2020 Workforce news roundup

JPMorgan Chase to commit $5 million to help close the workforce skills gap in South Florida (Miami Herald): Miami is the first of ten areas to receive significant investment from the bank, which will produce hard data reports to determine where the biggest skills gaps exist and ultimately help the unemployed and recent graduates enter the workforce.

What You Need To Know About Training Your Employees So They’ll Stick Around (FastCompany): This articles explores the benefits of offering employees training opportunities—and advises on how to create a development program that sets the right tone for an organization.

Data Analytics Could Create 21,000 Irish Jobs (RTE News): A new report found that there could be high growth in data analytics in Ireland between now and 2020. However, taking advantage of the opportunity will require refocusing the education system on developing quantitative skills as well as retraining those already in the workforce.

The obsolete employee

As more and more jobs become automated, job obsolescence is in the news.  Our preliminary survey data shows that employees are in fact worried about being replaced—positions changing or becoming obsolete is the top concern among the employees we have surveyed so far.

While many tasks may be assigned to machines over the coming years, a recent article from SAP’s Jenny Dearborn argues that there are three main job skills that robots cannot replace:

  • Complex perception and manipulation—These are skills that are performed in an unstructured work environment, involve handling irregular objects, or require tactile feedback. A surgeon is a good example of a role that involves these tasks.
  • Creative intelligence—Creativity involves both novelty and value, which are challenging for a computer, because both vary by culture and over time. Examples include fashion designers and biological scientists.
  • Social intelligence—Social intelligence is fundamental to professions involving negotiation, persuasion, leadership, or high-touch care. Examples are public relations specialists, event planners, psychologists, and CEOs.”

Employees who demonstrate social intelligence, creativity, and the ability to handle complexity are likely to contribute a great deal to their companies—but according to our survey results, these skills may be undervalued by executives looking to hire. We’ll have more to report soon—stay tuned.

2020 Workforce news roundup

Don’t Go to Work: The management scheme that lets workers do whatever they want, as long as they get things done. (Slate): Best Buy created what they call the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) in 2003, a model that gives employees complete autonomy, including the freedom to choose hours, vacation time, and even which meetings to attend. The retailer believes the ROWE not only improves employee satisfaction, but also leads to better business results for the company.

The key to employee engagement has less to do with management than you’d think (Fast Company): A recent study from Bain & Company says the employees who are least engaged are those who have the least control—and the most customer contact. What can executives do to make sure these employees are engaged and passing along that satisfaction to the customers?

The curious case of the missing Millennial workers (CNN Money): According to a recent Fortune report based on Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 10% of recent college graduates are neither in the workforce nor in school. While contract workers may account for part of this number, the trend may still present a challenge for companies looking to hire entry-level employees.

Kill the Cover Letter and Résumé (New York Magazine): New thinking suggests the traditional application packet—a cover letter and résumé—are major impediments to hiring diverse and skilled workforces, as recent research has exposed the bias that often creeps into a hiring manager’s review of the materials.

Where’s the love for flexible work hours?

Despite the benefits flexible work schedules offer— among them greater productivity, efficiency, and satisfaction among employees—long-held perceptions of what a workday should be hold fast at many companies.

A recent study conducted by sociologists at the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College found that just one-fifth of companies offer flexible options to most of their employees.

One issue: Employees who take advantage of flexible schedules are not always treated the same as those who follow a more traditional work schedule.

For example, Quartz reports on a new study from The University of Washington that found managers perceive employees who start their days early as more disciplined, regardless of other performance indicators or how late in the evening the employee worked.

No matter how well flextime works, then, reaping its benefits requires a shift in organizational culture.

Communication leads to engagement


“In China we don’t encounter a problem in terms of ‘supply.’ The issue for us and many multinationals is how to foster their loyalty and engagement longer-term.” Randall Bradford, International Vice President for Human Resources, Medtronic

In our Global Talent 2021 study, we concluded that employers who communicate openly with employees about their performance, leadership potential, and skills have more motivated teams that are driven to develop new skill sets. Perhaps in keeping with Mr. Bradford’s observation, companies in industrial economies were somewhat less likely to formally segment employees.

segment employees

Making employees feel more part of the conversation allows them to better understand their employers’ expectations and set performance goals. This motivation across the organization is critical to business success, as employee engagement closely correlates to the overall health and prosperity of a company.

2020 Workforce news roundup

Wearables may increase worker productivity (Telegraph): A new study from University of London looks at the effects of wearable technologies—including devices that monitor posture, brain activity, and motion data—on employee productivity and satisfaction.

Corporate social responsibility as a driver of employee engagement (Associations Now): According to a study published in the American Marketing Association, CSR initiatives can positively impact employee performance.

HubSpot relies on non-traditional interview tactics to find employees (FastCompany): Tricks like waiting to see if an job candidate picks up trash left on the table after the interview or dedicating the majority of an interview slot to a candidate’s questions are used at HubSpot to determine if someone’s personality would work well in a given department. Are these interview tactics a factor in the company’s 85% retention rate?

Google will release stats about diversity of its workforce (USA Today): Tech giant Google will release this employee next month as a response to backlash against tech companies for hiring too few minorities and women. Google’s transparency should lead the way for other tech companies and help the industry define strategies for building diverse workforces.


On telecommuting


Once a work experience is designed, it must be communicated and inculcated. And this doesn’t mean a short course or an annual video lecture with a few inane questions to see if you still get it-it means a constant, ongoing endeavor to understand how people are working, how work conditions are affecting results and what needs to change to improve performance, or keep it at desirable levels. Workers and managers need to develop professionally together, not apart, because telecommuting is a feedback loop, not a linear activity.  –Daniel Rasmus

After enjoying dinner in New York with scenario planner Daniel Rasmus last night, we revisited his Fast Company post about managing telecommuters – and workers in general.