Organisation Dynamics: the role of human resources in our boardrooms

How to prepare your board for a new era of high HR turnover.

Boards need to know that their organisation is best prepared for higher staff turnover coupled with the opportunities and risks that technology places on displacing more jobs.

A recent McKinsey article written by Tessa Basford and Bill Schaninger state that “Leaders must consider new ways to change the attitudes and behavior of employees”.

The McKinsey article tells us that: “Millennials may seem challenging. Yet their search – for diverse role models, meaning beyond a paycheck; equitable treatment in an increasingly transparent and transient world; and leading-edge skill building – is one that many employees, regardless of age, industry or nationality, are undertaking today.”

The report emphasised the need for “boards to spend more time with human resources executives in 2016, to understand how their organisation is preparing for unprecedented technological-driven change in the next 10 years”.

“Boards need to know their organisation is ready for higher staff turnover and the opportunities and risks of technology displacing more jobs. Will the organisation have the right skills – or a culture that is sufficiently adaptable to get them – as machine-to-machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation takes over many white-collar jobs?”

The research report considers how leaders must adapt in changing employer attitudes and behaviours. The report entitled “Winning Hearts and Minds in the 21st Century”, describes job-hopping as the “new normal” for young workers.

They also stated that: “Leaders who understand both the changing workforce and leading-edge digital tools, and have a well-tuned grasp of the building blocks of organisational change, should be well positioned to break through the noise and inspire these employees.”

Four years ago, Jeanne Meister a US consultant wrote in Forbes that “Ninety-one percent of millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. That means they would have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives!”

In a recent report entitled “The Future of Work” published by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, reinforces “the need for boards to consider human resources risks”. The research was based on a survey of more than 1,400 Australian workers and conducted by Deloitte Access Economics.

The report found that two-thirds of respondents with less than five years’ experience expect their job will not exist or will fundamentally change within 15 years.

Young employees mostly expect an average tenure of five years or less with any given employer through their career, and about one in five surveyed expect to be workplace “generalists” with a broad skill set rather than deep skills in one or two areas.

Young employees mostly expect an average tenure of five years or less with any given employer through their career, and about one in five surveyed expect to be workplace “generalists” with a broad skill set rather than deep skills in one or two areas.

Moreover, more than half of employees with less than five years’ experience already see their university qualifications as not being “very much” relevant to their work.

These reports suggest that higher staff turnover among millennial generation staff with a greater number of roles being replaced or redefined by technology. Therefore, board members must ask themselves the fundamental question whether “the organisation’s future workforce is capable of supporting its long-term strategy, and assess the risk of a significant talent and skill gap as technology redefines traditional job functions over the next five to 10 years”.

As boardrooms continue to grapple with the threat of digital disruption on business models, they would be wise to consider how technology will disrupt labour markets as well over the next 10 years.

Henri Eliot is CEO of Board Dynamics