An average of 3.9 million people quit their jobs in each month of 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure is notable because it was a record—and because talent is a crucial component of organizational success. Without the right talent, businesses struggle. In fact, according to the PwC Pulse Survey: Executive Views on Business in 2022, more than three-quarters of business leaders say the ability to hire and retain talent is the biggest factor in achieving growth.
Less than a third of those responding to the survey expect talent shortages to ease this year. Therefore, employers who are still struggling to recover from the “Great Resignation” must quickly shift their attention to the “Great Retention.” Recent workforce surveys conducted separately by PwC and Oracle offer clues on how to accomplish that. There are three crucial places to focus: talent development, remote work, and technology used strategically.
Studies indicate most employees have a strong desire to grow their professional careers. And according to the AI@Work survey of more than 14,600 people—including C-level executives, HR leaders, managers, and full-time employees across 13 countries—conducted by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence last fall, employees are looking to their employers to provide learning, skills development, and opportunities for new roles.
“To attract and retain talent, businesses need to place a higher priority on helping employees identify and develop new skills,” says Yvette Cameron, senior vice president of Oracle’s Human Capital Management global product strategy.
Employers are beginning to respond. 47 percent of the chief human resources officers in the PwC Pulse Survey said their companies are improving career advancement opportunities, looking at offering more internal mobility versus traditional career paths, and making opportunities and the skills needed to make those moves more transparent to employees.
Because companies can no longer hire their way out of the talent shortage, training and upskilling can help improve retention by keeping existing employees interested and engaged while simultaneously helping fill open roles. But how can an organization bolster its focus on talent development and learning without overburdening its HR staff?
“Technology can certainly play a role in talent development and upskilling,” says Dan Staley, PwC’s HR technology and transformation leader. “For example, employees can enter information about the skills they have, what they aspire to do, and the roles they’re interested in, and the technology can serve up new training content to help them fulfill those career ambitions.”
For example, the learning platform within Oracle’s Human Capital Management suite can help employees develop new skills, review relevant learning recommendations, take courses on their own schedule, and determine the next steps in their careers. For HR professionals keen on filling specific roles, technology can spot skills gaps with current employees, identify skills that should be developed, and offer learning opportunities so employees interested in a specific type of work can grow their skill sets and apply them to the work that is most in demand.
According to the AI@Work survey, employees are increasingly open to using HR technology in their career development. In fact, 82 percent believe robots can support their careers better than humans by providing unbiased recommendations, quickly answering questions about careers, or finding new jobs that fit their skills. Notably, 55 percent said they are more likely to stay with a company that uses advanced technologies such as AI to support career growth.
According to PwC’s HR Tech Survey 2022, 24 percent of respondents cite remote or hybrid work as the biggest human capital challenge facing their organizations. Remote work has changed employees’ needs and expectations, and personalized guidance, support, and motivation are more important than ever. And for some remote workers, HR experiences have failed to evolve to meet their needs.
Technology can help here, too. For example, Oracle Journeys, part of Oracle’s Human Capital Management suite, helps HR teams provide value beyond traditional HR processes by tailoring unique experiences for their workforce that can help keep employees engaged. HR teams can use the application to walk employees through career and life events as diverse as onboarding, having a baby, returning to the workplace, launching a new product, or growing their career. This information is personalized, contextual, guided, and accessible from anywhere.
Technology can also bolster engagement in a remote work environment.
“Lacking personal interactions, an employee might leave a company for more money or an opportunity to do something different. But if there’s an opportunity to do something different at their current organization, they might stay,” Staley says. “Technology can help connect the dots for employees, help them reach their career ambitions, and proactively alert them to new opportunities before they start looking outside the organization.”
PwC’s HR tech survey found that the use of technology among HR professionals is growing. Implementation is particularly high for payroll, benefits administration, and compensation/rewards. Around 40 percent of survey respondents said they are considering more technologies or planning to implement them, with the highest levels of interest in technologies for learning management, talent management, HR help desk, and talent acquisition.
Technologies such as robotic process automation, the Internet of Things, AI, blockchain, and virtual reality can transform human resources and drastically reduce the time HR professionals spend on repetitive tasks, while providing the data they need to make more-informed decisions or changes. But organizations should ensure they use technology strategically.
For example, some companies are tapping technology to track productivity and performance among remote workers. The PwC HR tech survey found that 95 percent of respondents have either implemented new methods to track and report on productivity and performance metrics for remote workers, have a plan to do so, or are developing a plan.
When using such technology, Staley says, managers may want to shy away from tracking and reacting to how often or when a remote worker logs in, metrics that reveal little about engagement or productivity and put too much value on the administrative parts of a job. Instead, managers should evaluate data that measures the output from collaboration. “In our experience, the best such plans give employees the freedom to do their jobs when and where they wish while measuring results and engagement,” Staley says. “Results may indicate disengagement and the need for a check-in or more frequent in-person meetings.”
The Great Resignation shows no sign of slowing in 2022, with as many as one in four workers considering quitting their jobs in early 2022, compared with the usual 11 percent, according to TechStartups.com. Most business leaders are probably hopeful their employees will become more satisfied with their jobs and less interested in moving on. Until then, HR leaders can focus on ways to improve employee retention and how technology can help accomplish that.
For some HR leaders, the technology piece of the puzzle can be challenging. PwC’s HR tech survey found that they often encounter resistance when trying to adopt technologies such as robotic process automation, the Internet of Things, AI, blockchain, and virtual reality. The top two reasons cited for this resistance are implementation costs and lack of a compelling use case.
“Those two things are different sides of the same coin,” Staley says. “If you have a compelling business case for a technology deployment, you’re more likely to get a budget for it.”
To build a business case and win buy-in for the new technology, Staley suggests HR leaders assess current operations to identify and quantify opportunities for gains in efficiency, quality, and productivity.
“Focus on those top opportunities, starting with a proof of concept to build skills and confidence,” Staley says. “Then, deploy systems to track and measure results that can help make the case for further investment.”
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Justine Kavanaugh-Brown is a senior writer at Oracle. She was previously a writer and editor for e.Republic’s Content Studio, where she worked with numerous enterprise technology companies.