5 minute read 10 Apr 2019
Breakdancers perfrming tricks

Can your people adapt as quickly as your strategy?

By EY Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

5 minute read 10 Apr 2019
Related topics Consulting Divestitures

Entire industries are being turned upside down by disruption. How can they help their people adapt?

Organizations across all sectors are having to deal with and lead through disruption. This disruption is coming from many directions and is driving revolutions in operations and business models. But one thing stays the same: organizations will rely on deploying and redeploying all types of workforces including people.

An organization’s workforce will experience the force of disruption in their own way — whether it’s the necessity of learning new skills, utilizing new technologies or having to work with a more diverse group of people. Organizations should be asking, “How can we help our people adapt?” And, as the nature of work and employment changes radically, how will organizations have to adapt their HR functions to realize their strategies?

What might this strategy look like in coming years? That question is wide open, and the answer will change frequently and rapidly for each organization. But the short answer is: most everything will change. Trends point to an increased focus on purpose, new approaches to globalization and market development, and taking a more agile and innovative approach to responding to market forces while driving the business forward.

The scope of people disruption

So what kinds of changes will organizations have to adapt to? The following are just a few:

  • Changing workforce: For the first time in history, five generations will be working side-by-side. People are choosing to work longer, delaying retirement and simultaneously new talent is joining — older employees could soon be reporting to leaders the same age as their grandchildren.
  • Changing fabric of work and teams: As the gig economy grows into a larger portion of the globalized people picture, teams will increasingly be made of contingent and remote workers, as well as robots posing new challenges for team relationships.
  • New technologies: The role of machinery and humans will continue to be redefined with the increasing evolution of digital tools, including RPA, AI and the IoT or connected devices.
  • New skills: Learning to use and advance higher-level technologies will require a whole new skillset and organizations will need to both retool their talent and hire new talent to accommodate the accelerating infusion of such technologies. By harnessing these technologies to enable their talent to focus on what makes them human — creativity, innovation, lateral thinking, intuition, judgement, collaboration — these organizations can tap into even greater growth and prosperity.

Maximizing your assets

Even in a technology-centric future, people will have a critical role to play in the success of organizations. However, without getting a strong balance between the right operating model and a leadership culture that is fit for the digital world, strategies will fail to deliver.

Overall, the message is this: organizations need to transform to adapt and stay ahead of the competition.

“Surviving in an age of constant disruption requires getting your people balance right — combining the digital skills and knowledge needed to innovate with the business sense and experience needed to survive for the long term,” says David Storey, People Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP. It’s not about focusing deliberately on any one aspect of talent management, but on bringing together the different experiences and perspectives that people of diverse backgrounds can bring.

The good news is that the resources for the future are out there, whether or not they’re already within the organization: they just need to be managed in the right way.

For example, innovation relies on facilitating open communication: “an open exchange of ideas is essential to challenging how we think and work — which in turn sparks innovation. Encouraging diversity of thought is key,” says Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief Innovation Officer.

An open exchange of ideas is essential to challenging how we think and work — which in turn sparks innovation. Encouraging diversity of thought is key.
Jeff Wong
EY Global Chief Innovation Officer

Securing able, adaptable people

Aligning the organization’s workforce strategy to the overall business strategy is essential and the war for talent will be a critical lever in implementation and delivery.

To compete with disruptive start-ups, organizations need people with a different approach and attitude to their work — people that combine the digital skills and knowledge needed to innovate with the business sense and resilience needed to survive for the long term.

Leaders with these qualities are needed to create a prosperous and confident digital future. Yet those people are generally not attracted to companies that don’t share their vision for transforming the working world. In this respect, an organization’s purpose will help to differentiate the employee value proposition to align more closely with the expectations of your people.

Coupled with this, traditional models of corporate hierarchies are changing and one-size-fits-all corporate rewards (compensation, benefits, succession planning) will not deliver the performance and behaviors that businesses require — what motivates someone with a young family is going to be very different to what motivates a new graduate or someone working their way to retirement. So diversity of rewards and an enlightened approach to performance management programs will be essential.

How to address the balance

There are steps that organizations can take today to help their workforce and their business strategy deliver at an equal pace.

  1. Determine whether leaders are ready to facilitate digital innovation and organizational change: Reassign, develop or replace leaders ill-equipped to lead change
  2. Educate your board in how to meet the demands of a changing workforce: Regularly review and report to the board on whether compensation and benefits are working
  3. Support HR teams to enable the necessary changes to drive future success: Refresh roles, organizational structures and people processes to suit the new dynamics of future work
  4. Have every leader embrace diversity and inclusiveness: Without this, younger workers are likely to vote with their feet

About this article

By EY Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

Related topics Consulting Divestitures