The pandemic accelerated reliance on automation, machine learning, and data analysis for the finance function to better inform strategy and promote business partnering. But it also spotlighted the importance of boosting human strengths such as creativity, decision-making, and adaptability in building organisational resilience.
Businesses that supported these human strengths in their workforce were more successful in managing the uncertainties during the pandemic, according to a global Deloitte survey of about 6,000, more than half of whom were senior executives.
The 15% of surveyed executives who said their businesses were “very prepared” for the pandemic were more than twice as likely as others to pivot investments for changing business demands, the survey suggested. “Very prepared” businesses were twice as likely to use technology to transform work, twice as likely to recognise the importance of organising work to facilitate rapid decision-making, and nearly three times as ready to leverage worker adaptability and mobility to navigate future disruptions.
“Having talent is not sufficient to drive value,” said Serene Chan, ACMA, CGMA, a strategy consultant based in Singapore. “Technology is the enabler, but digital talent is responsible for creating new ways of doing things. New roles must be created, and people must be put into the right roles and given KPIs that are tied directly to value creation for an organisation to hit its goal.”
Computing power in training AI has increased many-fold in the past decade, Chan said, but “I think that the future of work is less about technology and more about how people, enterprises, and governments want to exploit technology, how they respond to opportunities and challenges that come with it”.
Reimagination over redesign
Rather than redesign work, the Deloitte survey suggests executives already started shifting their focus toward reimagining work. The survey found businesses employ these five tactics to bring out human strengths:
- Prioritise workers’ wellbeing and integrate it into the design of work. That means, for example, ensuring work is safe and keeps workers healthy, but also taking steps to make remote working sustainable.
- Capitalise on worker agency and choice to drive learning, adaptability, and impact. That can be done, for example, by aligning workers’ passions with organisational needs.
- Create diverse teams that use technology to enhance work.
- Develop forward-looking insights using real-time data to harness workforce potential. The real-time data includes workers’ safety concerns, flexibility desires, and their individual effectiveness in a remote environment.
- Shift the role of HR to coming up with new ways of working rather than standardising and enforcing policies. This will require HR to learn from and partner with workers to identify opportunities and craft new approaches.
Digitisation and automation are changing talent recruitment and work design at Ingram Micro, a U.S.-based global distributor of information technology products and services.
“We can easily buy the technology such as bots through RPA providers, or machine learning applications; however, at the heart of these relatively recent developments is the need to source the right people with the right talent to use and exploit such technology,” said Tony McMurray, FCMA, CGMA, managing director of global business services for Ingram Micro Bulgaria.
For that reason, Ingram Micro established a Digital Centre of Excellence across two global business services sites in Bulgaria and the Philippines, supporting the company’s operations worldwide.
“I am now seeing job roles advertised that never existed ten years ago,” McMurray said. They are being filled externally but also internally through new learning and development programmes. “No longer are we the ‘users’ of such technology; we now have it at the core of our strategic intent,” he said.
Devising a talent pipeline strategy
It is time to look ahead and learn from the past 18 months, said Nicholas Andriotis, an HR strategist and executive director at Ithra Dubai, a real estate development and asset management company.
To devise a talent pipeline strategy, Andriotis suggests taking the following steps:
Secure buy-in from the board of directors and the C-suite that it is necessary to invest in the younger generation. HR professionals cannot deliver without that support.
Resource, attract, and retain. HR needs a clear and efficient resourcing strategy to efficiently attract, recruit, and retain the needed talent. Embed talent development in the organisation’s strategic plan to prepare for future sustainability and growth.
Prepare line managers. Ensure line managers have the skills to engage and develop new people and don’t feel threatened by them. Think strategically about age diversity.
Reward and recognise. Ensure that remuneration recognises success and does not create a challenge between experienced and younger talent.
“The pandemic has been a catalyst for accelerating change in practices, trends, and sustainability plans,” Andriotis said. “Creativity, innovation, skill, and capability are critical to any organisation’s sustainability, including the financial services industry. Robust workforce plans are paramount to meet future human capital needs.”
— Sofia Simeonidou is a freelance writer based in the Netherlands. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Sabine Vollmer, an FM magazine senior editor, at Sabine.Vollmer@aicpa-cima.com.