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Global Outlook Q2 2021

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We are seeing a rebound in global HR this quarter, as expected, with economies improving and progress being made in fighting the pandemic. We see some key themes for the quarter (and beyond) as follows:

Employee Experience is Front and Center

Employee experience (in a broad sense) is at the top of CHRO and CEO agendas. Culture, well-being, increased promotion and mobility of internal talent, and leadership acceleration are all critical retention tools that companies are deploying. Some progressive employers are decentralizing certain HR and CoE roles from the traditional global and regional hubs. This is being driven by mobility issues caused by the pandemic, and the realization that remote working and remote leadership are clearly possible.

Candidate Experience Needs to be More Front and Center

With this brings a focus on candidate experience. Companies are having to move at pace to fend off the competition and will have to embrace agile processes to win. This often means stepping out of one’s comfort zone to react to the realities of the market. What we must balance, therefore, are speed, efficiency, and candidate experience.

While seemingly trivial in the broader scheme of things, scheduling challenges are very real as we all compete for each other’s valuable time. There is a danger that candidates can get swallowed up in the cement mixer of a hiring process and feel disengaged. With companies spending millions of dollars on employer branding and EVP initiatives, something as simple as engagement through attentively getting the scheduling logistics right in an interview process can be easily overlooked. The potential cost of doing less than a stellar job on this is substantial – in terms of reputation as much as dollars and cents.

Multi-Faceted HR Business Partners

The role of the HR Business Partner continues to evolve. We see demand for senior business partners with more organizational effectiveness capability, whether that be future of work, culture change, organization and leadership development, or workforce planning. In larger corporations, these roles tend to sit at the senior level, have leaner teams, and cover narrower populations so they can operate in an increasingly high-touch capacity. These multi-faceted HRBPs are in demand as organizations reshape or tweak both business and HR operating models in search of agility.

A Busy Time for Talent Acquisition

Activity in the Talent Acquisition space has continued to keep pace and we expect this to be the case throughout the year. This is driven by many factors including changes in business models, HR transformation, and increased digitization. We also see hyper-growth in new MedTech, FinTech, and InsureTech industries as well as innovative e-commerce companies looking to scale. Layer on top of this a demand for diversity, and a focus on uncovering untapped or previously hidden pools and pockets of talent and we have a cocktail of competition for the best HR professionals.

As such, there will continue to be demand for strategic talent acquisition leaders who can optimize branding, sourcing, digital technology, and partnerships to drive candidate attraction and future talent pipelines. Strategic Heads of Talent Acquisition positions, in many cases, will be filled by cross-functional moves as supply in the external market (around the world) is both immature and tight with strategic TA leaders in short supply. In addition, Executive Talent Acquisition as a specialization will likely see more investment and focus, especially outside of the United States where it is less developed.

Looking Forward in Total Rewards

With the complexities around executive compensation and variable pay resulting from an incredibly difficult 2020, it has been a particularly challenging proxy, annual report, and budget planning season. With this now pretty much complete for most companies, we are once again seeing a notable increase in activity in Rewards—both in terms of organizations bolstering or adding capability to teams, but also individuals surveying new opportunities.

Well-Being Function Takes Root

Well-being continues to be high on agendas. We are seeing more specialist roles in this space being created and coming onto the market. Much like in DE&I, the positions tend to sit in different parts of the organizational structure depending on the company. Those who are taking this seriously tend to create more senior roles where they have genuine impact at the leadership level. This enables more of a joined-up solution rather than a tactical response, which we are also observing. We have seen these positions report to the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, CHRO, Chief Medical Officer, Group Head of Reward, and Chief Talent Officer. The challenge when sourcing talent in this space is that there are limited subject matter experts, so organizations tend to appoint internally with someone from another part of HR with a passion for this space (and there tends to be a lot of interest). It will be fascinating to see how this plays out with the imminent return to work and more ‘normality’ ahead.


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