At a time when many organisations in the UK and worldwide are feeling uncertainty on several fronts – Covid-19, climate change and much else besides – values and behaviours are inevitably coming under heavy pressure. And so while employers are successfully moving rapidly along the road to transformation in 2020, the journeys they are taking are also evolving quickly.
The latest research data among Top Employer organisations for 2020 (conducted prior to the pandemic) shows they are still scoring strongly on revenue growth, profitability, market share and engagement levels. More importantly, however, they are managing to turn challenge into opportunity by creating more ‘fluid’ or ‘humane’ organisations through which to drive commercial success.
How do these organisations look and feel? They are less reliant on old structures and hierarchies and more focused on greater workplace agility and flexible working conditions. The number one HR priority in the UK, according to Top Employer research, remains cultural and organisational change but, to achieve this, employers are becoming heavily invested in placing values, wellbeing, ethics, CSR and diversity at the centre of driving this change forward.
For example, more than eight in 10 (85 per cent) Top Employer workplaces are consistently training staff around how to ‘live’ the company values in 2020, up from only seven in 10 back in 2015. And in these days of widespread concern around Covid-19, it is also good to know that more than six in 10 (63 per cent) have a dedicated and trained wellbeing champion, ambassador or coordinator, up from less than half (46 per cent) only a year ago.
Ethics, CSR and diversity are also moving up the agenda. Nine in 10 (90 per cent) are consistently trained in how to interpret the business’s code of ethics. Finally, the incorporation of social and environmental impact into decision-making is considered crucial by four in five (80 per cent) of our Top Employer organisations. The rise of diversity as an HR priority in the UK (now ranked fifth, compared with eleventh only five years ago), is key to the success of many other people priorities. The increase in diverse talent has become much more pronounced over the past year, with a heavy focus now on gender equality and the development of talented younger staff.
These more soulful workplaces now emerging from these changes are underpinned – not undermined – by significant investment in new HR technologies, AI and automation. There is also a renewed drive to harness the power of employees deeply engaged in what they do (this ranked second among HR priorities). The data shows higher levels of engagement are being driven along by big improvements in communication, allied with a growing recognition of the power of teamwork for business success. These changes have placed employees at the centre of business strategy more now than ever before, with staff regularly involved in creating and designing HR solutions and giving feedback.
Talent strategy is also becoming more diverse and inclusive – and there is also a far greater involvement of senior management in its development. Leadership development is of course an integral part of talent strategy, with a particular focus on investment in the leadership skills of frontline managers. OVO Energy is a particularly good example of best practice in leadership development. For this organisation, progress is being accelerated by the development of new technology, with the growth of portals and simulated leadership learning notably strong. And further down the company, career and succession management is applied at all organisational levels.
So in spite of the well-documented major challenges from the external environment we are seeing in 2020, there is scope for hope. The future remains bright for those organisations in the UK that can not only succeed in transforming themselves, but do so while reinforcing their humanity.
Phil Sproston is country manager for UK & Ireland at Top Employers