What we're reading this week: Women on boards and in top management leads to more stable returns. HR departments need to ponder these questions about AI. HR can also play a strategic role in change programs. Six tips to turn employees into successful managers.

Here are the top news stories in talent & organization from this week.

Gender equality leads to stable returns for investors

According to the World Economic Forum, the top three gender-equal nations are Iceland, Norway and Finland. The region’s biggest bank, Nordea, told Bloomberg last week, “A key contribution that women make to the companies they run is stable returns.” Nordea’s researchers analyzed returns on capital employed by 100 of the largest companies in the region over a 12-year period and discovered that doubling the number of women on boards and in top management led to more stable returns. “Now that the pace of change has increased, the pressure on these management teams and on these boards is greater than before,” said Johan Trocmé, director of research insights at Nordea, in an interview with Bloomberg. The Nordea study also found the Nordic companies with the most women outperformed their European peers. “Norway has led the way for the others to see this is actually do-able without the world going under,” Trocmé said. “If you have a board of directors which is 100 percent white males aged 45 to 65 with the same sort of upbringing and ethnicity, will they take in and weigh and consider all the inputs from society, from the economy, from the customer base, from the regulator, when they make decisions?”

Questions every CHRO should be asking

“More than a mandate, change is an issue of survival. It’s time to ask new questions,” writes John Sumser in this HR Examiner blog post. Many of these questions are about the role of artificial intelligence in HR, such as its cost, limits and the human aspects of deploying it in the workplace. “Artificial intelligence is on the verge of turning all employee communications into data, and all communications patterns into automated processes,” he writes. “Freed from the yoke of insurance enrollments and annual review proctoring, how will HR strategically advise the organization?” Sumser’s compilation of key issues includes: HR’s role in a world where employees increasingly wear technology; how HR can make the best of chatbots; HR’s role post automation; and how to navigate outdated laws. “Surprisingly, this list barely scratches the surface of what’s already possible. What’s coming in the next couple of years is mind blowing,” he writes.

HR’s seat at the change table

Continuing the conversation about HR’s evolving role in organizations is Justin Wasserman, who believes that the function can be a strategic driver of transformation efforts. In this interview for Forbes Leadership with Sherry Thomson, CHRO of New Brunswick Power, Wasserman explores how Thomson was able to secure for her HR department a vital role in the organization’s transformation. “The first challenge was confronting the mindset that HR’s role was to be the ’employee advocate’ versus a key enabler in driving business results,” she told Wasserman. “We needed to reposition and reframe ourselves in order to support and lead the transformation. We then stepped in to engage the full workforce.” Thomson’s advice to other HR leaders includes understanding the business imperatives and listening to other internal business leaders. “A key way to build those relationships is to demonstrate tangible business results early on in any change process. Financial results speak volumes,” she said. “HR also needed to increase our understanding of the role we play in creating a culture where everyone can step in and participate in realizing the corporate vision.”

How to turn employees into managers

This ADP blog post lists six key tips for turning employees into managers. 1. Define skills – think about the short-term and long-term goals of your company and the type of managers needed to meet those goals. 2. Identify candidates – don’t assume employees wouldn’t be interested in additional responsibilities or time commitments because of family obligations. Use performance evaluations, self-assessments, and feedback from peers and supervisors to help assess candidates. 3. Use mentoring – consider pairing new managers with more experienced managers, someone to whom they can go for guidance. 4. Give stretch-assignments – give high-potential employees additional responsibilities beyond their workgroup so they gain exposure to other teams across the organization. 5. Provide feedback – consistent feedback can help motivate employees who want to learn and grow with the company. 6. Train and develop – seminars and workshops on topics such as employee relations, IT, and operations can help refine managerial skills.

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