Competitive Advantage Through Talent: Today’s Business Imperative

Peter Weddle

A Report by Greenhouse in partnership with HRwins

The Workplace Intelligence Report started with an ambitious idea: analyze the most important aspects of the workplace and uncover the trends impacting it. While many reports strive to identify the trends affecting work and its future, we set out to understand how business leaders and employees alike perceive work today in the context of these trends. Our report sheds light on what is driving the trends and sentiment around work.

We set out to address two important questions:
1. What’s causing businesses to take action on Talent-related issues?
2. What is the perceived business value of addressing these issues?

Greenhouse helps companies measure success against the goal of being great at hiring. HRWins strives to provide research based on the context of the world of work. Aligned in our motivation for transparency and truth, we brought that spirit into the research and creation of this report.

HRWins surveyed 1,312 businesses with a minimum of 1,000 employees in the U.S. and U.K. in two separate surveys. In a second research initiative, we surveyed 4,013 employees at levels from staff member to Vice President in the U.S. and U.K. to better understand how employees and employers hold the same perspective, and where their perceptions differ.

Current State of Work: Leaders Caught in the Crossfire

Two disruptions are impacting businesses’ ability to achieve and sustain competitive advantage today. The first, technological disruption, is accepted as a fact of life as the pace of innovation has now accelerated beyond our capacity to keep up with it. The second – and the story that is emerging in this research – is centered on our struggle as leaders to grasp the impact of the cultural, demographic and societal shifts changing the workplace.

Does one disruption precede the other?

It’s impossible to imagine some of the insights we glean about work in this report revealing themselves without the rapid advances in work and Talent-related technology that continue to enter the market. Similarly, the vision for much of that technology is inspired by these macro-societal trends and a view to better support it.

Business leaders focused on Talent-related issues are caught between these two disruptions. Both are happening at faster rates than anyone could have a chance to keep up with, let alone harness and leverage them as an innovative leader. Each is impacting the expectations employees and leaders have of their workplace and the technology that supports it.

For example, changes in the way we think about Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) suggest that you as a leader should be leveraging modern technology to help in making more diverse hiring decisions and to manage employees more fairly and inclusively. While the thinking on D&I in the workplace has evolved since the 1960s and the initial days of affirmative action, the application of that thinking in the workplace and the technology to support it did not develop at the same rate. Movements like #MeToo caused businesses everywhere to come up to speed quickly and look for ways to implement new approaches. The emergence of new technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation to help minimize bias in pre and post-employment practices hit the market at a revolutionary speed at about the same time businesses were jarred into looking for new approaches. Which brings us to the moment today where most companies understand the value of D&I, yet our data shows that there is more intent than action on the matter.

D&I is a provocative example given the times. However, this conflict between the understanding of the People issues impacting the business and the measurable action that has been taken is visible in our research across the many different aspects of work.

As we explore the research results in the data, we find many conflicts that need justification:

• The high-value perception of Talent-related issues vs. a lack of action

• The lack of change in approaches to hiring and managing Talent vs. ongoing record-low global unemployment

• The importance of recruiting and retention vs. the lack of training and structured processes in these areas

Looking at the data alone, some of the results are disappointing at first glance. A pessimist would conclude that this is just the business saying that Talent-related issues are strategic priorities while not putting any money toward taking action. However, after validating this data in field interviews and considering the pace of workplace transformation, it seems to be more of a direct reflection of where we are in solving the problems vs. a picture of the market sitting on its hands.

If you buy into Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm,” we are at the beginning of the “early majority” phase, when early adopters have tried, tested and proven some concepts, and our new processes and tech will now deliver at scale for the broader market. While an encouraging time for those providing the technology, it’s a steep hill to climb for those implementing change and innovating the technology to support it. We still have so much work to do.

Access the full report here.

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