Identifying pivotal roles in a disrupted workforce is crucial for HR

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 23 Nov 2016

Spending should be targeted on areas where great performance makes a real difference, says Jeffrey Tang

Deciding which roles are pivotal to an organisation is fast becoming HR’s key task as the workforce undergoes a massive restructuring.
That was the message delivered by keynote speaker Jeffrey Tang, managing director of Willis Towers Watson Hong Kong, at the Classified Post’s HR Conference held earlier this month.
The workforce of the world is being disrupted by the growth of the gig economy and flexible working, advances in artificial intelligence and especially by huge technological advances whose impact has not yet been fully realised.
“We are now seeing the fourth industrial revolution,” said Tang. “Technology is disrupting everyday life… it will also create jobs, new occupations we cannot foresee today”.
Coding, for example, could become one of the most sought after talents in the future, he said.
Workforce disruption will become more intense in the future, particularly in the tech industry, he predicted, with the pace of change and competition becoming much fiercer. Some jobs are disappearing completely. For example, many equity traders in the banking industry are already being replaced by machines. Real-estate agents are being supplanted by 3D videos that can show customers around properties, and algorithms can replace insurance underwriters.
Disruption is changing the face of industry, too, with organisations now remaining on the S&P index of leading companies for only about seven years compared to about 15 years previously.
Against this fast-changing background, HR’s previous approach to compensation and benefits needs to be rethought.
“Can we afford to pursue a singular approach to reward? I’m saying we can’t, because the world is changing,” said Tang.
The changes Tang identified may not affect HR for another five to ten years, but it will affect the consumers of tomorrow. Employers should prepare by identifying and investing in job roles that are pivotal to the firm’s success, and targeting their HR spending to areas where great performance makes a real difference to the organisation. The identification of pivotal roles will be influenced by the industry, but also by the organisation’s HR strategy, Tang said, and roles that are deemed non-pivotal may be outsourced.
Tang said he is already seeing evidence of differentiation in the market when it comes to using different pay to reward different employees, with talent separated into three categories: top talent, competent talent and available talent. Organisations need to pinpoint which roles talent is really required in by assessing which have the biggest impact on customers’ buying behaviour. In the hotel sector, for example, guest services typically influence the customer experience more than housekeeping.
HR can restructure its compensation and benefits structure, for example, by offering bonuses with higher variations, or increasing the pay for pivotal roles versus other roles. To do this effectively, HR needs to ensure it understands what employees values most, said Tang, and weigh up their priorities in areas including career prospects, job security, pay, and healthcare, many of which change according to age.