The Top Talent Trends for 2019

The increasing global economic volatility due to global trade wars and digital disruption have created a number of challenges for organisations from the human capital perspective. Several factors, including an incredibly tight labour market and the massive influx of data are impacting the way HR professionals and talent acquisition leaders are doing their jobs.

For small economies like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam for example, these issues will become even more poignant in the face of the looming talent crunch and resulting salary surge. Leaders are faced with intense competition for top talent and there is an urgent need to relook reward and talent strategies to attract, engage and retain top talent. Leaders must be agile and re-examine long-held approaches including digitalisation and the rising importance of artificial intelligence to enable businesses to adapt and thrive as they navigate these challenges.

Korn Ferry has identified ten emerging global talent trends for 2019, based on input from talent acquisition, development and compensation experts from across the globe. Leaders would need to take into account these emerging trends when strategising their approaches to human capital.

The ten emerging trends (in no particular order) are:

1. (Don’t) Mind the Gap!Traditionally, employers raised eyebrows when candidates had employment gaps in their resumes for reasons such as caring for children or aging loved ones, or simply learning a new skill or travelling. Today, the stigma of taking time off between jobs is fading. Tactics to reach professionals who have been out of the workforce include targeted proactive sourcing, talent communities, workshops, customised landing pages and microsites, alumni networks for those who have left the company and may consider returning, and ‘buddy’ systems for effective onboarding.

2. Making Artificial Intelligence More ‘Intelligent’Artificial intelligence (AI) has been touted as a new holy grail in recruiting – particularly in helping to source qualified candidates. However, left unchecked, its ‘intelligence’ could undermine recent efforts to boost diversity.

Even though great care is taken to ensure the recruitment process is neutral, AI can still often embed gender biases.

One way to help alleviate the issue is to feed the artificial intelligence with non-partial data, such as talent assessment data, that highlights success factors. AI needs to be trained to look more for the skills needed for a specific role, such as the ability to program specific computer codes, instead of focusing on subjective modifiers (e.g. ‘collaborative’ or ‘tough task master’) that may have gender bias.

3. Personalised Pay: Go Ahead, We’re ListeningWith four generations now in the workforce, there are different expectations when it comes to pay and rewards packages today.

In order to understand the differences in what might incentivise one group, such as millennials, from another group, say baby boomers, organisations are beginning to listen to what matters to employees through social listening, focus groups and surveys. With information from these efforts, they are able to tailor rewards packages, offering different mixes of pay, flex time, paid time off, international assignments, student loan repayment, etc. This turns the pay and rewards discussion from a company communicating with the entire employee population to a 1:1 discussion with employees.

4. Rethinking the Annual Performance ReviewJob tenure today is short; about four years on average and half that or less for younger professionals. With such short tenure, annual reviews are no longer the primary way to help employees develop professionally.

In a recent Korn Ferry survey of professionals, nearly a third (30 percent) said their annual performance review had no impact or was ineffective at improving their professional performance, and 43 percent said it had no impact or was unhelpful at making them understand what to do more of or differently to improve future performance.

In that same survey, nearly all (96 percent) of respondents said real-time feedback and ongoing performance discussions with their bosses are more effective than an annual review.

Even if the employee does not have a long tenure, ongoing feedback will help them learn, stay engaged, and create an employer value proposition to help attract future employees.

5. Digging Deeper into the Diversity and Inclusion PipelineWhile the move to mandate female representation on boards is a positive one, organisations are more readily seeing that there has to be an increased focus across all levels of an organisation to create an ongoing pipeline of diverse talent.

To measure their progress, many organisations have begun using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to find out what percentage of minority applicants were hired. While it is against the law in most parts of the world to favour those in minority groups, organisations are working to increase their diverse candidate pool and using unbiased assessments to ensure the most qualified persons are hired.

In addition, organisations are having an added focus on the retention of a diverse employee base. Many are using a ‘D&I Diagnostic’ that helps get to the root problem of why employees are leaving and what can be done to reverse the trend.

6. How are We Doing?Increasingly, the practice of customer experience surveys is becoming part of the recruiting process. Technology is allowing for real-time feedback from candidates about their experiences during the recruiting cycle. The survey tools seek feedback at all points within the process, which gives recruiters and hiring managers data-driven insights and intelligence. With the data, they can amend recruiting practices, including specific job requirements and interactions with candidates, to successfully hire the best people.

7. That’s Really a Title?New roles and titles are emerging across many industries to meet the changing strategies of organisations. From an executive perspective, many industries, including healthcare, finance and retail, are creating Chief Experience Officer roles. These industries understand that technology has forever changed the way they do business, and there is a stronger need than ever for customers to have positive experiences at every touchpoint.

Another emerging C-suite title is Chief Transformation Officer, who is usually tasked with change management initiatives, often during times of mergers and acquisitions.Organisations are also placing greater emphasis on the well-being of their employees, with titles such as ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ and ‘Chief People Officer’ becoming more prevalent.

To attract younger employees drawn to titles more interesting than ‘associate’ or ‘assistant’, titles such as ‘data wrangler’ (responsible for organising and interpreting mounds of data), ‘legal ninja’ (legal aide), and ‘customer relations advocate’ are popping up at many organisations.

8. Talent Analytics Becoming Just as Important as Business AnalyticsTraditionally, business leaders set their strategy by analysing business analytics to determine cost and operational effectiveness. For example, they may determine where to open an office based on cost and proximity to raw materials. However, they may fail because they don’t have access to the right type of employees – especially as digital disruption puts a premium on people who can learn new skills and thrive in changing markets.

Increasingly, analytics that look at the talent landscape in specific markets, including competition for and availability of qualified talent in one city or region, as well as compensation norms, are coming into play in tandem with business analytics to create the most effective, sustainable approach.

9. Talking Talent Holistically, From Hire to RetireUnfortunately, in many organisations, there is no single integrated way to analyse all elements of talent decisions, including recruiting, compensation and development.

There is a trend toward a more foundational, data-centric approach that creates actionable insights from an organisational, team and individual perspective. This foundation is informed by data from talent acquisition, assessment, development, organisational structure and compensation functions. This allows for a calibrated approach to talent that is tightly linked to business outcomes.

A key benefit of this process is that assessment data garnered during the recruitment process that provides insight into the candidate’s strengths and development areas can be used to help create a customised development program once the candidate is hired.

10. Balancing Act: Managing Short-Term Hiring Needs with Long-Term Business GoalsMost talent acquisition professionals feel the tension between addressing short-term hiring needs with long-term business and hiring goals. Despite best efforts to look into the future, the speed of technological advances and changing business priorities makes knowing what’s going to happen next year – or sometimes even next month – extremely difficult. In fact, in a recent Korn Ferry survey of talent acquisition professionals, 77 percent say they are hiring for roles today that didn’t even exist a year ago.

Industry leaders are taking a holistic approach to talent acquisition. In the short term they can increase speed to hire by understanding the right mix of short-term contractors, gig workers and full-time employees, who bring the right skills and experiences to meet current and future needs.

At the same time, it’s imperative to focus on a longer-term approach by taking a deep dive into business imperatives to create a total strategic plan that has clearly defined goals, but one that can be amended as needs change.

To fulfil both needs, many organisations are outsourcing their hiring efforts to providers that often have two teams working on their behalf: a day-to-day operations team and an account management team that analyses ongoing business and technology trends to plan for the future.