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

Five insights about the future of work from Davos

The future of work was an important agenda topic at the recent gathering of the World Economic Forum, with many experts continuing to analyze the key components that emerged from Davos. London Business School’s Lynda Gratton shares her top five insights in this Sloan Review article. 1. The world is in the middle of a major transition, and most people will have to upskill and reskill. 2. It is vital to undertake upskilling and reskilling quickly. 3. The gender gap in technology jobs needs to be addressed. 4. Flexible working is becoming the norm. 5. The great hope is inclusive education that will deliver the skills needed for the future of work. “Overall, conversations and ideas have moved a long way from the simple “robots will take your job” headlines of a few years ago,” Gratton writes. “There is a growing awareness that we have to act now, and at scale.” She argues that corporate and government leaders must make training and development a priority, and make education a promise to all. “The future of work is one of the most burning platforms of the next few years. Time alone will tell whether the anguish will convert to action,” Gratton concludes.

The freelance revolution and what it means for HR

It’s time for HR to play a larger and more strategic role in embracing the freelance revolution, argues Jon Younger. “Freelancing isn’t new, but the rapid, global, growth of freelancing is new,” he writes in this Forbes Careers blog post. “The tech that enables freelancing is new and, together with remote work and flexibility trends, it’s changing the way we build a workforce and manage talent.” Younger points out freelancers are more than just gigsters—those making a living with TaskRabbit or Uber. “It’s the other group—highly qualified and experienced, independent experts and specialists, or freelancers—who are changing the way organizations obtain needed expertise and staff critical projects,” he writes. This growing population stands to disrupt the entire HR industry. “HR either [will have] great partnership and extraordinary tools, or it will have serious external competition for its most strategic role,” Younger writes. 

Key trends shaping employee engagement

In 2019, the key trends shaping employee insight will be people analytics, the employee experience (EX), a high performance culture, wellbeing, and agile thinking, claims Stephen Young. “The focus on the employee experience is becoming more commonplace, and for good reason—it’s the acid test that the strategy, policies, systems and programs being worked on actually have some impact,” he writes in this Willis Towers Watson blog post. “Increasingly, clients are employing heads of EX tasked with taking a holistic view of the end-to-end experience and ensuring it is placed center stage as they introduce change.” Young also highlights how more companies are developing strategies that connect the physical, financial, emotional and social components of wellbeing. “Indeed we know that companies with higher levels of wellbeing achieve significantly higher revenues per employee, lower healthcare costs, and fewer days lost,” he writes.

Can a shorter workday increase productivity?

Collins SBA, an Australian financial services firm, experimented with offering employees a five-hour workday schedule for two years, and it has been a resounding success, reports Minda Zetlin for Inc. “The shortened workday came about because the company, like all companies, was struggling to recruit the talent it needed in a very tight labor market,” she writes. Jonathan Elliott, the company’s managing director, also needed to spend more time with his wife who was ill with cancer. By working shorter hours more efficiently and cutting out meetings and lunches, he was able to get the same amount of work done that he’d previously been doing during a full workday. When Elliott offered the company’s 35 employees the shortened workday, their productivity increased and there was a 12 percent reduction in sick leave. “The concept is way more polarizing then I expected,” he told TNW. “In many financial companies, people work 50 to 60 hours per week. That’s just ridiculous to me. Nobody is productive for 10 hours straight.”

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