay. Finally, HR needs the ability to connect hires to business outcomes, and also to maximize the skills and capabilities of the existing workforce. 

Thanks to easy access to information, people are now able to make informed decisions about many things, including whom they want to work for, as they are able to assess companies, their brands, their compensation practices, their reputation and their authenticity far better than they could in the past. Candidates today are not willing to consider one-size-fits-all recruitment strategies. They prefer companies that conduct a dialogue with them, understand their individual needs, build relationships, and offer a hiring and employee experience that looks at their needs and aspirations and cultural fit in addition to their skills. In short, the candidate treats the application process like a consumer might—and recruiters need to start thinking more like marketers. Data insights can help HR understand exactly what candidates are looking for, and also to find whether they possess the attributes necessary for high performance in their roles.

At work, employees have a better idea of how to map their career path and draw on the collective knowledge of the organization to be more productive and achieve better outcomes for the business. Creating personalized experiences that help connect people to the new direction in which the company needs to grow—while empowering them, supporting their aspirations and offering customized learning to help map meaningful career growth—leads to a win-win situation that benefits both enterprise and employee. Helping plan their career paths carefully, based on their goals and preferences and inherent skills can also help engage them, retain them and bring out the best in them.

Employees can also provide feedback in the form of the collective employee voice that may be invaluable to the company if heard and acted upon in a timely manner, helping to drive better-informed decisions and actions. Today, employees want their voice to be heard and acted upon. If they feel this is not happening, they will find another outlet – and most likely use it to express their frustration at being ignored by their organization. When they feel their voice is being heard, they are empowered to take action and are more engaged, boosting effectiveness and therefore your company’s profitability. And by sharing critical insights from workforce listening company-wide, the benefits reach even further, contributing to the strategic goals and success of the entire organization. Our research has shown that organizations using multiple listening methods had 24 percent higher-rated performance and reputations than those that didn’t. Continuous listening allows HR leaders to better understand and respond to workforce issues, spot warning signs, answer questions, foster innovation and cultivate ongoing conversation.

The benefits to the organization are multifold. Most leaders today understand that when employees are engaged, productivity, performance and customer satisfaction all improve because employees are more motivated to contribute to the organization’s success and more willing to put in extra effort to accomplish tasks that are crucial to achieving corporate goals. When your employees are engaged, they will not just perform; they will go the extra mile for you. The payoff of increasing their morale and productivity is not just reduced absenteeism. Get it right, and you will see improvements in employee retention, service quality, customer satisfaction and, crucially, in the bottom-line financial performance of your organization.

As you may be aware, HR continues to face a number of challenges in executing on these goals. Above all, the systems we have were designed for a previous era, with a different set of needs and a different set of expectations. Many HR systems are siloed, fragmented and lack analytics. Forty percent of organizations say their systems are limited to basic HR reporting—they aren’t able to utilize the large amounts of data they have in an effective manner. Less than 20 percent of companies are able to apply predictive analytics on issues related to people and the challenges facing the company. They need to be able to glean information and patterns from their data to enable them to take the right decisions—they need a solution that can look across the data and give them useful insights.

The good news is, emerging tools have the ability to enable businesses to build profiles of what successful candidates look like and use these while recruiting. There are tools that help them continuously listen to and personalize experiences for employees. HR can now access new tools that help make sense of all the masses of employee data available to gain insights that can help drive decisions that drive better business strategy and outcomes. The next article in this series will discuss how cognitive innovations can and will help improve workforce engagement and business results. 

Read Part 1 here.

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Workflow.

A technology veteran with more than 30 years of experience creating, building, and running businesses for leading Silicon Valley companies, Robert Schultz is general manager of IBM Talent Management Solutions. Schultz is responsible for the strategy, product development, consulting, cloud delivery, and customer service for all of IBM Talent Management solutions.