When SHRM CHRO Jim Link took the stage recently at Felix Global’s The Future of Work and Life 2.0 HR Symposium, he provided astute insights into what the Society for Human Resources Management was noticing as the incoming trends that will define the human capital space for years to come. SHRM’s research is clear: change is coming, and HR leaders and business leaders alike need to be prepared. As an organization committed to helping businesses across the globe recruit and develop the best leaders to bring their companies into the future, we felt it our duty to help foster the discussion about the future of work in 2023 and beyond.
When it comes to the future of talent working in North America (and likely around the globe), shifts in the ways people work are requiring leadership to adapt. In Jim’s keynote address, which you can view in its entirety below, he highlights five key insights that CHROs, CEOs and politicos are bringing to SHRM’s attention. Here, we’ll discuss those and more in detail as we focus on what the future of work could look like in 2023 and beyond.
Insight 1: Balancing ESG With the Drive for Profits
Traditionally, companies and businesses have been strongly driven by the need to outperform their profits year after year. After all, a business doesn’t grow and prosper without a steadily improving stream of funds.
But what Jim and the research at SHRM have found is that the need for social, environmental, and corporate accountability is becoming increasingly important to workers and society as a whole. Businesses are now defined by their ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) mandates, and HR and business leaders are going to need to develop and support these initiatives while still balancing the need to drive profits and business results.
Interestingly, Jim points out that it’s not just publicly-traded companies that are inquiring about this, private companies are too! Why? Because they want to compete for talent and retention against those larger publicly-traded companies. Indeed, the future of work (and the future of talent) is one defined by workers who are increasingly favoring companies with a conscience and a strong sense of accountability.
Insight 2: Effective Human Capital Metrics
While data has always been important, the kind of data companies report and how they use it continues to evolve. Ensuring accurate and useful metrics are being reported is important to the future of work and the future of talent. Jim explains that it’s key to talk about things that actually add value to the business when it comes to human capital metrics.
One example Jim discusses is in regards to reporting the number of women on your leadership team. It’s an important metric, but it won't be as effective as talking about the number of women that you're developing, growing and preparing for leadership teams specifically.
Ultimately, if the whole point of reporting metrics is to say something about our workforce, then it’s key we report things that really matter and provide information that will impact society and the future of talent in ways that are important and will continue to drive diverse, inclusive workplaces in the right direction.
Insight 3: Building a Culture of Belonging (DEI)
The future of talent and work in North America will continue to include strong initiatives around DEI, especially after the social justice crises many of us have witnessed over the years. According to Jim, data on the effectiveness of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (or DEI) is mixed, and standalone DEI efforts are not as effective as previously thought. Rather, DEI efforts that are built around other important initiatives like leadership management capability, development and learning are far more effective at moving organizations in the right direction.
Why is this? Jim explains that cultures of belonging create cultures of learning, which in turn creates cultures of innovation, excitement and energy. He thinks of it like a three-legged stool: if one of those legs is broken and you don't have one of those pieces of culture, the stool falls, so it takes an effort around DEI issues to continue to build that culture and support that stool, so to speak.
While we learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to DEI efforts and fostering a feeling of belonging in the future of talent, Jim acknowledges that it will continue to be on people’s radars for some time, with efforts concentrated on improving this space.
Insight 4: Supporting Employees’ Mental Health
There’s no doubt a successful future of talent and work will depend on the well-being of our workers. Indeed, the mental health of employees has increasingly taken center stage within the human capital space. After years of dealing with a pandemic that upended our personal and professional lives, supporting the mental health of our workforce has never been more necessary, and that trend will continue into the future of work.
According to Jim, alarm bells started ringing about the issues of mental health in the workforce after recent SHRM surveys found that young people under 30, and females, in particular, reported higher levels of isolation, loneliness, depression, discouragement and despair. SHRM immediately started talking to organizations about how to tackle this problem. One solution was to start offering or recommunicating to employees the availability of employee assistance programs, online counselling, or assistance groups.
What the data also showed, though, according to Jim, is that those people who assessed themselves as being more resilient were significantly more likely to report higher levels of emotional and mental health, making them mentally healthier than their colleagues who did not report that resilience. So when it comes to the future of talent and work in general, it’s now clear that organizations need to value developing resilience in their workers by providing people with the skills, tools, concepts and ideas that help build resilience.
Insight 5: The Need for New Leadership Skills
One of the key changes that will affect leaders, specifically in the future of work, is the need for new leadership skills. Leading a workforce now and into the future won’t be done using the tactics and ideologies of that past; rather, Jim notes three specific skills that he feels will define successful leaders managing the future of talent in North America.
In the future of work, it will be important for leaders to sense when their team members require a reset and are able to help them decompress. This means helping others remove their tunnel vision to see the peripheries or the bigger picture. It’s about helping others to recognize what is important and what is on the horizon rather than focusing only on what’s directly in front of them.
2. Organizational Bravery
According to Jim, this is the idea that you are capable of transparently telling the story in the right way to get the desired result. Organizational bravery keeps you free from the potential political ramifications that often comes with making tough decisions, taking an unpopular view or doing things that might have been perceived as career-eroding in the past. In the future of work, effective leadership will be based on the ability to be transparent regardless of the ramifications because transparency creates better workplaces and delivers better business results.
3. Empathy and EI
One of the skills that is going to continue to grow in importance in the future of work is the ability of leaders to exhibit empathy and high emotional intelligence (EI). As Jim describes, research that shows that if you have a good emotional intelligence score, your ability to be a leader supersedes and overcompensates for other skills that you might not have. So if you're emotionally intelligent and you can demonstrate and lead with that, then you're going to be ahead of the curve. And thankfully, emotional intelligence can be taught.
Gen Z is the Future of Talent
The future of work in North America and much of the world will be defined by Gen Z as they begin to enter the workforce. So, according to Jim and others in the human capital space, it will be imperative that leaders gain an understanding of how this generation of employees think and work, as well as what they value.
For example, most Gen Z are tech natives, meaning they have grown up with technology as a daily part of their lives. This has undoubtedly affected how they interact with not just their peers but also their future colleagues and workplace leaders. For many, they prefer to be approached digitally first while also appreciating a lot of communication. This is a generation that values immediate feedback. It is important that leaders understand these values and reflect them in their management style.
Looking Ahead to the Future of Work
For Jim, there are three important and intersecting things for human capital leaders to consider when it comes to the future of work:
1. The Future of Talent and the Skills Shortage
One of the concerns Jim expresses is how there is currently no national strategy to foster the skills and grow the workforce needed to fill the gaps left by the ongoing skills shortage. Instead, it will need to be done at the local level by human capital leaders who will need to develop programs that teach those skills and graduate the people who take those programs and learn those skills and enter the workforce.
This is needed for many key sectors, including STEM, business, economics and finance. As Jim puts it, the Great Reconciliation we’ve been experiencing over the last few years also feeds into this – people want jobs that mean more than just a paycheck. It’s imperative that leaders secure the future of talent by creating these great, supportive work cultures of inclusion and belonging, so people not only accept jobs but also stay in their jobs.
2. Advances in Technology
Unsurprisingly, technology will have a growing role to play in the future of work and the future of talent. As Jim notes, whether it's from talent management systems to engagement through to retention, the predictive capability of human capital analytics will be a game changer and a true differentiator for those companies who choose to invest in its continued development.
3. Developing New Leadership Models
As discussed earlier, the old leadership models and qualities that have worked from the industrial revolution up until 2020 won’t work for the future of work going forward. Instead, new ways of leading will need to be incorporated into the workforce dynamic if we’re to have any chance of flourishing in the future of talent and work.
For the future of work, Felix Global is preparing the leaders of tomorrow today.
As both Jim and the other speakers who graciously offered their time and insights into the future of work and life explained, leaders in the human capital space will need to be prepared for the trends and changes we are already seeing in how we work and how we manage the needs of employees. This is why Felix Global works hard to offer services that help organizations and their leaders gain the skills necessary to ensure success in the future of work.