What will your job look like in 2025? How confident would you be in your answer? These are the questions Gartner has been asking in our ongoing series of briefings with hundreds of HR business partners, HR generalists, and other strategic HR professionals.
This particular group’s answer to this question is a matter of particular concern for their organizations. HRBPs and HR generalists make up the largest portion of today’s HR functions: about 25 percent of HR headcount and 19 percent of HR budget expenditure, according to Gartner’s HR Budget and Staffing Benchmarking Survey. Accordingly, the work these professionals do has a large impact on the global HR community.
At one of our recent briefings in Chicago, HRBPs discussed the new responsibilities they expect to take on in their jobs in the coming decade, as well as the tasks they are looking forward to setting aside or delegating.
Much of the new work HR professionals are anticipating mirrors the environment in which they will work (and in many cases, are already working):
- Doing more with data. HRBPs already feel growing expectations around their data skills and all expect that trend to continue. The ability to use data effectively, participants predicted, will also increasingly depend on fluency with HR technology and information systems, making the already difficult task of analyzing and telling stories with data more complex. For example, one HRBP from the retail industry shared that employee sentiment analysis and mood tracking was one particular area where she was already being asked to do more. Instead of relying on the formal employee survey, HRBPs will be asked to spot trends in employee email histories, health data, technology use tracking, and other data sets to identify workforce issues and opportunities.
- Being predictive, not just proactive. The HRBP role originally emerged as part of the HR function’s transformation from being reactive to being proactive. The next evolution of HR is to become predictive. Being proactive meant trying to anticipate events and align their work accordingly; being predictive, participants said, means not only anticipating potential outcomes, but also being able to judge which outcomes are most and least likely to occur. In other words, being predictive blends anticipation and prioritization in a way that proactivity alone does not. Many of our attendees indicated that they were enthusiastic about this change, especially in combination with their growing strategic role.
As organizations continue to lean on benefits as a key opportunity to differentiate themselves in a competitive talent market, many are expanding the scope and inclusiveness of their parental leave offerings, granting more paid time away from work to employees of all genders who become parents through birth, adoption, and surrogacy alike. This is partly a matter of making benefits more generous overall, but it’s also about signaling the organization’s commitment to values of diversity and inclusion.
Organizations are also paying more attention to helping working parents and caregivers re-enter the workforce after taking time away to care for their children or sick or elderly relatives. These “returnship” initiatives are specifically geared toward supporting women, who are more likely than men to take such career breaks. Caring for others isn’t the only obligation that forces employees to spend extended periods away from work, however; sometimes, it’s their own health.
In a recent story, Glenn Howatt from the Star Tribune highlighted how advances in cancer detection and treatment are improving the health outcomes of patients, but noted that cancer survivors often don’t get much support in returning to work. From the perspective of HR, the management of cancer patients’ absences may seem similar to managing other instances of medical leave or short-term disability. However, employment experts tell Howatt that standard approaches to managing the exits and subsequent re-entries of employees can’t be so readily applied to cancer patients’ situations:
“The length of leave, 12 weeks, is not a lot for people with a lot of cancers,” said Ann Hodges, an emeritus professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. It’s unclear how many cancer patients lose employment because they’re not ready to return to work. But studies show that just 40 percent are back at work within six months. After a year, it’s still just 62 percent. Researchers have also found that loss of income due to illness is a major contributor to bankruptcy — and that cancer patients are more likely to declare bankruptcy.
The emotional experience of fighting and managing cancer undoubtedly leaves a lasting impression on the personal and professional lives of survivors. Employers of cancer patients have the power to decide whether the impression they make on their employees during this time will be positive or negative.
Owen Gough at Small Business passes along a study sponsored by UK bed and mattress retailer Time4Sleep, which found that HR professionals are among the most likely types workers to get sleep-deprived due to work-related stress:
Operational (57 per cent), accounts (47 per cent), IT (45 per cent) and administration (45 per cent) sit at the top of the table of professions that get an average of six hours sleep or less. Sales (43 per cent), shop floor workers (42 per cent) and marketing (35 per cent) sit in the middle, while director/owners (33 per cent), plumber/electrician/builders (33 per cent), teachers (32 per cent) prop up the top ten. …
Top five professions that are kept awake thinking about work-related issues are HR (93 per cent), marketing (89 per cent), doctor/nurse/dentist (88 per cent), lawyer (87 per cent) and artist/designers (85 per cent).
In our agenda poll at CEB, we saw that burnout was the second-most common cause of attrition for HR business partners, which is understandable given both the sensitivity of the issues HRBPs handle and the constant balance they aim for between reactive and strategic work. I can imagine this holding true across most other HR roles as well. We also hear often from HR staff that they got into the HR profession for a very specific and deliberate reason—to work with people—so their personal dedication to the profession could make them prone to overwork, or more willing to put up with job-related stress or sleep deprivation.
As the US and global economies continue to recover, employers are being forced to compete for talent in a tighter market where candidates set the pace. Organizations need to bring on and retain more employees to keep pace with growth, and the uptick in hiring means candidates can afford to be more selective. A recent CareerBuilder study indicates that a full three quarters of American employers are looking for new jobs either actively or passively. Our research here at CEB also points to a candidate-driven market. For instance, data from one of our upcoming studies shows that 17 percent of passive candidates are declining to pursue job opportunities when initially contacted, compared to just 8 percent five years ago.
This trend has important implications for how employers attract and retain talent. Many organizations are doubling down on employee experience, making their employee value propositions (EVPs) more distinctive and innovative. Since you can’t control your competitors’ hiring strategies or rewards, crafting a unique EVP is a more productive way to differentiate your organization from its competitors than simply trying to match what others offer.
Creating an exciting EVP is particularly—though by no means exclusively—important in attracting and retaining STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) talent, a segment of the market that’s in high demand. Our research shows that STEM roles take more time and cost more money to fill than non-STEM roles. Many job openings in STEM-heavy professions like IT and health care are going unfilled, ostensibly due to talent shortages.
Yet whereas most organizations—in a usually unsuccessful attempt to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook—think higher pay is the only way to attract and retain coders and other STEM talent, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review offers an alternative. HBR‘s Walter Frick points to a recent working paper in which Prasanna Tambe, Xuan Ye, and Peter Cappelli argue that organizations should look beyond pay and consider enticing this cohort with a chance to learn and grow instead.
We tend to think of collaboration as an unmitigated good, but in the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review, management scholars Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant posit that the steady increase in daily collaboration at organizations is actually undermining employee performance. According to their research, rising demand for collaboration, along with structural factors like matrix reporting, are driving attrition among high-performing employees, who are often the most sought out for collaboration:
Consider a case study from a blue-chip professional services firm. When we helped the organization map the demands facing a group of its key employees, we found that the top collaborator—let’s call him Vernell—had 95 connections [within the organization] based on incoming requests. But only 18% of the requesters said they needed more personal access to him to achieve their business goals; the rest were content with the informational and social resources he was providing. The second most connected person was Sharon, with 89 people in her network, but her situation was markedly different, and more dangerous, because 40% of them wanted more time with her—a significantly greater draw on her personal resources.
We find that as the percentage of requesters seeking more access moves beyond about 25, it hinders the performance of both the individual and the group and becomes a strong predictor of voluntary turnover. As well-regarded collaborators are overloaded with demands, they may find that no good deed goes unpunished.
Grant makes a similar point in his 2014 book Give and Take, about how “Giver” employees (those that readily volunteer their time and effort for others) are paradoxically often an organization’s top and bottom employees: Givers are really good enterprise contributors, but those that are too altruistic find that they have no time to spare for their individual work, which suffers as a result. The challenge for organizations, then, is to figure out how to protect the time of these high performers. The way to do that is not necessarily to de-emphasize collaboration, but rather to teach employees with lots of collaborative demands how to reserve time for their own work.
(Our research into enterprise contribution offers some insight into how to manage a more collaborative workforce. If you’re a CEB member, take a look here.)
If your organization received an unusually large number of résumés yesterday, you’re not alone. According to data from the job-search site Monster, the first Wednesday in January is the most popular day of the year to look for a job. On the first Wednesday of last year, according to the Washington Post‘s Jena McGregor, Monster saw a 70 percent jump in searches. Why Wednesday, though? It’s pretty logical timing, as McGregor explains:
Survey after survey shows that finding a new job are among many people’s priorities or even resolutions for the New Year. And by the Wednesday after that first post-vacation slump, they’re ready to take action. “People are back into their routines, back into their commutes,” said Vicki Salemi, a careers expert for Monster. “Monday and Tuesday are about getting immersed back into work, and Wednesday it’s time to exhale and say ‘okay, I’m going to do this now.’ ”
Workers seem particularly prone to new year’s job hunting this year; a CareerBuilder survey released just before the new year found that 21 percent of workers are planning to seek out greener pastures in 2016, and with robust job growth and falling unemployment, these job hunters can expect better odds of landing a new job than in previous years. Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal‘s Lauren Weber points out that an abundance of job seekers in January makes for a hirer’s market:
Street Art by Thierry Noir (Roman Hobler/Flickr)
On the occasion of the affirmative action case before the Supreme Court this week (Fisher v. University of Texas), Sheen Levine and David Stark, two professors from Columbia University’s Center of Organizational Innovation published an op-ed in the New York Times in support of continuing affirmative action, arguing from the positive impact of diversity on analytical thinking:
By disrupting conformity, racial and ethnic diversity prompts people to scrutinize facts, think more deeply and develop their own opinions. Our findings show that such diversity actually benefits everyone, minorities and majority alike.
They share the results of recent experiments they conducted to assess these benefits. In one, they led groups with varying racial and ethnic makeups through a stock market simulation, tasking participants to calculate the prices of simulated stocks by trading them in real money, and letting them keep any profit they made:
The findings were striking. When participants were in diverse company, their answers were 58 percent more accurate. The prices they chose were much closer to the true values of the stocks. As they spent time interacting in diverse groups, their performance improved. In homogeneous groups, whether in the United States or in Asia, the opposite happened. When surrounded by others of the same ethnicity or race, participants were more likely to copy others, in the wrong direction. Mistakes spread as participants seemingly put undue trust in others’ answers, mindlessly imitating them. In the diverse groups, across ethnicities and locales, participants were more likely to distinguish between wrong and accurate answers. Diversity brought cognitive friction that enhanced deliberation.