In the face of an evolving talent landscape as well as increased competition, convergence and technological change across industries, leading CHROs are responding by focusing on five key areas, according to IBM.

These CHROs are increasingly treating present and potential employees like customers, capitalising on emerging technologies to improve and design new employee experiences, and building a flexible skills base through increased use of contractor workforces.

They are also using technology more effectively by drawing on analytics to predict future workforce requirements, as well as creating a social dialogue with employees and discovering the power of “social listening” to manage change more effectively.

IBM’s research report, which took in more than 600 CHROs from around the world (including some 90 HR leaders from Australia), said that industry convergence and technological advances will directly affect how CHROs seek and manage talent in three ways.

“First, they will need to ‘fish in new ponds.’ This will force many organisations to review their recruitment practices,” said the report, which noted that most job advertisements are better at explaining what’s required than at selling the job to potential candidates.

“Cumbersome online application forms and selection processes are another turn-off. And companies that are newcomers to certain labour pools or markets will need to broaden their appeal,” it said.

“Cumbersome online application forms and selection processes are another turn-off”

CHROs will also have to design employee experiences that attract individuals from diverse backgrounds and encourage them to stay, and providing the right connections can enable employees to form communities, foster camaraderie and promote loyalty, for example.

“Similarly, creating comfortable workplaces with personal space and open areas for free-flowing discussion can improve productivity,” it said.

“And giving staff access to technologies that are as simple and convenient as those they use in their personal lives can make their work easier.”

CHROs must also watch out for competitors encroaching on their territory, and it noted that new players won’t restrict their attention to customers as they will be equally eager to poach highly skilled employees.

As competition for the best talent intensifies, CHROs will need to borrow from the techniques used by Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), and HR will have to reposition their organisations to appeal to new employee segments, rethink their social recruitment strategies and build relationships with a wide group of potential candidates.

“They will also have to provide employee experiences that emulate the personalised customer experiences good marketers deliver,” said the Redefining talent: Insights from the Global C-suite Study – The CHRO perspective report.

“CHROs are just as attuned as other members of the C-suite to the way the business arena is shifting”

Leading CHROs are also capitalising on new technologies, and withstanding the dramatic market upheavals now taking place will entail developing a workforce with different capabilities.

Most respondents intend to recruit staff with the skills their enterprises lack, according to the report, which found that more than two-thirds also anticipate working with third-party providers and partnering with other organisations to gain additional expertise.

“So CHROs are just as attuned as other members of the C-suite to the way the business arena is shifting. And they’re actively preparing for a more tumultuous future – a future in which the talent landscape is completely redefined,” it said.

A further two-thirds of CHROs also use third parties to provide contingent labour, while more than half also use flexible work plans, telecommuting and the like.

The report said many companies intend to continue using such techniques, and pointed out that there has been a marked increase in the percentage of CHROs who plan to address future skills gaps by retraining existing employees and bringing in new staff on short-term contracts.

“Analytics requires a degree of trust between the HR function and the rest of the business”

A small but increasing number of CHROs are also using predictive analytics to manage workforce issues, however, building an effective analytics capability requires a cadre of new HR workers with different skills: data architects, statistical modellers and even storytellers.

“But, most of all, analytics requires a degree of trust between the HR function and the rest of the business,” said the report.

“The HR function must trust the business units to act on the answers it produces, while the business units must trust the methodology and assumptions the HR function uses to produce those answers.”

Some companies are also making strides when it comes to listening to what employees have to say – be it reporting feedback from customers, making suggestions or commenting on other work-related matters.

Nearly half of the CHROs who participated in the research use social tools to find out what employees think about general business issues, however, the number of CHROs who use social approaches to capture new ideas and track employee sentiment on an ongoing basis is somewhat smaller.

“Listening to employees can help them feel more valued, improve decision making and stimulate innovation,” said the report, which noted that annual snapshots in the form of employee surveys aren’t enough, when content can go viral in a few hours.

“Organisations have to create a continuous dialogue with employees, just as they do with customers,” it said.

“Work with the CIO, CMO and real estate partners to tailor the employee experience within the context of your organisation’s needs”

To help prepare and manage change, CHROs should establish ongoing processes to target the talent their organisation will need to differentiate itself in a rapidly changing world.

“Develop creative marketing techniques and provide analytical tools to attract, acquire and on-board a new generation of individuals with rare or unique skills,” the report said.

“Build flexibility through partnerships with third-party providers capable of supplying competencies that can’t be easily acquired at scale.”

It will also be important to focus on the employee experience as one would on the customer experience, and use analytics to understand different employee segments and their concerns.

“Invest in the key touchpoints where employees’ experiences have a major impact on engagement levels and productivity,” said the report.

“Work with the CIO, CMO and real estate partners to tailor the employee experience within the context of your organisation’s needs.

“Deploy rapid, iterative design principles to test and modify new ways of delivering employee experiences.”

Lastly, CHROs should assess how technology can help them expand the strategic scope of the HR function as well as improving their organisation’s operational efficiency.

“Consider using cloud-based software to provide best-in-class services and reduce reliance on the IT function,” it said.

“Leverage mobility to give employees information and insights, when and where they’re needed,” said the report, which also suggested incorporating social techniques to amplify the “employee voice” and using cognitive digital assistants to improve employee self-service and enhance the HR function’s decision-making capabilities.

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