Businesses used to think about how quickly they could go from zero to 60. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations slowed down considerably and then rapidly sped up. It’s been an unprecedented test of performance. From the travel and hospitality industries to health care and insurance, leaders are seeking a lifeline from the whiplash they’ve experienced.

The latest Accenture research shows that preparing a workforce for the future and revamping the work experience has never been more critical. Future-ready organizations—those ahead of the curve on operating model maturity through intelligent operations—can best deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity amid disruption.

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A small number of future-ready enterprises (7%) are realizing much greater value than other organizations. Fostering talent is a key component of achieving that value, according to the analysis.

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Nurturing humanity in your people

Compared to other organizations in which machines simply augment the work humans are doing, in future-ready organizations knowledge workers focus on activities and initiatives that require human empathy, judgement and reasoning. This encourages a culture in which people can focus on meaningful, strategic work and human interaction.

But for employees to perform their best and seek meaningful work, they need empowerment, training and opportunities to cultivate in-demand capabilities and skills. Future-ready companies not only recognize the importance of employee development; they make it a priority.

The combination of empowered, highly trained employees with key tech capabilities like AI result in an agile human + machine workforce.

Unlocking potential, holistically

It’s difficult to prepare future-ready talent unless organizations take a holistic approach. Accenture identified six fundamental human needs that organizations should meet to unlock the full potential of their people, leaving employees and the business Net Better Off with better performance and retention. Here’s a snapshot of the six: 

  • Employable: Having marketable in-demand capabilities and skills to advance in a career.
  • Emotional/mental: Feeling positive emotions and maintaining mental wellness.
  • Relational: Feeling a strong sense of belonging and inclusion.
  • Physical: Being in good physical health and equipped to take on normal daily stresses.
  • Purposeful: Feeling that one makes a positive difference to the world.
  • Financial: Being financially secure without undue economic stress or worry.

All six dimensions are important, but many organizations aren’t paying enough attention to the two dimensions of “emotional/mental” and “relational.” After widespread employee pushback against returning to the office, many companies have learned that people expect employers to respect their well-being and preferences. Many leaders recognize that employees are experiencing late-stage pandemic burnout, and millions are quitting their jobs in what’s called the “Great Resignation.” But what can employers do about it?

Gaining trust; measuring results

Building trust through transparency helps, but it’s a journey that requires continuous investment and care.

Over the past difficult months, employers have been communicating with employees at an unprecedented rate. An Edelman study found that 62% of employees said they trusted their employer to respond effectively and responsibly to the COVID-19 outbreak, and they also put more faith in information coming from their employer. Organizations can do even better by unlocking employee potential with a multidimensional approach.

At Accenture, for example, we know we can’t earn trust just by setting targets on diversity, net-zero emissions and other aspects of sustainability. We have to invest in a plan: with transparency, interim targets, annual reporting and accountability. When we began reporting our US workforce data, for instance, the number of people who self-identify as persons with disabilities increased by 1.5 percentage points, so persons with disabilities now represent 4.5% of our US workforce.

With a labor and skills shortage and growing expectations from the workforce for a better employee experience, creating a culture to establish future-ready talent and meet employee needs is even more important today. But C-suite execs and other leaders don’t have access to the data that provides insights about employees’ needs. For example, 71% of HR teams find it challenging to gather real-time information about employee experience, according to a Forrester/SAP SuccessFactors study. So, it’s not surprising that 81% of employees said creating and sustaining a positive culture is the most important aspect to fostering a good employee experience, while only 58% of HR managers agreed.

HR needs to rethink metrics that are important to the business. The Net Better Off research provides a framework for what HR professionals have known our entire careers: If you give people challenging work, support them in their success, pay and reward them appropriately, and give them permission to bring their authentic selves to work, they're going to be their best. To nurture a workforce that’s future-ready, HR needs to be a constant force for transformation, adapting an organization to account for employees whose needs are changing, too. A reimagined HR function will see that meeting employees’ fundamental needs drives better business outcomes and empowers a future-ready workforce.

Jill K. Goldstein

Talent and HR Business Process Services Lead

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