my review of the Tower Watsons “2012 Global Workforce Study”

I have just read the Tower Watsons “2012 Global Workforce Study: Driving Strong Performance in a Volatile Global Environment” and I am full agreement with their findings and recommendations. Below are my comments to this report.  

This report is a good case for change in how to adapt your company with a more engaged staff. As only approx 30 % of staff are engaged today it’s a waste of talent, my view.  The report is also aligned with similar reports the last year I have read from consultants such as Bain, Deloitte, Earnst & Young … and I am happy Tower Watsons add arguments to this case.

My blog vision is to create a platform for change – or a stage for innovation – to rapidly adjust the way we look at ourselves and our workforce to be able to participate and make money on an increasingly global services arena. My perception is that we don’t adapt fast enough to the multiple shifts going on right now related to service globalization from west to east, with new generational values entering the workforce.

I believe we need to start fixing the basic changes now, to be able to plan and discuss the future needs of new skills and behaviors at the workplace, of the workforce, to enable global citizenship and business acumen, to enable sustainable engagement and attractiveness as nations, organizations, companies and individuals …

Who is in charge? The answer is all of us, including you and me and we need to embrace some new competencies. I call them “sustainable competencies”, a need to be supported by a set of skills and behaviors and a fit future. Looking at how we manage companies today, in a 20th century approach, I’d say we have lost focus on the needs of the 21st century. This report supports that argument and we need to change.

 You can retrieve the full report here:

 My reflections on the report

The report outlines the relationship between “high levels of employee engagement — colloquially defined as the willingness and ability to go the extra mile — and improved financial and operational results”. It highlights the need to close two major gaps

  1. enabling workers with adequate internal support, resources and tools – e.g. a fit culture?
  2. creating an environment that’s energizing to work in because it promotes physical, emotional and social well-being – e.g. aligned with individual passion drivers?

A radical shift along these two areas requires “equivalent changes in how (and where) people are sourced, developed, trained, deployed, managed and rewarded”.

 It also requires “new and different competencies that HR executives anticipate will be in high demand in the next five to 10 years. These include digital skills, such as working virtually and using social media; agile thinking, particularly the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity, and assess and plan for multiple scenarios; interpersonal skills, such as effective (physical and virtual) teaming and collaboration; and global operating ability, including managing diverse groups of people, understanding international markets and being culturally sensitive.”

 These are two bold and key statements, my view, as far too many companies both lack this operational capability totally and even worse, don’t even discuss it or do proof of concepts, pilot projects to learn what this means.  Start ups are excluded from this comment 🙂

 The future will also embrace a “hyper-specialization of jobs, to processes like crowd-sourcing innovative styles of organizational support and management.” – e.g. a role based society?

Again, my view is that, even if you are a regional or local player, you use skills and resources that are available globally.  Read that last sentence again.

Even if you are a regional or local player, you use skills and resources that are available globally.

What does that mean for you? I would personally call it a role based network society where your primary identity is related to what you do and what project you are working with, now, as opposed to job location, group, manager. These roles are increasingly globally available and comparable.

Tower Watson highlights some key questions to consider.  For me these are not really new. They were already identified in mid 90s by John Heskett in the “Service Value Profit Chain”, nevertheless they are still relevant and unfortunately still ignored in many companies and the way to work on them requries some regular (survey) data:

  • How do leaders earn employees’ trust and confidence, and demonstrate interest in employee well-being?
  • How do they balance messages about short-term priorities and financial results with longer-term vision and strategy?
  • Do employees understand the organization’s strategy and how it connects to their own work?
  • Do managers have the skills and time necessary to effectively differentiate and manage employees’ performance, coach their teams and support individuals’ career advancement?
  • Are career paths clear to employees as they consider how to navigate today’s flatter structures with a variety of different employment arrangements?
  • Are the right tools and processes in place for workers to collaborate and connect across locations and functions?
  • Do employees have some level of flexibility in their schedules or work arrangements, and do they feel comfortable taking advantage of it?
  • Are communication vehicles and content appropriately tailored for diverse audiences across ages, cultures and life stages while providing the necessary consistency of message?

 Tower Watson also suggest some relevant immediate actions (+ my comments)

  • Establish (or review and refresh) a well defined competency model for leadership that incorporates the new requirements for leaders – requires competency assessment!
  • Align competencies with strategic plans, particularly in terms of global expansion – sales, hr and operations to work tight together using tactical data!
  • Regularly assess leaders’ capabilities against the model, and deliver development opportunities to close competency gaps – do you have a competency model? e.g. what does good look like?
  • Ensure succession plans are robust and extend far enough into the organization
  • Help senior executives find meaningful ways to demonstrate interest in, and commitment to, employees through regular communication, recognition and visible support for meaningful programs – including but not limited to visibility & storytelling?
  • Create opportunities for leaders to actively sponsor innovative approaches to how, when and where work is accomplished – excel in virtual team leadership across boundaries?

 The report also provides a list of sustainable competencies (+ my comments) that I will add to my own list of sustainable competencies (note that these apply to all levels my view national, corporate, organization, individual,):

  • Accessibility –are we all digital nomads?
  • Global and cultural acumen –e.g. acting as global citizens
  • Authenticity – be real
  • Transparency – to drive innovation and tear down meritocrazy
  • Risk leverage
  • Interpersonal agility – inclusiveness driving innovation outcomes  
  • Strategic flexibility
  • Rapid decision making – delegated mandate but also ability to make cross company decision

 Naturally there are more competencies needed that will evolve (hence this blog!)

My personal number one competency though is Individual accountability. Surprisingly Tower Watson has excluded this which is interesting but also my only criticism to the report. Employee engagement must be a two way exercise; it is not the employer’s responsibility only. If you don’t like what you are doing you do have a personal accountability to ask yourself of this what you want, really? You also need to act on your own answer and be aware of what is going on around. There is something called acceptance phase along the change curve, and we must leverage it.

 Bottom line TW recommends some overall things which I agree with 100%

“Employers need to start with workforce planning, ensuring in particular there is a match between the required work and employees’ skills and experience. Do the people performing various assignments have the right skills?”

Now, to do that, you need some basic and real boring stuff such as an the information / knowledge from an integrated HR / talent management system / HR data warehouse capability to work with, using the 100+ data variables needed to do something useful operationally. I have done this, successfully, over many years hans on. It is possible, but the sad and boring part is that you need to get these systems in place, now, and part of the business case for that is mentioned above. You don’t get this capability for free.

 If you don’t understand what I am talking about you better hurry up and talk with leading HCM providers and understand what role based talent management and/or workforce transformation is, how that ties to you targeted business logic above and is supported by an optimised systems environment below. What is your core/non-core competency? If you can’t retain it, outsource it! etc. You can also call me and I would be happy to run a workshop with you and share my views.

 Finally some more pragmatic actions follow from Tower Watsons, with no specific logical flow.

  • Train managers to discuss the connection between business goals and employees’ personal objectives and level of contribution
  • Providing the right cascade of information — via the right vehicles — from the top of the house through the ranks, sharing both long-term goals and annual operating objectives
  • Being clear and transparent in messages about goals and results, and sharing information in simple and straightforward ways to promote a sense of shared destiny and accountability
  • Clearly communicating the skills and behaviors needed to meet strategic business goals, and employees’ responsibility for attaining these skills and behaviors
  • Building expectations for skills and behaviors into both goal-setting and performance management processes to reinforce a culture of shared accountability
  • Weaving those processes into the fabric of the culture so they aren’t seen merely as compliance or check-the-box exercises

The items mentioned above are key, still basic but many times never acted upon. The ways to do this comes from the company culture, broken down into leadership and employee fundamental competencies, or more what CSF in terms of behavior and attitude is needed in our company to succeed. Do you know? Have you asked yourself? The summary is still not groundbreaking new but a good check list to be considered along McKinseys 7 strategic fit model. The big thing here though is to create a transparent platform for collaboration, innovation, where everyone can contribute given their role and passion and get recognition for that irrelevant of where they are in the broken value chain of employees, off shore delivery partners etc.

 Bottom line to succeed with above a lot of technology needs to be in place to enable and support a new way of running a company. If you are in the service business and your CEO/COO does not discuss this already with your CIO and HCM/HE leader you simply are a laggard or your company has the wrong (or short term) focus. This applies to public as well as private sector.

Some concluding fundamental strategic questions for me though:

  • Who is going to build and enforce these new required competencies in the future?
  • How do we already in school build the platform to make our kids global citizens, more creative and accountable?
  • Quo vadis?

Thanks Towers Watson!

This is good report including some hard data around the business case for engagement. The report ends with hygiene and important employee retention considerations around retirement and job security. Read it. It’s relevant. If you have a leadership role in a service business but no clue what I am talking about, call Tower Watsons or call me. I would be delighted to share my views.

About klingerii

Twitter: @klingerii
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