HR: 5 sustainability questions to ask today — Michael Mauro
What did you learn during the pandemic? How to bake a loaf of bread? How to knit a jumper? How many cookies you could eat in one sitting? How many days you could get away with wearing the same pyjama bottoms? What about professional skills? Because throughout Covid, many workers had to learn several new skills on the fly. Covid accelerated automation and digitisation and shone a spotlight on many existing skills gaps.
I think that you can and absolutely should teach old dogs new tricks. And younger dogs. And puppies. It’s something we should all be doing now because learning doesn’t stop once you finish school. It can’t. Things are moving too fast — but creating a culture of learning helps that to be exciting rather than daunting.
Green is great, but what about the sustainability of your workforces?
Sustainability doesn’t just mean looking after the environment. Those skills gaps are threatening our development as individuals, as businesses, and as a species. Enough time has been wasted. Start 2022 right, by nurturing a highly skilled talent base that can future-proof your business.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to get you started:
1. Are we overlooking talent?
14% of the workforce worldwide will likely be forced to change jobs in the coming years as new industries such as AI, VR, automation and robotics, renewable and alternative energy, big data analytics, cybersecurity, and cloud computing, gain traction and advancements in technology push certain traditional jobs towards the scrap heap.
Expectations are higher, swathes of people (and skills) are now redundant and 87% of CEOs recognise skills gaps in their employees. As of last year, 33% of the skills listed in a typical 2017 job posting are no longer necessary, and job posts now require 10% more skills than previous years.
But are you looking at transferable skills? HR teams may be able to take on people who have become a little more skills-redundant and transform them through training and offering some purpose. IBM found that employees are 42% more likely to stick with a company long-term if they received training that helped them better perform their work. The sort of loyalty that comes from making investment a two-way street is invaluable.
What sort of talent and skills are your competitors looking for? How are other leaders adapting to changes in your industry? HR and talent development teams need to consult with senior leaders, the board of directors, and a leadership development consultant like myself, to pinpoint what your organisations’ skills gaps are, what your business goals are, exactly what talent your business needs to achieve them, and how to create a people and culture strategy that attracts and most importantly, retains that talent.
2. How can we reskill our workforce?
What do they say about the grass appearing greener? Well, look inside your walls, because the race to hire talent is morphing into a race to upskill and reskill talent. In fact, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025. It was discovered last year that pandemic-related job losses disproportionately affected minorities, women, younger workers, and workers with lower educational attainment or income. Reskilling and upskilling are essential in order to prevent any further damage to these groups — and to ensure the success of diverse, digital workplaces.
While two-thirds of businesses expect to see a return on investment from reskilling and upskilling within one year, almost one-third don’t think their current HR infrastructure would be able to execute a new people development strategy designed to close emerging skill gaps. Leaders are unprepared, too, because their role is changing.
Fill talent gaps and grow sustainability by focusing on diversity and inclusion. Build a positive learning and feedback culture, get every employee into a growth mindset, identify those with the high potential to move into leadership roles, and prepare them to fulfil that potential.
The fact that technology evolves so quickly means there needs to be an ongoing focus on identifying and developing soft skills that can provide resilience and agility, such as emotional intelligence, negotiation skills, taking initiative, leadership, and entrepreneurial thinking.
Like Walmart. It’s playing the long-game, investing $4 billion over four years to help staff in frontline and back-office jobs transition to new customer-service-oriented roles. Tata Steel created an advanced-analytics academy to train and certify hundreds of engineers on how to apply new approaches, and boosted revenue by over 15%, despite global cost pressures across the steel sector.
3. What does that onboarding experience look like?
Yours should be unique to your organisation. Focus on diversity and inclusion and make it clear what that means to you. How can you create a sense of belonging, so that employees feel seen and supported during and after their onboarding experience, whether they’re at home or in the office?
How can you help leaders to create an inclusive future for their teams? How can you train leaders to help people feel safe to be their authentic selves? Who make it clear that your organisation is a place where people can grow their professional development and unlock their potential? Working with a leadership development consultant can empower your leaders to become diversity and inclusion leaders, and help them to coach existing employees on how to adapt to and make space for new personalities to shine and contribute as their authentic selves.
Onboarding should be a meaningful, two-way experience — you need to learn from each other. It’s about asking questions, listening to your new (and existing) employees and ensuring that you’re sensitive to individual needs. Less forms, more conversation. So there’s less anxiety, more motivation. Ask preferred names and pronouns, introduce them to teams, ask their workspace preferences, show them the big picture, set expectations, design their development plan for the first year. Offer resources, personalised learning and support, a buddy system, one-on-one lunches with people who can help them, build a mentorship program, keep checking in with them, and always, always gather feedback.
4. How can leaders give their teams more time to experiment and innovate?
There’s no point in hiring smart people if they’re going to sit in a pigeonhole. Tap that resource! See what they can bring to the table. Like 3M, which allots every employee 15% of each day for constructive daydreaming.
Innovation shouldn’t have a timeslot, and it shouldn’t only be for managers. Every leader needs to understand this, and every organisation needs to understand why leadership development is so important. Coaching leaders to invest more time in learning, experimenting, innovating, failing (yes) and growing, will not only help increase retention through what’s become a very candidate-short market, but also ensure that the workforce is an evolving thing.
A leadership development consultant can train your leaders to:
- Become role models, give direction, be adventurous, stay curious, be kind and open, scrap micromanagement, and become a more personal presence.
- Live, breathe, and communicate your values.
- Foster a culture of innovation, collaboration, and cross-pollination of ideas. Build a diverse and adaptable team with new perspectives and allow everyone to contribute to change. Like at DHL — it encourages staff to work with groups of customers and clients to come up with new solutions to complex issues.
- Make goals and the bigger picture clear, so everyone understands the impact they can have. When you give employees a stake in the success of the transformation, you’ll see increased drive and passion.
- Focus on inspiring, empowering, incentivising and developing every employee, and nurturing growth mindsets.
- Give employees a level of flexibility and autonomy. You’ll see lower absenteeism and higher engagement. That mum you let work from home 2 days per week might have your next big idea.
- Get rid of fear of failure, encourage risk-taking and establish psychological safety for everyone. Failure isn’t scary as long as you measure and learn from it. And as Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey puts it, “If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.”
- Accommodate and personalise experiences such as brainstorming, so that everyone feels comfortable.
5. What does a sustainable workforce look like to us?
When we look at trees in the pavement, we see individual trees poking from cement. However, research has discovered that trees are like people; they seek each other out, and their roots connect and become a network that helps them support one another. Underneath what we see at surface level, they are social creatures just like us.
That’s what I imagine a sustainable workforce to be. Its people are connected, thriving, encouraged, supported, and challenged. They find purpose in the vision and values of their business. They are told when things aren’t working out, told when they’ve got to adapt, when they need to grow and change, but their individual ideas and qualities, and innovation to challenge the business direction are embraced.
That’s what I think creates the most sustainable workforce — when we’re all connected and working towards a common goal. If you don’t have that, attempting to grow or evolve or go through any sort of change or transformation, just won’t work. It’s critical.
Think about your talent, and steps you can take to identify and reskill them. Think about your leaders, and how you can develop them to better inspire and lead the rest of your talent. Think about what a sustainable workforce looks like to you.
I am currently working on some change projects and one of the biggest things I’m seeing is the pace at which organisations are wanting to throw themselves into a transformational direction. The danger is to rush that journey. But you need to do it in a slower, more measured way. Don’t be purely reactive. Step back, reflect, and then take the right steps forward for you, to safely and successfully navigate what is becoming an increasingly complex world.
What are your thoughts on workforce sustainability? Do these questions give you any ideas? Check out my services and book a consultation — let’s talk about I can help your HR and talent teams to create a leadership development framework that paves the way forward this year.
Originally published at https://www.michaelmauro.co.uk on January 24, 2022.