About the CHRO Thinking Ahead Group
The CHRO Thinking Ahead Group (TAG HR) is a forum developed to solicit CHRO input about forward-thinking global business issues and determine what future HR requirements will entail. TAG HR comprises innovative thinkers and early adopters who, in partnership with our thought leaders, discuss and debate topics that are both driving and will significantly impact their future human capital business agenda.
The agenda for chief human resource officers (CHROs) in 2022 highlights efforts to maintain continuity and normalcy during a period of ongoing disruption and uncertainty.
The following 10 priorities and trends reflect this challenging environment, as suggested by WTW’s CHRO Thinking Ahead Group (TAG HR), a forum for future-seeking HR leaders:
Instead of merely increasing pay and benefits – and perpetuating inflation – to attract and retain talent, forward-looking CHROs build and optimize total employment value, the overall value of working for the organization. They accomplish this through culture, employee experiences and programs that reflect what their employees need, want and value. They also help employees understand both financial and social switching costs. They know employees join and stay in organizations for an array of reasons, including:
Forward-looking CHROs emphasize talent strategies that involve both offense and defense and create places people want to be, regardless of circumstance. They understand “The Great Resignation” is not a one-time occurrence and that demographic shifts likely will continue to challenge talent attraction and retention for years. They strive to be “net talent gainers,” hiring more employees than they lose to resignations, and listening to and learning why people join and stay as well as why they leave. This includes providing employees with more flexible and tailored employee programs and processes as well as using purpose and inspiration as leadership glue to drive constancy in company culture while business models and daily operations adapt.
Forward-looking CHROs know that providing workers with flexible and choice-based work, pay, benefits and skill development programs results in significant competitive advantage over less flexible peers. Such tactics enable their organizations to pivot operations when necessary and lead to broader access to talent. Such flexibility covers pay and performance management programs (e.g., pay for skills, or pay for value), ways of working (e.g., shift schedules, work arrangements and caregiving leave), benefits with greater choice across health and savings, and career programs.
Forward-looking CHROs work to restore in-person work arrangements where appropriate and necessary, while offering remote and hybrid work models where they make sense. They know no single model is effective for all organizations or employees, and that research suggests remote work eventually will stabilize for 25% to 40% of the global workforce.
Such CHROs address the 2022 challenge that far more employees desire remote and hybrid work arrangements than companies are willing to commit. They make decisions and balance opportunities and risks that factor in the impact of enhanced access to talent markets, as well as productivity, engagement, turnover, culture, health, innovation and financial outcomes. They also clearly communicate efforts to make employees feel confident that their employer genuinely cares about them and their needs.
Forward-looking CHROs reframe work and Total Rewards programs for flexibility, wellbeing, new ways of working, reskilling, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). They prioritize work models, career enablement and career equity programs that create greater job access and long-term employability for employees and skill/talent availability for employers. They treat pay and benefits as both competitive and wellbeing issues through strategic use of transformed pay, health care delivery, voluntary benefits, caregiving and leave, and retirement and savings programs.
Forward-looking CHROs acknowledge risk has become an omnipresent component of business decisions while understanding employee experience is key to reducing attraction, retention and engagement risks.
The frequency and simultaneous occurrence of high-impact risks require connecting and managing a “portfolio” of risk categories at the enterprise level (e.g., climate, geopolitics, health, financial, supply chain, human capital, talent shortages, cyber, and even war). Such a holistic view requires a culture of adaptability to incorporate new information that arrives daily or hourly and a readiness to act decisively when events happen. CHROs increasingly work closely with or – in some cases – assume the role or oversight of the chief risk officer to connect and mitigate human capital risks relative to others in the portfolio.
Investor debates about the validity of stakeholder capitalism continue to give way to a greater focus on long-term economic health, along with expectations on ESG and sustainability commitments from customers and employees. Forward-looking CHROs act accordingly to fortify their organizational purpose, drive performance and take meaningful action around climate and social factors of ESG (such as DEI, dignity and wellbeing), and effective governance practices. Data and analytics fuel ESG and sustainability efforts, such as climate, DEI, health and financial analytics that help organizations identify opportunities to advance.
Forward-looking CHROs drive meaningful environmental action by reflecting the role of employees in climate strategies and creating cultures, programs and practices that align with climate goals. This includes hiring and developing people with different skill sets and capabilities, re-organizing key functions and processes, building new metrics into incentive programs and incorporating climate issues into corporate governance. It also includes providing pay, benefits, work practices and career programs that reflect these goals as well as more broadly supporting company commitments around climate.
Forward-looking CHROs recognize the impact of transparency in DEI commitments, actions and advancement, regardless of how far the needle still needs to move at their organizations. According to a 2021 survey, 70% of employers reported they have focused more broadly on DEI to increase employee attraction and retention. These data highlight a common theme for leadership behaviors that fosters dignity at, in and from work. One striking outcome of the current environment is the evolving employee view that fairness does not mean sameness. Employees want to be seen, heard, understood and recognized and to have their individual work needs met.
Forward-looking CHROs connect healthy, resilient employees to healthy, resilient organizations, which means developing new ways to serve customers and protect employees during unforeseen events, including emergency response planning, crisis management, workforce flexibility and technologies that ensure that business can be done regardless of circumstances.
For the workforce, resilience means anticipating and meeting employees’ individual physical, emotional, financial and social wellbeing needs and creating a common sense of purpose, physical and psychological safety that enables employees and organizations to thrive under the most trying conditions.
These 10 priorities provide a guiding light for 2022. Forward-looking CHROs optimize “total employment value” and go beyond employee value proposition to connect opportunities, manage risks, and maximize the resilience of human capital.