The workplace is changing―in many ways for the better. New generations entering the workforce, advances in automation, and shifting societal values and priorities are all driving this change. That’s a good thing. According to a new report based on a LinkedIn survey of HR professionals and hiring managers, it could be a very good thing for women.

As I shared in my previous post, the survey results show HR professionals and their talent management partners prioritise the following four trends as influential in the future workplace:

  1. Soft skills competency (91%)
  2. Workplace flexibility (72%)
  3. A safer, harassment-free, inclusive environment (72%)
  4. Pay transparency (53%)

These trends have an impact on how women experience the workplace, on the advancement of workplace gender parity, and on business performance. I’ve blogged about most of these topics in the past and also offered suggestions for how firms can help eliminate gender disparity and create a workplace in which women can thrive.

HR plays an important role in embedding these four trends into their firm’s practices, not only to enable a better work environment for women but also to help their organisations attract and retain valuable talent into the future.

How HR can make a difference

What follows are suggestions for how HR professionals can amplify the benefits these trends bring to the workplace, as well as how to overcome challenges they might face in doing so. Many of these suggestions come directly from the responses to the LinkedIn survey questions.

Recognising and encouraging soft skills

As I explained in my series on gender-balanced leadership teams, winning leadership requires a full gamut of characteristics―some that are considered masculine; others that are considered feminine. In fact, gender-balanced leadership has a measurably positive effect on a firm’s financial performance. Therefore, HR professionals should be looking not only to accurately assess soft skills like empathy, collaboration, and communication during the selection process; they should also encourage these qualities among the employee population on an ongoing basis. The survey shows 80% of talent management professionals believe soft skills are increasingly important to a firm’s success, yet only 41% of firms formally assess these skills during the interview process. Doing so is an important first step. Standardized measures such as behavioral and situational questions and leveraging artificial intelligence to eliminate bias are some of the tools that can help a firm develop this type of process.

Revamping the organization to manage flexibility

LinkedIn has seen a 78% increase in job posts that feature work flexibility and a 24% increase in the number of people who consider flexible work arrangements a key criterion for a new job. Clearly, it’s not only women who want workplace flexibility. This adds power to the movement in that direction. It’s important to note that flexible work options benefit companies in more ways than attracting new talent or increasing employee satisfaction. They also significantly reduce workplace real estate costs. However, there are still concerns that team bonding, collaboration, and work oversight will be compromised in a remote working model, so we still have some work to do to move on from these perceptions. Messaging applications and virtual work tools can help overcome these obstacles so that employees are connected and productive, wherever they’re working.

Enforce a zero-tolerance approach to harassment

The #MeToo movement has thrust workplace harassment into the limelight in a way that’s made it a mandate for firms to take a closer look at this problem. In fact, 80% of the LinkedIn survey respondents indicated their companies have added to their anti-harassment tactics within the last year. Providing greater visibility of policies and practices is one of the most important things firms can do to make their position clear. However, there is a gap between what HR professionals think their firms should do and what they’re actually doing. The most important step these professionals believe their firms should take is to provide and promote easier and safer ways to report harassment. There’s also a gap between what men and women believe are the most effective measures for stamping out harassment. For example, women favor gender-diverse leadership, while men don’t think gender-diverse leadership on its own is an especially effective technique.

Pulling back the veil on pay

While firms are still reluctant to be open about salary information, online sites like PayScale, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor are breaking down that barrier. Still, the response is slow. Just over half of the survey respondents said their firms don’t share salary range information and are unlikely to start anytime soon. However, doing so has benefits for both companies and employees, particularly in the hiring process. Sharing pay information can filter out uninterested candidates early on, streamline negotiations, and focus interviews on other topics. But more broadly, being open about salary ranges helps ensure fair pay. If we’re ever going to achieve gender parity, women must be paid equally to their male counterparts. Sharing pay information could become a competitive differentiator for a progressive firm.

The benefits that women gain from these four emerging trends are clear. But the benefits for the firms they work for should be clear as well―a greater abundance of female talent that is able to fully contribute to furthering organisational goals. One of the most obvious ways to reach that endpoint is to take rapid, direct, and whole-scale steps toward full gender parity at every level of the organisation. Embracing these four trends is one of those steps.

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