Brexit Extension Is No Relief for UK Employers

Brexit Extension Is No Relief for UK Employers

Business leaders in the UK may have breathed a sigh of relief last month when the country’s deadline for leaving the EU, originally scheduled for March 29, was pushed back until October 31. The extension is good news insofar as it gives the UK government more time to finalize an agreeable Brexit plan and avoid crashing out of the union, with potentially devastating economic consequences. Likewise, it gives British organizations more time to shore up their own Brexit plans, if they had not done so already. For these organizations, however, and particularly for their HR functions, the extended Brexit deadline is a decidedly mixed blessing, and it would be a mistake to treat it as a reprieve.

One of the most disruptive effects Brexit has had on the UK for nearly three years now has been to introduce major uncertainty into the business environment. Not knowing whether, or when, or how Brexit would finally happen has made it difficult for organizations to make long-term plans that depend on the outcome of this process. It would be one thing if the UK and the EU had decided that Brexit would definitely take place at the end of October, under a finalized deal and with a specified transition plan. The extension agreed upon in April did none of that; instead, it gave the UK government another six months to try and accomplish what it has been unable to do thus far and rally majority support in Parliament around either the deal Prime Minister Theresa May made with her European counterparts last year, or some alternative arrangement that the EU would also accept.

In other words, the uncertain environment that has prevailed since 2016 remains in place: Organizations still don’t know when Brexit will happen and whether it will be orderly or chaotic. As Steve Hawkes, deputy political editor at the Sun, remarked when the extension was announced, another six months of unpredictability “is possibly the worst outcome for business.”

If the UK ratifies the Brexit deal before October, the UK may leave the EU at the start of the following month. If the country fails to hold elections to the European Parliament at the end of this month, it will crash out with no deal on June 1. If Parliament still can’t pass a deal by the new deadline, the country faces the prospect of a no-deal Brexit in November or an additional extension, assuming the EU is willing to grant one. The delay has even amplified uncertainty around whether it will ultimately happen at all, though the government remains committed to achieving Brexit — and organizations must continue preparing for it.

To that end, businesses in the UK cannot afford to slow down their contingency planning for the various Brexit scenarios that may come in the next six months. This is especially true for HR, as Brexit’s impact on workforce planning, retention, and employee engagement are some of its most significant consequences for organizations. While the overall picture of the future remains cloudy, there are a few things of which HR leaders can be sure, at least in terms of what risks they need to plan against. Here are some things UK businesses should be thinking about as they move ahead with their post-Brexit talent strategies:

Read more

We’re Already Living in the Future of Talent Analytics

We’re Already Living in the Future of Talent Analytics

Recently at the Harvard Business Review, management professor Thomas H. Davenport asserted that HR “is right up there with the most analytical functions in business—and even a bit ahead of a quantitatively-oriented function like finance.” Davenport backs this claim with findings from a global survey of senior managers, directors, and VPs at large companies by Oracle, on which he collaborated. The survey found that many HR leaders are well-versed in using data and predictive analytics to make talent management decisions:

  • 51% of HR respondents said that they could perform predictive or prescriptive analytics, whereas only 37% of Finance respondents could undertake these more advanced forms of analytics.
  • 89% agreed or agreed strongly that “My HR function is highly skilled at using data to determine future workforce plans currently (e.g. talent needed),” and only 1% disagreed.
  • 94% agreed that “We are able to predict the likelihood of turnover in critical roles with a high degree of confidence currently.”
  • 94% also agreed that, “We have accurate, real-time insight into our employees’ career development goals currently.”
  • When asked “Which of the following analytics are you using?” “artificial intelligence” received the highest response, with 31%. When asked for further detail on how respondents were using AI, the most common responses were “identifying at-risk talent through attrition modeling,” “predicting high-performing recruits,” and “sourcing best-fit candidates with resume analysis.”
  • These findings suggest that the analytics transformation in HR is farther along than you might have thought, with the caveat that the survey respondents were from companies with $100 million in revenue or more, and are thus more likely to have the capacity to deploy new techniques and technologies that may be out of reach for smaller organizations. It should come as no surprise that more and more companies are adopting AI and analytics into their HR functions; what’s new in this survey data is that HR functions are becoming increasingly confident in the maturity and capability of their analytics programs.

    In terms of where companies are deploying talent analytics, Oracle’s findings track with what we have seen elsewhere: The lowest-hanging fruit is in predicting turnover, while there’s also a lot of promise in AI-powered recruiting, predicting performance, and career pathing. The focus on attrition makes sense, as employees who quit often time that decision to leave around predictable life and career events and drop lots of hints about their plans beforehand.

    If you can use data to detect these warning signs and head off unwanted departures, that can save your organization considerable amounts of money. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty made headlines earlier this month when she told attendees at CNBC’s @Work Talent + HR Summit that IBM’s AI technology was able to predict which workers were planning to quit with 95 percent accuracy:

    IBM HR has a patent for its “predictive attrition program” which was developed with Watson to predict employee flight risk and prescribe actions for managers to engage employees. Rometty would not explain “the secret sauce” that allowed the AI to work so effectively in identifying workers about to jump (officially, IBM said the predictions are now in the 95 percent accuracy “range”). Rometty would only say that its success comes through analyzing many data points.

    “It took time to convince company management it was accurate,” Rometty said, but the AI has so far saved IBM nearly $300 million in retention costs, she claimed.

    But predicting turnover with enough accuracy to add value may not require IBM-level AI capabilities. A new study from Peakon finds that employees begin showing clear signs of wanting to quit a full nine months before they pull the trigger on their resignation. A big-data study drawn from over 32 million employee survey responses in 125 countries, the Peakon report points to several key indicators of attrition that show up months in advance: declining engagement and loyalty, as well as dissatisfaction based on unchallenging work, an inability to discuss pay, an unsupportive manager, and the lack of a clear path to advancement in the organization.

    In a recent interview with David McCann at CFO, data scientist Jon Christiansen notes that it’s much easier to predict who will stay than who will leave, but highlights a few indicators that consistently point toward a greater likelihood that an employee will quit, such as whether the employee feels that their performance is evaluated fairly or that they have control over their workday. Other signs include an employee avoiding conflict, siloing themselves, focusing excessively on rewards over the common goal of the organization, and facing either too much or too little pressure at work.

    The advantage for a company like IBM, which continues to invest heavily in AI, is that it can delegate the detection of these patterns to an algorithm. Predicting quits was the first area the tech giant’s HR function focused on when deploying AI, IBM’s chief human resources officer Diane Gherson explained to Jena McGregor at the Washington Post:

    IBM had already been using algorithms and testing hypotheses about who would leave and why. Simple factors, such as the length of an employee’s commute, were helpful but only so telling. “You can’t possibly come up with every case,” Gherson said. “The value you get from AI is it doesn’t rely on hypotheses being developed in advance; it actually finds the patterns.”

    For instance, the system spotted one software engineer who hadn’t been promoted at the same rate as three female peers who all came from the same top university computer science program. The women had all been at IBM for four years but worked in different parts of the sprawling company. While her manager didn’t know she was comparing herself to these women, the engineer was all too aware her former classmates had been promoted and she hadn’t, Gherson said. After the risk was flagged, she was given more mentoring and stretch assignments, and she remains at IBM.

    IBM is also using its Watson AI for other talent-related purposes, such as learning and development or career pathing, Carrie Altieri, IBM’s vice president of communications for people and culture, noted in a recent interview with Riia O’Donnell at HR Dive:

    AI has been a driving force of innovation for IBM’s HR team. Cognitive talent alerts mine for patterns; it searches for employees who’ve been in a job longer than usual (which could signal flight risk) and can determine whether they need more training to move up. …

    AI also can personalize learning and development for each job role and lead the way in making learning a central aspect of a company’s culture. Altieri said that more than 45,000 learners are visiting IBM’s learning platform every day and 98% of employees access it each quarter. While the company requires 40 hours of learning per year, staff average around 50 hours, regardless of tenure. Learning is a huge part of the culture at IBM, she explained, and the new system gives managers the tools to have more intentional discussions with staff.

    And like other tech companies experimenting with these technologies, IBM is not only deploying its AI capabilities internally, but also selling them as a service to other organizations. Last November, the company announced the launch of IBM Talent & Transformation, a new business venture offering AI skills training in addition to services that “harness the power of AI personalization to guide employees in developing skills and pursuing opportunities to grow within the company.”

    More US Employers Embrace Fertility Benefits as a Talent Attractor

    More US Employers Embrace Fertility Benefits as a Talent Attractor

    In today’s tight labor market, US employers are having to work harder to attract and retain talent, not just by offering more pay and benefits, but also by targeting their employee value proposition to fit the needs of their candidates and current employees. As millennials take on the burden of caring for their aging parents while starting families of their own, and as progressive organizations strive to make sure motherhood doesn’t derail the career of their women employees, many of the latest benefit trends are family-focused: paid parental leave, flexibility for working parents, returnship programs for parents returning from career breaks, and so forth.

    Another increasingly popular family benefit is health insurance coverage for fertility treatments, to help employees who want to start families but struggle with infertility. In vitro fertilization, the most effective of these treatments, is increasingly common as women start families later, but is often prohibitively expensive, costing over $12,000 for just one round, whereas several rounds are sometimes required to result in a successful pregnancy.

    Despite the cost, we’ve seen several large employers add fertility benefits to their rewards packages in the past year, including Cisco, Estée Lauder, and MassMutual. In a recent feature at the New York Times, Vanessa Grigoriadis takes a look at what’s driving this trend, pointing to a recent Mercer study that found the percentage of large employers (of 20,000 employees or more) had increased from 37 percent to 44 percent from 2017 to 2018:

    These days, I.V.F. coverage is “escaping” the sectors that have traditionally offered it, meaning tech, banking and media, said Jake Anderson, a former partner at Sequoia Capital and a founder of Fertility IQ, a website that assesses doctors, procedures and clinics. General Mills, Chobani, the Cooper Companies and Designer Shoe Warehouse have either introduced coverage or greatly increased dollar amounts for 2019. Procter & Gamble Company offered only $5,000 in fertility benefits until this year, when it increased the benefit to $40,000.

    Many organizations are falling short, however, when it comes to communicating this benefit to employees and job seekers, Grigoriadis points out:

    Read more

    Are American Millennials Rich or Poor? Either Way, They Want Help Getting Out of Debt

    Are American Millennials Rich or Poor? Either Way, They Want Help Getting Out of Debt

    Millennials now make up the largest age cohort in the US workforce, so employers have an interest in understanding the needs, preferences, and concerns of this generation in order to effectively attract, retain, and develop millennial talent. A common belief about millennials is that their consumption patterns and lifestyle choices are markedly different from those of previous generations: living with their parents longer, getting married later or not at all, and buying homes and automobiles at lower rates. A stereotypical view that has thus emerged of millennials is that they are simply choosing not to do the things their older peers expected them to do in their early careers. The growing consensus among observers of the economic data, however, is that the main reason millennials aren’t behaving like their baby boomer and gen-X predecessors is that they are not as well-off as these generations were at the same point in their lives, thanks in large part to having come into the workforce during and after the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

    In the past few weeks, two studies have come out that complicate both of these narratives about millennials, but conflict in how they depict this generation’s financial health. The first is a working paper by Federal Reserve Board economists Christopher Kurz, Geng Li, and Daniel J. Vine, titled “Are Millennials Different?” Yes and no, the economists conclude:

    Relative to members of earlier generations, millennials are more racially diverse, more educated, and more likely to have deferred marriage; these comparisons are continuations of longer-run trends in the population. Millennials are less well off than members of earlier generations when they were young, with lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth. For debt, millennials hold levels similar to those of Generation X and more than those of the baby boomers. Conditional on their age and other factors, millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations. (Emphasis ours.)

    In other words, the paper debunks the idea that millennials are buying fewer houses and new cars because they want to live lower-consumption lifestyles, and instead supports the view that they just haven’t accumulated the wealth to afford these big purchases. On the other hand, economist Alison Schrager argues at Quartz that the Fed data can also be read a different way, and that millennials “are in fine shape, maybe even richer than previous generations, but they have just chosen to invest in different assets”—i.e., higher education:

    Read more

    ReimagineHR: Applying New Concepts in Social Science to D&I

    ReimagineHR: Applying New Concepts in Social Science to D&I

    Being both a “social issue” and a business concern, diversity and inclusion is one area where events in the corporate world can have a significant impact on society writ large: For example, just look at how businesses in the US have shaped the public conversation around issues like immigration, LGBT inclusion, and freedom of speech in the past two years. This dynamic works both ways, however, and changing conventions of how diversity is discussed in the academic and media environments can push organizations to rethink how they implement D&I on the ground. Recently, several new terms have entered this discourse that present new challenges (and opportunities) for D&I leaders to bring new dimensions to their work.

    At Gartner’s ReimagineHR conference in Orlando last week, Gartner VP, Team Manager Lauren Romansky gave a presentation on three of these emerging concepts from psychology and sociology, and how D&I can leverage them as more than just buzzwords, to create value in their organizations. The terms are:

    • Intersectionality: A holistic picture of identity, which asserts that various dimensions of diversity (such as sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, gender, disability, or socioeconomic status) are inseparable when considering individual experiences. For example, whereas women and black Americans both experience specific forms of discrimination and adversity, the intersection of these identities means black women in particular have a discrete experience that is more than the sum of its parts.
    • Psychological safety: A shared belief that a team feels comfortable taking interpersonal risks. This means that team members are able to bring their authentic selves to work and communicate openly and transparently without fear of negative professional consequences. Psychological safety (a group dynamic) is different from trust (an individual dynamic), but can help build trust between team members.
    • Belonging: A sense of acceptance and community within a given group. Over the past several decades, D&I has evolved from making sure historically disadvantaged groups are represented in the workplace (diversity) to making sure they are invited to participate (inclusion). Belonging can be thought of as the next step in that evolution, toward making sure these employees feel like full members of their workplace communities.

    Bringing these ideas into D&I can help add value in various ways.

    Read more

    For Retailers, Attracting Holiday Staff Means More than Just Raising Pay

    For Retailers, Attracting Holiday Staff Means More than Just Raising Pay

    Facing one of the tightest labor markets in living memory, US retailers and other companies staffing up for the holiday season have had to get creative about finding and attracting the extra workers they need for the seasonal rush. Some retail chains started hiring for the winter holidays all the way back in the early summer, raised entry-level wages for store employees, and offered a variety of bonuses and perks like store discounts.

    The retail sector was already feeling pressure to bump up pay, the Star-Tribune reported this week, citing a survey by the hiring platform Snag that found retailers expected wages to rise by 54 percent this year. That’s partly a product of a labor shortage, but also reflects the growth of online shopping:

    As more shoppers order online and opt to have items shipped to the store or their front door, retailers’ backroom operations are changing. Mass merchants still need cashiers, salespeople and shelf stockers. But they need more people to package orders for store pickup and to work in warehouses and distribution centers, which increasingly requires more technology skills.

    Target is doubling the number of staff it needs to handle digital orders. Macy’s, which is hiring about the same number as last year, will shift its mix and add 5,500 more people for its fulfillment centers. Best Buy says it, too, will bulk up on workers to package up online orders.

    Labor market competition, the need to attract and retain more skilled employees, and “HR-as-PR” considerations are all coming to bear on retailers’ decisions to raise pay for their hourly employees. They are also courting hires with new benefits, including intangible benefits like flexibility, Steve Bates notes at SHRM:

    Read more

    How to Use Diversity and Inclusion to Engage Hourly Employees

    How to Use Diversity and Inclusion to Engage Hourly Employees

    Hourly employees make up over 50 percent of the total US employee population and a critical segment of the workforce at many organizations. While employee engagement efforts typically focus primarily on salaried employees who are perceived as having more of a long-term commitment to the organization, hourly employee engagement and loyalty are growing concerns for HR leaders in today’s tight labor markets. According to recent Gartner research, hourly workers are more engaged in their jobs when they are satisfied with their employer’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

    In the past year, we’ve seen many large companies launch new initiatives to better engage and retain their hourly employees, whether through education benefits or opportunities to work with local nonprofit organizations. HR leaders have also seen improvement of hourly employee engagement when these employees have positive perceptions of their organization’s D&I activities, our research finds. In fact, when hourly employees are satisfied with D&I, they exhibit almost twice the discretionary effort and almost three times the intent to stay compared to those who are not satisfied. However, only about half of hourly employees are currently involved with D&I efforts and HR leaders are uncertain how to use D&I to engage this population.

    Our D&I research team has uncovered three ways HR leaders can leverage hourly employee engagement in D&I to make a positive impact on the organization:

    Integrate D&I in Current Processes

    HR leaders should integrate D&I efforts into pre-existing engagement initiatives, such as team meetings, to ensure that cultural values and behaviors are articulated and implemented consistently throughout the organization. This approach addresses a key challenge hourly employees face when connecting to D&I at their organizations: They do not feel included on their teams. By building hourly employee inclusion into existing processes, organizations can improve team performance without creating additional structures for HR to manage.

    Read more