The era of self-awareness: Five areas for HR to embrace development

Research commissioned by Workday shows pandemic and economic downturn have elevated the CHRO role.

One in two employees will likely be looking for a new employer in the next 12 months. This is according to research commissioned by Workday, which focused on understanding employee sentiment across Europe and South Africa during Covid-19.

Kiveshen Moodley, country manager South Africa, Workday, says, “The data shows that 53 percent of employees will be looking for new employment. We need to look at the motivations for people wanting to leave. Employers assume that pay would be significant and it is. Other reasons include growth and better training and development. The research looks at this within the South African context.”

He adds that HR leaders in South Africa can now look at the data points and decide on the steps to take to retain top talent.

The research, which was undertaken by Yonder Consulting in 2021, comprised 17,054 online surveys, across nine European countries and South Africa, from employees below director level. Respondents work at organisations with more than 250 employees.

“Europe and SA are regions and we commissioned the survey to understand the cultural and working practices in these regions and ensure relevancy. Surveys like this also allow us to take a global view and consider different lines of thinking from leadership,” he said.

The research shows that while workplaces have seen major economic, social, environmental, and technological changes recently, the pandemic accelerated trends including remote working, shifting employee expectations, learning and development, purpose and belonging at work, and employee wellbeing.

In South Africa, Yonder found that:
• 80 percent of employees worked from home, but 96 percent experienced connectivity issues
• Leaders viewed as honest, trustworthy, caring, supportive, approachable, inspiring and competent are perceived to have performed better
• 53 percent of employees struggled to motivate themselves
• 58 percent believe their leaders are not prioritising health and wellbeing

“There is a sense of ubuntu in the research which shows the culture and nature of who we are as a people. This stands out. The research also showed that senior managers in South Africa were more likely to demonstrate a clear vision during the pandemic,” he said.

The pandemic and economic downturn have certainly elevated the role of the CHRO to help CEOs manage employees during a time of crisis and chart a course for the future.

“In terms of the companies with which I consult, it is clearly beneficial to get employees to be part of the decision-making process and have a high level of engagement, which leads to productivity and helps the business realise its strategy,” he says.

Kiveshen says that the last year has dramatically accelerated the urgency and importance of organisations embracing development in five key areas:
• Inclusion and belonging: Organisations investing in diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity are reaping substantial bottom-line benefits and outperforming competitors.
• Digital acceleration: Digital transformation takes centre stage and is the top priority for business leaders. Employee support and services will need to be delivered virtually and digitally.
• Enabling experiences: Creating compelling employee experiences that connect, support, empower, inspire and engage workers in the new, more flexible workplace.
• Agile organisation: Automating and augmenting work to enhance, elevate, and extend employees’ expertise, enabling leaders to effectively manage, mitigate, minimise disruption and redirect resources.
• Skills imperative: Building critical skills and competencies for the organisation.

“The perfect storm of cultural upheaval, employee stress, business challenges, and opportunity has created a critical moment for businesses, and if they don’t meet it, they risk alienating employees, falling behind technologically, and missing opportunities to retain, engage and develop their workforce,” he adds.

Looking ahead, Kiveshen notes that the new era will be all about self-awareness and connecting with employees taking hybrid ways of working into account.

“The reality is that it always starts from an HR perspective. Understand what people are going through with empathy and engagement as well as the challenges and working together as a team to understand how we move forward. This needs to come from the leaders. So we need to understand the data and take action,” he says.