Workforce execution and vision are out of balance

On Friday we talked about the lack of HR tools and metrics plaguing businesses, which lack ample data about the workforce, quantifiable benchmarking, and the ability to glean insight from the data they do have.

HR’s lack of tools may impede progress toward meeting workforce goals (only one-third of respondents say they have made good or significant progress), but the problem also suggests a deeper issue with HR strategy.

Our survey found that while companies are executing on operational plans, less than a third have a strategic, enterprise-wide vision for the workforce they want to build.  Without a vision, companies are unlikely to acquire the tools they need to meet workforce goals, and they will struggle to use the resources they do have properly.

Execution and vision - Sept 29

The imbalance between strategy and vision is even more pronounced in certain countries. In both Australia and China, for example, nearly three-quarters say they have a defined execution plan, while just 25% say they have a vision.

You can read more about the relationship between strategy and vision in our research report, The Looming Talent Crisis. For even more data, check out our project landing page.

HR lacks the metrics and tools needed to meet workforce goals

Over half (53%) of executives we surveyed say workforce development is a key differentiator for their firm; despite best intentions, most do not have the tools and organization to back it up. In fact, just 38% say they have ample data about the workforce to understand their strengths and potential vulnerabilities from a skills perspective, and 39% say they use quantifiable metrics and benchmarking as part of their workforce development strategy.

Lack of metrics and tools - September 26

What’s more, only 42% say they know how to extract meaningful insights from the data available to them. And C-suite executives are more likely than HR executives to say their firm uses quantifiable metrics and benchmarking as part of their workforce development strategy, suggesting further strategic misalignment.

The bottom line? Companies are not making progress toward meeting their workforce goals–just one-third say they have made good or significant progress–and the lack of metrics and analytics capabilities could be holding back their progress.

What matters most at work?

Executives say they value loyalty and long-term commitment ahead of employee attributes like leadership ability and even job performance. Yet they are not doing what they should to foster loyalty among employees, particularly in regards to the benefits and incentives that are most important to their workforce.

When it comes to satisfied employees, cash is king. Competitive compensation and bonuses/merit-based rewards rank highest among employees—other benefits are far less important. But only 39% of executives say their company offers competitive compensation.

What Matters Most at Work - Sept 22

Some companies may be focusing their efforts incorrectly. Headline-grabbing amenities like recreational facilities and laundry services are not highly important to employees—only 39% say these amenities are important, and companies may want to rethink spending money on them to better focus their engagement efforts.

If executives want employees to demonstrate commitment to the company, they should make an effort to determine which benefits are most important to them. The loyalty that they will engender as a result will likely have sweeping effects on talent development and succession planning, ultimately leaving companies better-prepared for the future workforce.

The leadership cliff

Executives and employees agree that leadership in their organizations is lacking. Executives cite a lack of adequate leadership as the number two impediment to achieving goals of building a workforce to meet future business objectives (behind lack of employee longevity and loyalty but ahead of lack of adequate technology). And only 35% say talent available in leadership positions is sufficient to drive global growth—a big problem in a workforce that is increasingly diverse.

And while executives are worried about their leadership capabilities, they aren’t doing what it takes to cultivate leadership in their companies. Just 43% say that when a senior person leaves, they tend to fill the role from within the organization, and even fewer say they plan for succession and continuity in key roles.

Succession planning

Even worse, just 19% of employees say that leadership is among the most important attributes bosses are looking for in their employees.

None of these findings point to a rosy picture for the future workforce. That’s unfortunate, because to thrive in the global economy companies will need to develop leadership in their companies by supporting employees, encouraging workers to learn new skills, and planning for succession.

The workforce of the future will be increasingly flexible

When we surveyed over 2,700 executives around the world, we found that 83% are increasingly using consultants, intermittent employees, or contingent workers. The shift from hiring traditional full-time employees to a more flexible workforce demands major changes to the way companies think about compensation and benefits, training, and organizational culture.

Blog Sept 17

Companies are already responding to the changing workforce, but given the magnitude of this trend and the increased regulatory scrutiny that is likely to follow, they may not be doing enough.

You can find more on the changing nature of work in our research report. If you haven’t checked out our research yet, you can find out more by visiting our landing page.

Employees’ number one concern? Obsolescence.

When we asked our employee respondents what concerned them most about their job, fully 40% said their top concern was their position changing or becoming obsolete—far more than the number who answered economic uncertainty or layoffs.

Blog September 15 - 1


What’s more, employees don’t feel confident that they are developing the skills that will be needed in years to come, and very few say their company is helping.

Blog September 15


These findings caught the eye of Josh Bersin, founder and Principal of Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP. You can see his post, which expands on the problem of skills obsolescence and offers some recommendations to employees looking to reinvent themesleves, on LinkedIn.

Among his tips? Take the initiative to develop your skills, whether through reading, going to conferences, talking with experts, and watching online videos. While being in charge of our own development may not be ideal for some employees, it may be one of the only ways to ensure continuous learning and development.

Workforce 2020 at SuccessConnect

We released the findings of our huge global study this week at SuccessConnect. Oxford Economics’ Technology Practice Lead Ed Cone, who oversaw the Workforce 2020 project, presented the findings yesterday morning.

People were really interested in our findings, especially on Millennials. In fact, some were actually thanking me for the myth-busting–especially the Millennials to whom I spoke (I told them it wasn’t me, it was the survey data).

This sense of relief is a consistent theme. On my flight home, the guy next to me–a young entrepreneur–said he’s tired of people looking at his generation like aliens from outer space. I laughed and told him our junior staffers compared it to being an exotic species in a zoo. Time to move past all that and focus on the real differences.

Many more interesting conversations around the survey data and other topics, and overall a great experience at SuccessConnect.

                                                   –Ed Cone

We’ll be sharing our research on the blog and updating you on the next wave of deliverables–including fact sheets, think pieces, and interactive infographics–as they become available.

Workforce 2020 launch

The results of our huge global survey of 2,700 executives and 2,700 employees are now available.

You can download the research report, the first of our two think pieces, get information on webinars, and take a quiz about the findings here. Ed Cone will be presenting the global findings tomorrow morning at SuccessConnect; we’ll be keeping you posted on that on Twitter

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be showcasing the reports, infographics, country fact sheets, and highlights from SuccessConnect right here on the blog, so stay tuned. 

The gender pay gap

Over the past few months, we have been talking about the national and company approaches to parental leave policies—in particular, how these policies affect women’s wages and participation in the workforce.

In an article from The New York Times, Claire Cain Miller explores new research on the gender divide for parents in the workforce. She cites University of Massachusetts sociology professor Michelle Budig, whose research finds that high-earing men receive large pay bumps after having children (likely because employers consider them less likely to leave a stable job), while low-earning women are most likely to suffer. In fact, Budig’s research, based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, finds that “on average, men’s earnings increased more than 6 percent when they had children (if they lived with them), while women’s decreased 4 percent for each child they had.”

Most companies have not yet figured out how to develop the right policies for employees with children—the same is true for determining paid maternity and paternity leave. Combating the gender pay gap will require not just an overhaul of policies, but a change in mindset.