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3 surprising revelations from IBM’s latest HR study

2 Oct 2018

The landscape of the working world is changing and, as IBM’s latest report makes clear, the HR world is no exception.

These times feel like the chrysalis of the new working world. Enterprises large and small across all industries are instigating seismic shifts in how they do business. In pretty much every industry, professionals are gearing up for their role to be totally transformed.

The human resources (HR) industry is no exception. HR professionals have successfully ridden the crest of the wave of change over the past 80 years. The HR professional of this age is totally unrecognisable to the professional from the ’90s. It is likely that in another 10 years, the function of HR in an organisation will be once again transformed.

Tech behemoth IBM sought to gauge where HR and business leaders from around the world currently stand. It conducted a study in conjunction with Oxford Economics that saw it interview 2,139 chief HR officers (CHROs), 179 in face-to-face interviews and 1,960 phone interviews. IBM and Oxford also spoke to more than 12,000 C-suite professionals to gain further insight.

Among the many fascinating elements to the full study, these three findings in particular captured our interest.

The workforce is changing, and little is being done

“The people pendulum is swinging again,” so the IBM study explains. What it means here is that after “fluctuating” in importance for more than a decade, this year has seen a sharp rise in focus on talent across the C-suite.

This obviously puts huge pressure on CHROs, yet the research shows that only 28pc of those surveyed expect their enterprises to address changing workforce demographics with new strategies.

It’s interesting that there is such a disconnect between what business leaders want and what they are apparently willing to do. It may mean that HR leaders will have to take it upon themselves to transform the way their organisations interact with employees, both current and prospective.  

In a larger context, the report notes that the thriving organisations of today are the ones who recognise that reinvention isn’t a box to be merely ticked. It’s a way of doing business and, in this modern landscape, a rolling requirement. The enterprises that will rise to the top are the ones that constantly evolve.

For most leaders, tech skills alone aren’t enough

In line with this increased focus on talent, many C-suite executives (65pc) also believe that interpersonal skills are going to have an impact on their business in the coming years.

There has been much discussion about the importance of soft skills in the tech sphere, but it may surprise you to learn just how many leaders believe that hard skills alone just don’t cut it.

Leaders were asked to rate critical workplace capabilities. While 61pc said ‘basic computer and software/application skills’ and ‘technical core capabilities for STEM’ respectively, more than half mentioned things such as the willingness to be flexible and having the ability to communicate effectively in a business context.

The average hiring manager spends just six seconds on a CV

Hiring managers are often inundated with applications for key roles and have the odious task of sifting through all of them. It forces managers to spend less time sizing up candidates than perhaps they should.

When you’re relying on your instant impressions to drive decision-making, IBM argues, you could potentially fall back on unconscious biases. It could potentially mar the drive for diversity that most HR leaders are on in light of mounting evidence that less homogeneity among teams leads to better bottom lines, improved products and happier employees.

IBM takes the opportunity to promote its latest addition to its IBM Watson Recruiting tool, Adverse Impact (AI), which claims to help users identify potential biases so that they can make more informed hiring decisions.

The intersection of AI and HR, and AI and diversity, is a marriage that could either be a match made in heaven or a disaster. Questions still hang in the air about whether a lack of diversity among programmers could hinder the technology before it even gets off the ground.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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