hand-to-ear-listeningThe world of work is facing a major challenge. A now well-documented skills gap continues to grow, and if not talent-badgeaddressed it will have a significant impact on the GDP of economies around the globe.

A report from the UN suggests that unemployment amongst 15-24 year olds is set to surge to 71 million globally. And while this may imply there are no jobs available the sobering truth is that there are young people to fill the jobs but many don’t have the skills required in today’s job environment.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0 as it’s been called, has seen businesses reassess their operations and strategies and turn to new technologies like automation and data analytics to remain successful. However these companies also need people who understand how to get the most from these technologies.

Meanwhile the demands on companies are becoming more numerous and complex. The rise of the aforementioned automation technologies is opening up new possibilities for efficiency, while looming economic uncertainty in the UK has raised the stakes for poor performance.

The result is that businesses will soon be in a position where they do not have the manpower or skills required to sustain their growth, even if they have the best products or services on the market.
Brand power

Recruitment has become an arena of fierce competition, with businesses vying for the attention of prospects using new approaches and platforms. Young professionals are increasingly likely to begin their job hunt by checking lists such as “best places to work”, or visiting online platforms like Glassdoor for first-hand accounts of life with a prospective employer.

In addition to their many other roles, HR teams are now being relied upon to help the company build a compelling employer reputation. They are being asked to market the employer brand.

This presents an opportunity for HR to make its efforts more visible to the wider business, and to add measurable value in ways that align with the company’s wider strategies.
Giving employees room to flex

Top talent is in increasingly high demand, and when a company’s best don’t feel engaged and interested they are on the lookout for better opportunities. In this environment the ability to deliver on employees’ expectations has become a distinct advantage.
A competitive salary remains the major concern for many workers, but the promise of flexibility and a work schedule that fits their individual lifestyle is proving equally important for a growing proportion of employees.

Home working, the option to shift core hours, job sharing; arrangement like these are have proven appealing to employees young and old. For some, this is down to family commitments that require them to work from home on occasion. For others it is simply a matter of when inspiration strikes.

Flexibility in an employee’s role is equally important. For any number of valid reasons promotions are not always on the table, but companies must still find ways to engage and recognise workers who feel they are stagnating or want new challenges. Giving staff more mobility to take on new roles within the organization – for example by moving from marketing to sales, or by trying exciting one-off projects – allows them to continue developing and makes them feel HR is on their side.
Unearthing the digital gold

HR departments must listen, learn and adapt to the changing face of the workforce, and to do this they must dive deeper into the company’s digital gold – its employee data. Data is the oil of the 21st century. Few would argue it powers the digital economy, and it is now also beginning to power the company’s talent management efforts.

Just as marketers have become adept at using data analysis to map customer behaviour and tailor their campaigns to each prospect, HR teams can use the information at their disposal to tap into what each employee needs to stay happy and engaged.

Acquiring the data is not a challenge – companies have been stockpiling information for years. As in the search for gold, the difficulty lies in digging through information on existing employees, prospects, on people’s social media activity, on current market trends and uncovering the nuggets that will help HR better serve the business.

Equally, companies need to be able to dive into their data and find the information they need at any time. They need a system in place that does the digging and sifting for them.

The advantages of a data-centric approach to HR are well documented. A study by Deloitte revealed that companies who invest in predictive HR management technologies outperform their competitors when it comes to the quality of recruitment, skills and retention rates.

Oracle’s own research also highlights how HR departments can add business value through increased employee engagement built on robust talent analytics. By arming line managers with up-to-date information from across the business on each employee’s history, performance, and objectives, HR can help the business appropriately progresses and supports all their staff.
Advanced analytics will also allow HR to play an increasingly strategic role in the boardroom. Executives favour an evidence-based approach to decision-making, and armed with accurate data on how factors like employee engagement and specific training schemes impact worker performance HR can help the business hone its strategies and get the most from its people.

To mind the skills gap and attract and retain the best employees, companies first need the right mind-set, one that is built on listening to what people want and need to succeed. Knowing a company is invested in their future fosters stronger bonds between employee and employer, particularly among young professionals. The challenge for HR is great, but at the same time the role has never more dynamic. And with the right mind-set HR leaders will no doubt be up to the task.

HCM Strategy Director at Oracle.

Andy has been at Oracle for 19 years. As an HCM Evangelist he has a thought leadership role and works closely with strategic customers to explore the opportunities offered by leading-edge HR solutions. He was previously responsible for delivering significant business transformation programmes in the UK and EMEA, across a variety of industry sectors. Prior to joining Oracle, Andy was Head of Management Development for a leading UK retailer.