3 more talent strategy trends: tech, humans, and the workforce

Last week, I forecasted three talent strategy trends and their implications for the C-suite for 2021 and the years to come. But there are three more trends I’d like to discuss that, while seemingly disparate, all touch on a similar theme. That is, how we regard human labor and the value we place on human skills amid a technologically advancing world. 

It’s no surprise that technology, from virtual meetings to full-scale robots, has affected strategies to find and cultivate talent in the workforce. In many ways, it has both helped and hindered the endeavor. Its evolution will not stop, however, and employers must remain as flexible as ever not only in anticipating whatever issues it causes in their industry, but also regularly taking into consideration our relationship with technology and its impact on human talent.

Remote work and its impact on benefits

At the beginning of the pandemic, when the first stay-at-home orders were issued, many of us assumed that working from home was going to be temporary, something we’d have to handle for just a few months. But thanks to Zoom, webcams, and high-speed internet, it’s clear now that the home office or the remote office is going to be part of the way we work for a long time, likely even after COVID-19.

And despite being nearly a year into this, working from home is still a dilemma to be managed for many people and organizations. As most companies transition to a hybrid format of working later this year, companies will need to learn how to shift rapidly and keep their workforce engaged. Anyone who’s managed a hybrid classroom can tell you how hard it is. Managing a hybrid workforce will be exponentially harder. Employee experience, especially regarding benefits and tech, is going to evolve quickly, as public policy, vaccines, variations of the virus, and challenges with childcare continue.

Human Resources and People Teams usually didn’t have to focus on benefits until it was time for annual renewal, in which case these considerations were also based on the assumption that most employees were in the office. But COVID-19 has upended this practice. Benefits and hybrid engagement will consume considerable bandwidth of HR teams for the next two years as they try to manage and offer stability to employees all working in various locations.

Robots, automation, and reskilling

We’ve heard about the expansion of robots, co-bots, and automation changing talent strategy over and over again. Whether you’re in a factory or in an administrative function, technology is evolving at a breakneck pace and the expectation of technical reskilling or even basic digital literacy will keep climbing. But despite this progression, human skills still matter

To focus solely on requiring more technical skills is to do the bare minimum. Instead, reskilling workers with both new technical skills and durable human skills will be the best bet for building a more resilient organization. And this cycle — of quickly assessing skills, developing talent, and deploying in-house reskilling efforts — will be repeated several times over as new challenges emerge. This is the reason upskilling emerged as the leading topic in a recent L&D global sentiment survey. How much companies embrace this new norm will be the differentiator between those who are successful and those who are not.

Human capital as capital

In August 2020, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a new set of reporting requirements for employers. In addition to disclosing the usual information about raw resources, including how many buildings a company leased or how much equipment costs, companies now have to report their human capital information, like how many workers they employ.

This is a big deal. The SEC now acknowledges something we’ve known for a long time — that the most valuable asset a company has is the people that work for it. But on this topic, employers will receive the most pressure around their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and not mere “talent development” as was the assumption in previous years. Brands will be expected to account for their DE&I efforts not just from financial officers and CFOs, but also from consumers, employees, and investors themselves. And those who treat diverse talent as the wellspring of innovation and insight that it can be will win the market. 

Though it sounds odd to champion the idea of “human capital as capital,” this frame of thinking is ultimately a good thing. When we begin treating human capital as capital, we will expect to invest in people like they’re the valuable resource they so obviously are. Soon enough, deciding to reskill employees will be as much as a no-brainer as it is to renovate a factory building or overhaul a company-wide security tool.

Written by Matthew Daniel

Principal, Employer Solutions

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