No one expects senior executives to have answers for every business problem that might arise—especially in this era of workplace disruption. But your workers, managers, C-Suite colleagues and fellow board members do expect strong leadership when challenges arise and a commitment to meet those challenges in ways that align with your company’s core values.
I believe we can boil senior executives’ top concerns down to five issues keeping them awake in today’s business climate—and I offer some advice that may help them get a better night’s sleep.
1. Preventing skills gaps from becoming chasms
With rapid technological advances, traditional education and training programs struggle to keep up with emerging skills and knowledge required for today’s jobs. And less than one-third (32 percent) of managers are enhancing or expanding their professional development programs to retain employees, according to the latest data from Robert Half.
Gaps between employees’ current abilities and the skills needed for their success hinder business growth and competitiveness. Executives can address these gaps through on-site workshops and online courses, but I recommend a more long-range, holistic approach: a continuous learning culture.
Building such a culture means encouraging and incentivizing managers and workers to take on fresh challenges, offering rewards for skill mastery, recognizing excellence and supporting employees interested in learning new skills. Resources and tools for skill development should be easily available to all employees, including remote workers.
2. Competing effectively for skilled talent
Don’t bet on the labor market loosening up much the rest of the year. Your business will continue to face intense competition for skilled talent. So, what can your leaders do to help the business gain an edge?
As an ongoing process, they should meet with the HR and talent acquisition teams to assess current recruitment strategies and ask revealing questions, like:
• Are job descriptions designed to attract applications from a diverse pool of candidates with relevant skill sets, or are they too narrowly focused on restrictive educational credentials?
• Are current employees encouraged to refer friends and colleagues for open positions—and do they receive incentives for successful referrals?
• Could unconscious bias be holding you back from exploring new talent pools, such as professionals with nontraditional paths to education, military veterans and women in STEM fields?
A more diverse workforce brings more diverse ideas and solutions. It can create new opportunities and uncover best practices. And if you’ve instilled a continuous learning culture, managers should feel confident about hiring talented candidates who may need ramp-up time but are ready to learn and improve quickly.
3. Boosting your workforce value proposition
Today, candidates and employees prioritize companies whose values align with their own. In fact, past research from Robert Half shows 71 percent of workers would leave a company if its values don’t align with their own. That’s why boards and senior executives are increasingly adopting a new social contract that rewards employees not just financially but also by prioritizing environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs and demonstrating accountability throughout the organization.
While building an effective ESG program takes time, modeling behaviors aligned with the company’s priorities, such as work-life balance and sustainability, can set the right tone.
4. Making your digital transformation strategy a success
Digital transformation, particularly AI implementation, is a significant concern for organizational leaders. However, worries often stem from expectations outpacing results.
To address this, companies should openly communicate about AI initiatives and provide updates and opportunities for questions and discussions about goals, benefits and impacts on employees. Organizations should emphasize AI as a tool to enhance human capabilities and offer reskilling and upskilling programs to help employees adapt to the changing workplace.
Executives and managers also need to rigorously model ethical behavior. They should regularly assess the impact of AI on employees and their work, making necessary adjustments and addressing concerns promptly.
5. Adjusting to changing employee expectations
Social and economic disruptions, along with remote and hybrid work, have transformed workers’ priorities and expectations. Flexibility, purpose- driven organizations, diversity and inclusion, community contribution and reduced environmental impact are crucial considerations.
Employees seek a positive and inclusive work culture that fosters collaboration, open communication, recognition and growth opportunities. Organizations prioritizing and investing in a strong corporate culture can better attract and retain talent, boost engagement and create an environment where everyone can thrive.
A common thread throughout these five challenges is the need to build a workforce culture that embraces change and adapts quickly. Organizations with the creativity to pivot and the resilience to bounce back are well positioned for the future of work.