Article: Why future-proof talent: Insights from ACCA’s Pulkit Abrol

Talent Management

Why future-proof talent: Insights from ACCA’s Pulkit Abrol

'Companies are re-evaluating talent strategies and rapidly adopting the 'sustainable workforce' trend as a priority,' says Pulkit. Read on to discover his exhaustive insights on GTT 2024 report.
Why future-proof talent: Insights from ACCA’s Pulkit Abrol

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), in its latest Global Talent Trends 2024 report, uncovered interesting insights on evolving work dynamics that raise concerns for organisations globally. In the Asia Pacific region, 73 per cent of finance professionals see a strong diversity and inclusion culture as a crucial factor in choosing an employer. However, 41 per cent believe their organisations prioritise certain aspects of diversity over others. The report also highlights economic pressures affecting talent retention, with 58 per cent of employees planning to ask for a pay raise in 2024, though half expect to leave their current jobs to get it.

Despite employers' enthusiasm for Artificial Intelligence, with 78 per cent viewing it as a way for finance professionals to add value, over a third of employees are anxious about the rapid pace of technological change. Mental health remains a significant issue, as 57 per cent of workers say job pressures harm their mental well-being, and nearly half feel their employers don't prioritise mental health. Additionally, while 76 per cent of employees prefer hybrid working arrangements, many employers still insist on full-time office presence, revealing a significant mismatch in work preferences.

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Pulkit Abrol, Managing Director of ACCA Asia Pacific, revealed some additional and unique insights from the GTT 2024 report. He highlighted key changes over the past year and shared strategies for organisations to mitigate risks associated with these changes.

Here are the edited excerpts:

What are some unique insights from the GTT 2024 report compared to last year's report? Does the report adequately assess the impact of Gen AI in workplaces this year?

Compared to last year, we're seeing some key shifts that highlight evolving priorities for businesses in the region. One of the most striking trends is the rise of the "sustainable workforce". More companies actively seek talent with expertise in ESG, reflecting the increasing importance of environmental and social factors in business strategy considerations. 

The report also reveals a shift in the digital and technology skills landscape. While such skills are still crucial, human-centric skills like critical thinking and problem-solving are becoming increasingly important for navigating human-AI collaboration in the workplace. 

Finally, it's impossible to ignore the influence of geopolitics on the talent landscape. This year's report underscores the impact of rising tensions on talent mobility and supply chains

Companies are re-evaluating their talent strategies and exploring ways to build more geographically diverse workforces which are productive and able to thrive in such complexity. 

In terms of Gen AI adoption, we believe that it is still in the early stages, making it challenging to definitively assess its long-term impact on the workforce. The 2024 report reflects current trends and concerns, but the full picture of how Gen AI will reshape the talent landscape will only emerge in future editions of the survey.

According to the report, over half of workers plan to request a pay raise in 2024, with many believing that switching organisations offers a better package, reflecting a sense of hopelessness in their current roles. What strategies can APAC organisations adopt to retain skilled talent? Additionally, do you think talent today has sufficient career growth opportunities despite rising job insecurities?

In today's world, where the demand for and from talent is high, one key strategy that organisations can take to retain their workforce is to ensure competitive compensation and benefits. Regularly reviewing salary structures and benefits packages is crucial to staying an attractive employer in the market. This goes beyond monetarily – offering comprehensive healthcare benefits, flexible work arrangements, and investment in professional development opportunities can significantly improve employee satisfaction and loyalty. 

Several organisations, particularly in the tech sectors, have experienced several waves of layoffs that have affected their attractiveness as employers. Another critical factor is a focus on the career growth of employees. More often than not, employees seek employers who are invested in their long-term development. Organisations can achieve this by implementing mentorship programmes, skill-building workshops, or tuition assistance for relevant certifications. Highlighting clear career paths within the company will further incentivise employees to stay and build their future within the organisation.

Through our access to our Approved Employer network of nearly 8,000, we do come across cultural components; for example, fostering a culture of open communication comes out strongly. Regularly soliciting feedback, acknowledging achievements, and creating a sense of belonging can go a long way in boosting morale and loyalty. Employees who feel valued and heard are more likely to be engaged and invested in the company's success.

Other fringe activities such as supporting better hybrid working environments, better manager-employee and team culture, mental health and wellness considerations, and managing multi-generational teams would be other actions leaders can consider. 

Regarding the cost of living crisis, what impact do global economic strains have on talent attraction and retention in the industry? What strategies do you believe organisations in APAC should implement as they grapple with increasing wage demands and talent attrition risks?

The rising cost of living casts a long shadow over talent attraction and retention not just in APAC but globally. Global economic strains have put contractionary pressures on household budgets, making competitive compensation even more critical for employers to attract and retain skilled professionals. This translates to a real risk of talent attrition if organisations are unable to provide what employees now seek. 

So, what strategies can APAC organisations implement in this challenging environment? 

Beyond offering competitive salaries, employees should create compensation packages that include flexible benefits, allowing them to choose options relevant to their needs, such as childcare subsidies or transport allowances. 

Between managers and employees, having transparent and open communication regarding financial constraints can also lead to a collaborative approach to finding solutions, potentially involving alternative benefits or flexible work arrangements.

Organisations can also build a strong company culture by promoting work-life balance and investing in employee well-being to enhance their employer brand significantly.

With AI reshaping work, many believe it offers finance professionals opportunities to add value, but there are concerns about a 'lack of skills' for new roles. What steps should organisations take to effectively equip employees with the necessary technology skills to adapt to these changes? 

The rise of AI in finance is undeniable, and it has brought a wave of both excitement and apprehension. Many, myself included, see it as a chance for finance professionals to elevate their contributions to their organisation and the industry. AI can automate mundane tasks, freeing us to focus on strategic thinking, conduct complex analyses, and build client relationships.

However, the fear of a "skills gap" is a valid concern. To bridge this gap, organisations need a multi-pronged approach. Firstly, they need to identify the required evolving skill sets. This involves understanding how AI will change workflows and pinpointing the areas where human expertise remains crucial.

Secondly, targeted training programmes are essential. These programmes should equip employees with the technical skills to interact with AI tools effectively. This could involve training in data analysis, machine learning basics, and understanding AI outputs.

For example, at ACCA, we offer resources and guidance to demystify AI and help finance professionals build the knowledge they need from webinars and training courses.

Finally, fostering a culture of continuous learning is paramount. Encouraging employees to explore new technologies, attend workshops, and stay updated on the latest advancements will ensure they remain relevant in the evolving landscape.

As the working patterns dilemma persists in 2024, how can organisations effectively manage the ongoing risks and challenges associated with transitioning to hybrid working models? Additionally, how can they effectively navigate the mismatches between employee preferences and current working arrangements?

Firstly, clear communication is king. Organisations need to openly discuss the rationale behind the hybrid model and establish transparent guidelines that adhere to the new Tripartite Guidelines. This includes outlining expectations for communication, collaboration tools, meeting protocols for both in-office and remote employees, and a formal process for requesting flexible work arrangements. The guidelines coming into effect in December 2024 will provide a clear framework for employees to make these requests, ensuring fairness and consistency.

Secondly, fostering a culture of inclusion is critical. Ensure everyone feels valued and heard, regardless of location. Promote regular check-ins, encourage virtual team-building activities, and invest in technology that facilitates seamless remote participation.

Thirdly, recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach won't work. Accommodate individual needs whenever possible. Explore flexible work schedules, offer resources to create comfortable home office setups, and organise mental wellness check-up sessions to address concerns about potential isolation for remote workers.

By prioritising clear communication, inclusivity, and adaptability, organisations can effectively manage the risks of hybrid work and bridge the gap between employee preferences and current arrangements. This will ultimately lead to a happier, more productive workforce.

What is the current status of women in the APAC financial sector, and how can organisations enhance their participation? How can companies ensure a holistic approach to DEI beyond gender, and address primary concerns of women workers like career breaks and social stigmas? Additionally, how can embracing age and neurodiversity foster creativity and innovation?

Organisations need to adopt a multi-pronged approach to improve female participation effectively. Firstly, sponsoring, mentoring and promoting female leaders is crucial. These role models can serve as a source of inspiration and mentorship for the next generation of women in finance. Secondly, targeted initiatives are essential. This includes unconscious bias training for employees at all levels, implementing flexible work arrangements, and developing parental leave policies that support both mothers and fathers. Finally, it's imperative to focus on skills and experience over gender. By prioritising a meritocratic promotion system that rewards talent, performance and dedication, organisations can create a more level playing field for women.

That being said, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is about much more than just gender. Companies should strive to cultivate a workforce that reflects the rich tapestry of their societies. This includes embracing age diversity. Seasoned professionals bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table, while younger generations offer fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. But have different value systems and motivational triggers. 

Organisations also have to lean into their policies and programmes harder to ensure they are being conscious of their commitments. A personal example would be how we would refuse a speaking or event participation opportunity at ACCA in the Asia Pacific if there isn't a female leader in the programme or agenda.

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Topics: Talent Management, Strategic HR, #Future of Work, #HRTech, #Artificial Intelligence

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