The future of work is evolving: Kantar's Narelle Burke
Uncertainty shapes talent outlook in the current talent marketplace as companies navigate difficult macroeconomic conditions. Added to that are new workplace expectations - right from the rise in flexibility, the need for diverse talent, a focus on continuous learning and increased interest in talent mobility. In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Kantar's Narelle shares the company's emerging roadmap of talent priorities. Narelle Burke is the CHRO, Insights APAC & Global Consulting, Kantar.
The below interview is edited for length and clarity.
Q. What do you think about the future of work from the perspective of your business at Kantar? And, what is the roadmap for you in the context of your industry?
The future of work is still uncertain and constantly evolving. With the recent pandemic, people have moved locations and some are being asked to come back into the office, while others are still allowed to work remotely or in a hybrid capacity. It seems like every other week; there are articles in the media discussing the pros and cons of each approach. As a result, I think it's important to listen to our employees and understand what is most important to them in the context of the future of work.
At my organisation, Kantar, we've realised that we can't go back to a five-day office workweek, as our people have told us that this no longer works for them. Instead, what they value is flexibility - the ability to choose where they work, how they work, and what type of work they want to do.
The challenge for us and other organisations is figuring out how to embrace this flexibility while still building a strong culture and connections among our employees. This means finding a mutually beneficial path forward that works for both the organisation and its employees.
Q. To double-click on that point you made on the evolving phase of the hybrid world of work. Could you share the steps you are taking?
Over the past year, we have evolved this approach based on feedback from our employees.
The specifics of how much in-person work is required vary depending on the market, the commute, and the nature of the work being done. In some teams and markets, there is a minimum expectation for in-person work, while in others, remote work may be the norm.
As a manager, it's important to be clear about why you need people in the office and what they should be focused on and to have open conversations with your employees about these factors. Overall, we still have a hybrid approach but with a flexible mindset depending on the roles and markets in question.
Q. With different cohorts of employees, including gig workers and those prioritising purpose over jobs, how are you approaching talent acquisition and reaching out to diverse talent pools, including through borderless talent initiatives?
The definition of talent is evolving and becoming more flexible, including options like gig work, remote work, and international assignments. There are also generational challenges in the workforce, and at Kantar, there is a focus on enabling career growth at any age through initiatives like "No Limits."
We are witnessing a shift in the composition of the workforce, with individuals without formal degrees entering through apprenticeships or traineeships, mid-career professionals transitioning into entry-level roles in their 30s and 40s due to career changes, and individuals staying in the workforce longer. This shift has fundamentally altered the way we approach talent acquisition, presenting new challenges in areas such as tax, immigration, and remote work. However, it appears that governments are struggling to keep up with these changes.
There is growing importance placed on transferable skills and inclusive hiring practices. Traditionally, leaders have sought replacements with identical qualifications and experience. However, it is now necessary to be more inclusive and seek candidates with diverse capabilities, such as leadership skills, industry experience, and client management abilities.
Identifying areas where new hires require training and being open to candidates from various backgrounds, industries, and skill sets is essential. As the demand for talent exceeds internal growth, it is increasingly important to consider upskilling candidates from different pools. This approach is not entirely new, but it has become critical in today's talent landscape.
Q. Is there a growing interest in international job opportunities, and are companies now offering it as part of their workplace benefits?
Mobility has always been significant in our region, accounting for about 40% of our company's moves. International remote working assignments are even more common. The pandemic has accelerated this trend, as people seek travel opportunities. Rather than permanent international assignments, people are now interested in temporary work arrangements or remote working opportunities, which allows for more flexibility.
The COVID situation has demonstrated that working from anywhere can be productive, increasing interest in remote work opportunities. As a result, we see an expansion of these types of opportunities in our region.
Q. Learning and upskilling is another area that has been reshaped over the past few years. How do you think about it? And how are you mapping it to careers and other opportunities?
I believe that the pandemic has accelerated our shift to online and digital platforms. Our work with clients, meetings, learning, workshops and events are now mostly conducted online. This has resulted in a significant increase in digital-first initiatives.
Of late, there’s been a lot of buzz around web 3.0 and how it's changed e-commerce. These new shifts will also change the way our employees learn, and that's accelerated the need for new skills because we're primarily digital now. This means we need to rethink how we equip our people and what career opportunities are available. At Kantar, we're rethinking what a career looks like by focusing on gaining the experiences and skills needed for the present and future. We're doing this through shorter, more frequent micro-learning sessions.
Another factor that's been influential for us is the desire to restore some of the connections that were lost during the COVID pandemic. In the past, face-to-face interactions were primarily used for training and development, but now we're leveraging them to help individuals reconnect with their networks and communities and facilitate in-person interaction, which is more difficult to achieve online. Our approach to change is multifaceted. We're rethinking our conception of what a career entails, introducing new skills and capabilities, and adopting online tools in novel ways. Additionally, we're utilising face-to-face sessions to bring people together across our network, recognising the importance of these connections in supporting personal growth and development.
Q. So when you said you are doing it differently and in a multi-faceted way, could you give an example of what you were referring to that?
For instance, if you need to gain knowledge about a subject like AI or digital technology, we would organise a micro-learning session where experts would lead discussions and offer opportunities for interaction. However, the learning doesn't stop there. We encourage ongoing conversations with team leaders to explore how this newfound knowledge can be applied to our clients and what changes we can make to our processes. The trend in online learning is moving towards a blended approach, with managers playing an important role in incorporating learning into daily routines. Rather than a one-time event, learning is integrated into a continuous cycle of building knowledge.
Q. We’re seeing an increased emphasis and focus on sustainability in the future of work. What is your ororganisation'stance on engaging stakeholders in the process?
Sustainability is a crucial aspect of Kantar's practices and has become a top priority. Defining what sustainability looks like for the organisation is important, and At Kantar, we are evaluating and refreshing our purpose to align with sustainable practices through our interactions with clients and employees.
Organisations should revisit their purpose and ensure it is clear, relevant, and meaningful to all employees. Having well-defined sustainability goals is also important, especially in terms of travel and carbon credits. Hybrid working environments and the impact of returning to the office full-time should also be considered from a sustainability standpoint.
Supporting the communities where an organisation operates is crucial, and it can be achieved through various means such as partnering with NGOs, pro bono work, volunteer days, and promoting inclusion and diversity. It is not enough to have policies on paper; the organisation must live and breathe its values. The HR community should have a seat at the table to discuss this with the CEOs and C-suite executives.