Vanguard or Laggard: which one is your organisation?

23rd August by Lee Robertson

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Vanguard or Laggard: which one is your organisation?

New global research indicates that the future workplace will be defined by a continuous state of flux. Wanting to know what will give businesses the edge to succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace and keep them future fit, KellyOCG’s Workforce Agility Report 2021 quizzed over 1,000 senior executives from across 13 countries.

Discovering there will be a dramatic reshaping of how we manage talent, utilise technology and support the wellbeing and productivity of our employees, the report highlights that not all businesses are prepared for the shift.

In its data, KellyOCG has identified a group of what is calls ‘Vanguard’ organisations, which are bucking the trend when compared to those companies - or ‘Laggards’ - who stated a decline in employee wellbeing and the overall sample. Accounting for around 10% of the total number of respondents, the Vanguards reported that employee wellbeing and productivity have improved during the coronavirus pandemic and that 94% saw revenue growth over the last three years.

What makes Vanguards different?

The research finds that Vanguards are adopting a long-term, strategic approach to improving the agility, resilience and wellbeing of their workforces in contrast to those organisations which it has labelled as Laggards.

The survey uncovered four key dynamics of the Vanguards’ response to the pandemic which are enabling them to create a more resilient and agile workforce in tandem with a more profitable business model.

The four dynamics of Vanguard organisations

1 They welcome workforce fluidity

KellyOCG has found that Vanguards are more likely to have a comprehensive strategy in place for bridging the skills gap by investing in new talent, bringing on contingent labour and engaging with external consultancies to better understand the skills they need.

They are planning ahead by putting in place a multi-tiered approach to give them the agility to fill skills gaps and meet business needs in a tight labour market. 35% said they planned to hire more permanent talent that usual while more than half at 52% expect to implement reskilling initiatives to plug gaps.

2 They are proactively improving the employee experience

For 91% of Vanguards, improving the employee experience is as high a business priority as enhancing the customer experience.

Vanguards actively benchmark their employee value proposition (EVP) against other firms within the same sector and to track the employee experience through data collected via surveys and focus groups to enrich company culture. Vanguards recognise that a positive employee experience is repaid with greater retention, higher productivity and engagement, all of which translate into stronger business results.

This segment is also more likely to involve employees in defining and shaping their roles and uses its insights to train leaders, implement new technologies and offer resources that focus on specific aspects of the employee experience.

3 They are championing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

From the data we see that a higher proportion of Vanguards have company-wide DEI strategies in place which have been designed to attract talent from underserved communities.

The research also tells us that while most organisations only pay lip service to DEI programmes, Vanguards consider them a priority and are twice as likely as Laggards to have fully developed schemes in place for both permanent and contingent talent. These strategies include programmes to attract and support the career progression of women or other under-represented groups, offering DEI training and incentives for leaders as well as establishing clear channels to report discrimination.

Vanguards are making these key investments in diversity because they recognise that a diverse and inclusive workforce is also good for business and can be linked to higher employee motivation, greater satisfaction and loyalty and an improved ability to innovate.

4 They use cutting-edge tech to manage workforces in flux

These organisations are much more likely to use new tools to manage their talent, boost collaboration and enhance the employee experience which all give them an edge over their peers in the future.

The research found that 88% of Vanguards believe that the use of leading-edge technologies is critical to enhancing the employee experience and supporting long-term business health. 94% felt that it was their responsibility to ensure employees have the skills they need to adopt new technologies quickly and many had already begun to implement new systems to alleviate workload pressure and enhance efficiency as digitisation improves processes.

Karen Smart, head of consultancy with the AoEC notes: “We are the point now where we have to put in motion a programme of works for the better of individual employees and the good of businesses. We see from this study that the Vanguard organisations are getting it right and are enjoying significant business growth as a result. Much of what these companies are doing is illustrative of having a coaching culture where the focus is on building resilience, giving workers autonomy and looking after everyone’s wellbeing. If organisations want to be truly agile and successful in the future, then this type of culture allows them to enjoy the best of both worlds with a motivated talent pool and impressive business outcomes.”