3 Ways CHROs Can Redefine Strategies That Empower A Diverse Workforce

Anka Wittenberg

International Youth DayAs the world recognizes International Youth Day on August 12 to spread awareness of youth-based issues, the world couldn’t be more uncertain for 25% of the global workforce – specifically, youth between the ages of ages 15 and 24. Although more young people are being educated than in the past, more than 74 million young people are unemployed and are three times more likely to be jobless than generations preceding them.

This is not an isolated problem in a handful of nations – it’s happening everywhere. In the United States, youth unemployment is more than twice the national average. Across Europe, youth unemployment rates are surging this year to 49.2% in Spain, 53.2% in Greece, 44.2% in Italy, and 31.6% in Portugal. Approximately 65% of university graduates in Tunisia are either underemployed or work in a position that does not require skills acquired in school. And in recent months, we have heard stories of tragic, desperate attempts by young people to flee Africa and the Middle East in search for a life free from oppressive poverty and conflict.

In a recent speech, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon predicted, “We may see an understandably frustrated youth population – but that picture is incomplete. With the right skills, these young people are exactly the force we need to drive progress across the global agenda and build more inclusive and vibrant societies.”

It’s clear that a lot needs to be done to make sure everyone has the opportunities and support to help themselves and their communities flourish. We all know that skills development and education empowers people – and entire communities – to find decent jobs and lift themselves up from the clutches of poverty. More important, it strengthens the world’s capacity to move closer towards an end to poverty, hunger, injustice, and environmental ruin.

How can HR prepare to tackle the needs of this emerging workforce without forgetting about their current workforce consisting of four different generations? Greater diversity and a commitment to building a mutually beneficial, multigenerational workforce is certainly a critical part of the equation.

Three things that should be on every CHRO’s multigenerational workforce agenda

The definition of “diversity” needs to move beyond gender, race, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. HR must find ways to accommodate and leverage each generation’s expectations, goals, interests, values, motivations, personalities, learning styles, and technology acumen and acceptance.

According to Oxford Economics’ Workforce 2020 study, the rise of the multigenerational workforce is very much on the minds of executives. Over half (51%) cited Millennials entering the workforce as a top priority for their workforce strategies. However, the study also indicates that HR lacks the clout and tools needed to reveal the best in all generations in their workforce.

Don’t worry – not all hope is lost. Half the battle is knowing these top three action items CHROs should pursue to effectively translate these concerns into action.

  1. Ensure that HR is heard and represented in the boardroom. Although HR frequently works with the C-suite, 52% of executives do not include workforce issues when driving the business strategy at the board level. Worse, one-fourth admits that workforce issues are typically an afterthought in business planning. To gain strong commitment from the boardroom, the CHRO needs to become an active member sitting at the executive table – refining the strategy, backing up workforce needs with hard data, and building partnerships with other lines of business.
  1. Balance vision with execution. Linking the value of workforce excellence with profitability and growth is proving to be difficult for HR, as well as the rest of the business. Despite 53% of executives viewing workforce development as a critical part of their overall strategy, only one-third has made significant progress towards meeting strategic workplace goals. And it appears that things will not improve if this conversation continues over the next five years – with more than 50% predicting that they will not fully achieve the changes needed to capitalize on the workforce of the future. When executives can see how a strategic approach to talent development impacts bottom-line results, the board is more likely to prioritize the workforce strategy as a key competitive differentiator. But first, CHROs need to present hard facts to prove their point (see action item #3).
  1. Seize the information economy. Every organization is surrounded by data; however, according to McKinsey & Company, less than 1% of all data is currently used. Nearly 60% of surveyed executives claim they do not have enough data to understand their workforce’s strengths and vulnerabilities from a skills perspective. Even if they had the data, it would be pointless: 58% are unable to extract meaningful insight from the data they have now. With the right analytics and metrics, HR professionals can build a future-proof workforce.

Keep the C-suite in touch with the reality of your workforce

How will you help your organization cope with the big changing coming in your future workforce? Start preparing for it now by downloading the findings from Oxford Economics’ “Workforce 2020” study.

Learn more about what meaningful work means for Millennials and how it will impact the future of work. Join us on Twitter #SAPYouthChat on Wednesday, August 12, at 11:00 a.m. EDT / 8:00 a.m. PDT to hear from @kathryndill (Forbes), @whatsupsmiley (author) and @dvubroady (SAP).


Anka Wittenberg

About Anka Wittenberg

Anka Wittenberg is the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at SAP. She is responsible for the development and implementation of SAP’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy globally, ensuring sustainable business success.