The value of human capital is becoming more evident in brands and businesses around the world. As talent becomes a precious commodity, so too does organizations’ recognition of the need for prioritizing human sustainability—the degree to which a company creates value for people as human beings, leaving them with greater well-being, employability and equity, according to new research from Deloitte.
This firm’s new report, Thriving Beyond Boundaries: Human Performance in a Boundaryless World, the latest in its “Global Human Capital Trends” research series, identifies several trends that showcase how a combination of business and human outcomes plays a role in organizational success—and the analysis reveals that those making meaningful progress on these key issues are nearly twice as likely to achieve desired business and human outcomes.
“As technology and cultural shifts reshape work and the workplace, it’s our human capabilities and outcomes that remain at the heart of growth and innovation,” said Dan Helfrich, chair and chief executive officer at Deloitte Consulting LLP, in a news release. “Leaders, many of whom are already aware of this, should now turn this understanding into actionable strategies. This latest Global Human Capital Trends research can serve as a roadmap for organizations to dismantle siloes and traditional constructs and move towards collaborating with their workforce to enhance human performance.”
According to the firm, the underlying problem with employee relations now is the concept of human performance—the mutually reinforcing cycle of business and human outcomes. Instead of prioritizing business issues at the expense of human outcomes, this initiative would have companies taking a human sustainability approach to improve outcomes for workers, customers, and society more broadly.
Understanding human sustainability
Prioritizing human sustainability can drive better outcomes for humans and businesses. The interaction of these outcomes leads to human performance, a measure that reflects the expectations of today’s workers and the rapidly shifting marketplace.
- While 89 percent of executives say their organization is advancing human sustainability in some capacity, only 41 percent of workers say the same.
- Less than half (43 percent) of workers say their organizations have left them better off than when they started. Workers identified increasing work stress and the threat of technology taking over jobs as the top challenges to organizations embracing human sustainability.
“While organizations grapple with a myriad of challenges, a fundamental shift they should embrace is putting humans back at the center of work—after all, it is humans, more than any physical assets, that drive business performance,” said Art Mazor, global human capital practice leader and principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, in the release. “To achieve this, leaders should focus less on how much people benefit their organization and more on how much their organization benefits people.”
Defining new metrics for human performance
Given work’s current dynamic, cross-functional, and less quantifiable nature, traditional productivity metrics like hours worked and time on tasks may be inadequate to capture human performance. Technology and data collection advancements are leading to more meaningful metrics for organizations. As data increases, organizations may have to consider what information should be transparent to their workers.
- Half (53 percent) of respondents agree that their organization is in the early phases of identifying better ways to measure worker performance and value, and only 8% say their organizations are leading in this area.
- Organizations that build workers’ trust in transparent data practices stand to benefit: When workers are confident that their organization is using their data responsibly, they are 35 percent more likely to trust the business, but only 37 percent say they are very confident their organization is using data in a highly responsible way.
“Leaders have an overwhelming amount of workforce data at their fingertips, but this newly available data transparency can be both a gold mine and a landmine,” said Simona Spelman, U.S. human capital national leader and principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, in the release. “For workers, it’s especially important to understand what data can be collected, why it’s being collected, and who has access to it. This is crucial for fostering trust.”
Bridging the gap from knowing to doing
This year’s research also includes several trends that focus on how organizations can evolve their mindsets and approaches to meet new challenges. One of the specific challenges highlighted is the rapid advances of AI and Generative AI, which are putting a spotlight on the importance of workers honing their enduring human capabilities like curiosity and empathy to spark imagination.
- Most (73 percent) respondents note ensuring human imagination keeps pace with technological innovation is important, but a mere 9% are making meaningful progress toward achieving that balance.
- To close the imagination deficit, organizations should encourage innovation through digital playgrounds—which give workers the psychological safety to explore intentionally, tapping into their capabilities as they experiment with new technologies.
In addition to having the opportunity and tools to experiment, today’s workers also want the freedom to build microcultures tailored to each team’s needs, while still staying true to broad organizational values. To support these more autonomous and diverse teams, HR will also need to build “people expertise” capability throughout the organization to provide these skills at the point of need, rather than acting as a standalone function.
- Seventy-one percent of respondents say that focusing on individual teams and workgroups as the best places to cultivate culture, fluidity, agility and diversity is very or critically important to their success.
- Leaders also recognize that changing an organization’s approach to HR can be very challenging—31 percent of C-suite respondents identified it as one of the three most difficult trends in this year’s report.
“Collaboration between humans and technology is a new frontier for work,” said Ramona Yan, Asia Pacific human capital leader and partner at Deloitte Consulting (Shanghai) Co. Ltd., in the release. “Leading organizations exploring this interplay are encouraging their workers’ creativity and curiosity. By empowering employees to experiment with new tools and allowing them to explore how these technologies can be additive to their work, we can drive better business outcomes faster. This dynamic will propel businesses and their people into a tech-enabled future.”
The firm’s annual “Global Human Capital Trends” research has its finger on the pulse of the most pressing issues for organizations, leaders and workers. This survey polled 14,000 business and human resources leaders across many industries and sectors in 95 countries. In addition to the broad, global survey, Deloitte supplemented its research this year with worker- and executive-specific surveys to represent the workforce perspective and uncover where there may be gaps between leader perception and worker realities. The survey data is complemented by over a dozen interviews with executives from some of today’s leading organizations.