This is the next in the series of interviews in which a selection of HR leaders across a variety of sectors share their thoughts on the impact of past and anticipated future changes on their world of work.
This month Nigel Miller, Chief Human Resources Officer at Edelman, talks to us about….
...HIS ROLE AT EDELMAN
I am Edelman’s Chief Human Resources Officer, and lead a global team of HR professionals working to ensure Edelman has the right talent with the right capabilities and engagement to achieve our aspirations as an agency.
…CHANGES IN THE WORKPLACE
I joined Edelman in early 2014, as the agency was just embarking on a significant journey of change. With public engagement changing so radically and trust in institutions falling precipitously, our approach to evolving, protecting and ultimately promoting our clients’ brands had to change as well. In the last few years, our workforce has evolved to include new kinds of talent from places we’d never recruited from before. To ensure they could contribute to the very best work for clients, we have invested in promoting integration and collaboration, among the most visible signs of which have been in the workplace. In most cases, closed offices have been replaced with open space, walls have been replaced with creative meeting zones and everything from technology to furniture to work hours has been designed to promote flexibility and practicality.
Like almost all companies I’m sure, ours has certainly been impacted by technology. And quite positively. So many processes have been enabled on our phones, from simple things like timesheets to more time and space consuming activities such as learning and development. Among the most positive developments has been the introduction of workplace by Facebook, which has really started to enable digital collaboration in a way we haven’t seen before now. By taking advantage of a platform that, for most, was already entirely familiar, we’ve been able to make internal communication and sharing of information more interactive and engaging. While such innovations will never replace face to face communication, they do help us make employee engagement more real-time and in keeping with modern ways of working.
…STARTING A CAREER IN THE PR INDUSTRY IN 5 YEARS’ TIME
Well, as much as things have changed, so much has remained the same. While the stakeholders and channels we engage with have multiplied exponentially, our ultimate goal so often remains earning trust for and with our clients. So in-demand skills remain things like strong written and verbal communication, project management and the ability to sell (ideas, new business, etc.). Becoming a student of our craft may include some formal education in PR, but it might also come with work or volunteer experience in which you’re able to hone your communication skills across a range of platforms, build your professional network and begin to establish a social media profile.
…SKILLS GAPS OVER THE NEXT 10-15 YEARS
Among the most important things we can be doing is to anticipate the changing needs of our clients, who expect a different kind of partnership from us today than they did five years ago. And, as we expect this will continue to evolve, we’re making corresponding investments in upskilling our current talent while identifying new ways and new places to find the talent of our future.
…DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES IN THE WORKFORCE
While the hottest demographic topic has tended to be engaging millennials, who now make up about 70% of our workforce, it’s also true that we now have four generations working side by side in many of our offices. Our workforce is also about 70% female, but that representation is lower at the most senior levels. So, as much as we’re focused on diversity, an equally important focus for us is around real inclusion. And that means we level our playing field so that skills and contribution, versus factors such as unconscious bias, are the means by which we make talent decisions. Reverse mentoring has become an important theme for us as well with more experienced employees having much to learn from our extraordinarily diverse, multi-skilled and highly collaborative newer employees.
...RISING PROPERTY PRICES
At Edelman, we tend to locate our offices in locations that are accessible for both the majority of our employees and clients. If trends toward higher prices and shrinking availability do continue, we’ll have to be increasingly creative in the ways that we use our physical space as well as take advantage of new technologies that enable more remote working.
…SUGGESTED REGULATORY OR POLICY CHANGES
Looking at this strictly from a UK perspective, I’d reference the government’s apprenticeship levy. Given the levy has only come into effect this year, it’s too early to tell if the government’s initiative will have a direct effect on ensuring the future talent of PR have the right skills and experiences to be successful in their roles, but we’re optimistic. As PR agencies look to utilise a flexible workforce and better manage costs within the gig economy, we’d love to see the UK government looking for ways to simplify policies and regulations around the hiring status of employees and freelancers, tax and payroll implications, and HMRC treatment and reporting. This would enable agencies like ours to be more fluid in hiring of talent to meet clients’ needs.
The implosion of trust in institutions and the decline in mainstream media’s monopoly as a news source are among recent trends that have significantly impacted the work we do for our clients. And, while I sincerely hope the chasm between views held by elites and the mass population will shrink over time, the current reality places a much higher responsibility on companies and brands to help bridge the gap. We can help by working with clients to identify and reinforce their purpose, to mobilise their own employees to stand as advocates and to build sustained trust through their brands.
Additionally, as Brexit conversations continue between the UK government and Brussels, there remains a level of uncertainty of the long term affects that Brexit may have on Edelman both commercially and on our ability to find, hire and retain talent. This provides us with an opportunity to advise our clients as they navigate their way through a Brexit transition and for us to take an internal focus, by ensuring we are regularly engaging and communicating with our employees on potential changes and forward planning to ensure we are ahead of the curve on changes that could affect our ability to retain talent.
Also, as the media continue to report on the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential benefits and risks to society, organisations and jobs, like many organisations we will continue to evaluate where it can add value. AI may improve and optimise our internal processes to create greater efficiencies, and improve big data analytics and how we use data to make business decisions.
If you are a HRD and would like to share your own thoughts on the future of work in your industry, please do get in touch here.