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.
The US Supreme Court ruling on Monday upholding employers’ right to include arbitration agreements and class action waivers in employees’ work contracts is being celebrated by business associations and employer-side attorneys as a major victory, mitigating the risk of expensive litigation over labor disputes that may arise from honest mistakes rather than deliberate malfeasance. Advocates of arbitration say it is faster and cheaper than a courtroom trial and that the confidentiality of arbitration is a benefit to both employees and employers (though critics, of course, disagree on all of these points).
What individual arbitration does not protect organizations from, however, is reputational risk. We’ve seen this in the public blowback against companies whose arbitration policies are interpreted as them trying to hide ongoing discriminatory behavior. Within the past six months, companies like Microsoft, Uber, and Lyft have abandoned forced arbitration of harassment cases to guard against this risk. The public relations downside to handling these matters quietly may be growing to outweigh the upside in terms of cost and legal risk.
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Spotting a trend, Bloomberg Businessweek writer Sam Grobart tried out the Executive Health Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, one of several new programs at US hospitals that offer a new style of premium preventive healthcare for business leaders:
During my visit I was subjected to a series of tests and examinations that, if I’d needed to schedule and attend them individually, would easily have taken two months to complete. (Hearing exams aren’t usually atop my to-do list.) More than any particular test, one-stop shopping is the selling point: Captains of industry can simply block out a couple of days in their calendar and get all their poking and prodding in at once. “Think about the kinds of lives many of these executives lead,” says Dr. Stephanie Hines, the program’s director. “They travel all the time, they’re out at business dinners—it’s not a recipe for regular exercise and a good diet. In many cases, patients are coming to us knowing they’re not taking care of themselves. Their visit here is a way to help get back on track.”
These programs have become standard fare at leading U.S. hospitals. You can participate in them not only at Mayo, but also at the Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General in Boston, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, the UCLA Medical Center, and many other major institutions. Some of them even have satellite locations in such executive-friendly destinations as Jacksonville, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz. With their high fees and generally healthy patients, the programs are a profit center.
Organizations, Grobart adds, are often paying for their executives to undergo these marathon medical examinations, finding them to be worth the steep price given the risk of a leader suddenly falling ill. Recall the high-profile cases of United Airlines CEO Oscar Muñoz and Valeant Pharmaceuticals chairman and CEO J. Michael Pearson, both of whom suffered major health episodes in 2015 that left their companies scrambling for substitute chief executives, rattling investors’ nerves.
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I’m hardly the first to observe the similarities between Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. For business leaders, one thing these events have in common is that they both have created uncertainty. Companies operating in the UK and US are unsure of how trade, immigration, and numerous other regulations will change in the next few years.
The advice that many executives have been given in both markets is to take a “wait and see” approach, which at first glance seems to make sense: Why invest resources in planning for something when you don’t know what will occur? The problem is that this is exactly the approach many companies in the UK have taken toward Brexit, and now, the CIPD’s Greg Pitcher notes, they find themselves unprepared for the changes ahead:
A poll of just over 1,000 HR professionals found that just 15 per cent of organisations had started to prepare for the impact of restrictions on EU labour – despite 42 per cent of employers expecting such restrictions to damage their UK operations. … Adecco Group UK and Ireland chief executive John L Marshall III said the referendum outcome should be a “wake-up call for employers”.
Indeed it should. This lack of preparation creates a business risk. In today’s business environment, being right is only half of the battle. Companies also need to be fast. When the rules do change, the companies that are fast at making adjustments are the ones that will win. While no one can predict exactly how regulations will change, “waiting and seeing” is a surefire way to get caught flat-footed when they do. Executives within the US need to now start a process of scenario planning based on potential outcomes associated with some of the major policy changes that are likely to occur in the new presidential administration. For example:
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At the Harvard Business Review, CEB’s CEO Tom Monahan argues that many boards of directors these days are too conservative in their approach to corporate governance, “far more focused on minimizing risk than on seizing opportunity.” Pursuing a long-term growth strategy, however, requires that boards not get too hung up on conforming to benchmarks in the short term:
The best companies do things differently by using data and benchmarks not to aspire to the median, but to ensure radical deviations that are consistent with core strategies.
Let’s take pay. While benchmarks are useful inputs for compensation decisions, they shouldn’t be a straitjacket. Applying them broadly without reference to your talent strategy could make it impossible to source or retain the people you need to achieve goals. If your strategy relies heavily on aggressive M&A, for example, do you really want a CFO who doesn’t command a salary higher than the norm? Or if your success relies heavily on IP protection or patents, it may make sense for your general counsel’s pay to be the highest in the C-suite.
On June 23, British citizens will vote in a referendum to decide whether the UK should remain part of the European Union. At this point, neither the likely outcome of the vote (polls are currently split) nor its implications are known. Predictions of the economic impact of a so-called “Brexit” (“British exit” from the EU) range from the UK Treasury’s assertion that GDP may be 6.2 percent lower by 2030 to the OECD’s belief that it would lower UK incomes by one month’s salary by 2020, to boosters’ belief that it would help Great Britain by, among other things, increasing its ability to negotiate favorable trade deals.
For organizations based or operating in either the UK or the EU, there are multiple potential workforce risks to Brexit, mainly because it could considerably curtail the free movement of labor, and because much of the UK’s current employment law is based on EU law.
Freedom of movement is a key principle of the European Union, and one that results in more than 2.1 million EU citizens working in the UK. The re-imposition of stricter border controls could exacerbate skill shortages in many sectors, which is one reason why some major British employers have been coming out against Brexit, as the Telegraph reports: