How Millenial execs can help HR build HR digital capability

Organisations need to take listen to the voice of emerging Millennial executives if they are to be successful in an increasingly digital world

Organisations need to take listen to the voice of emerging Millennial executives if they are to be successful in an increasingly digital world, according to an expert in the future of the workforce.

HR has always had a part in shaping and implementing the vision of a company, and it can surely continue that by ensuring the organisation has a digital vision, said Dr Karie Willyerd, global head of SAP education for SAP SuccessFactors.

“We need to build the skills and capabilities of the people in our organisation to implement that vision,” she said.

“And we need to listen to the voice of the emerging Millennial executives – those Millennials who are in these executive roles are presumably our best and brightest.

“After all, they’ve made it to C-suite roles, or one level below, by their mid-30s.”

Since they have a different view of the world, Willyerd said HR can put in place reverse mentoring programs, so non-Millennial executives can begin to see the world with a new lens.

Millennials will soon be more than 50 per cent of the workforce, and these executive Millennials provide a window into the future workforce, Willyerd explained.

“We need to listen to the voice of the emerging Millennial executives – those Millennials who are in these executive roles are presumably our best and brightest”

“It pays to be digital,” said Willyerd, who highlighted a number of key findings in the recent Leaders 2020 study, published by Oxford Economics and supported by SAP.

Based on feedback from more than 4100 executives and employees in 21 countries, the study found that which are well run have strengths that cut across their human and digital strategies.

“We created the profile of organisations that are digital leaders, and we found 16 per cent of companies globally fit that profile,” said Willyerd, who observed that 12 percent of companies in Australia and New Zealand fit this profile.

“These companies which are digital leaders report strong growth and profitability, better employee engagement and higher retention rates,” she said.

Digital leaders are also leaders in human capital practices, and Willyerd said they are more likely to report solid access to talent in the marketplace, more focus on development and better succession planning.

“Digital leaders are more diverse at every level except the Board, and they report advances in diversity – including the general workforce, leadership and senior leadership,” she said.

“And they report a clearer understanding of linking diversity to financial performance.”

Millennial executives are also eager to see change, according to Willyerd.

“In factor after factor, from innovation to collaboration, to diversity to technology, they see their organisation’s capabilities as having much more room for improvement,” she said.

“There will be much more fluidity between roles, where people move in and out of management roles, requiring we learn more about what people are looking for in their careers”

Willyerd said that both employees and executives clearly understand that to be a leader in today’s marketplace requires digital know-how across all processes.

“That includes HR, especially when it comes to development,” said Willyerd, who explained that AT&T is an example of a company going through a digital transformation, from what used to be telephone wires and poles to the distribution of digital content.

The CEO painted a five-year vision that outlined the path to digital, and also made training and education available to employees so they could stay on the path with the company.

“Much of this re-tooling was on the employee’s own time, but I think the important thing is that HR must help people futureproof their careers by ensuring they are digitally prepared,” she said.

In the future, Willyerd said much of the technology Millennials are accustomed to getting on their mobile device, anywhere, and anytime, will pervade the employment experience.

“This will start long before the employee begins the first day on the job, where we begin building relationships with potential candidates for jobs that are not open yet, to long past their last day of employment as they continue in our alumnae network and recommend us (or not) to others,” she said.

As hierarchies flatten, the need to build teams dynamically to suit market demands will increase, and to do that, Willyerd said it is important to understand who is available, their skills, their availability and their fit to the team.

“I think there will be much more fluidity between roles, where people move in and out of management roles, requiring we learn more about what people are looking for in their careers,” she said.

“That’s why it is so important that our technology integrate not only within the HR systems, but across systems, so when we model what happens if we win a large contract, for example, we can see all the talent implications and include those in our business planning.”

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