Diversity & inclusion for agile workforces shown as new imperatives in Aon Survey

Aon plc, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions (NYSE: AON), has released the results of a new global pulse survey focused on how companies are rethinking their human capital and assessment strategies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Aon conducted the study, “Accelerating Workforce Agility and Resilience,” from August 17 to August 25, 2020, and a total of 2,004 human resources leaders and professionals responded globally, 578 from the UK. Complete study results are available here.

“This study demonstrates how companies are actively preparing for the future of work,” said Michael Burke, chief executive officer for Aon’s Human Capital business. “The degree to which firms are focused on improving workforce agility is fascinating, as is that the vast majority said they needed to attract and retain diverse employees to build and maintain an agile workforce.”

Workforce agility is vital to the future success of organisations, but agility gaps are widespread

In the UK, 83% of survey respondents view workforce agility, defined as the ability to quickly move employees into new roles or areas of the organisation to support changing business needs, as very important or extremely important to the future success of their organisation following the onset of the pandemic. However, while workforce agility is widely viewed as vital to future success, in the UK, only 40% of survey respondents currently view their workforces as very agile or extremely agile.

“This workforce agility gap—between what employees and teams can handle today versus what will be required of them in the near future—is significant and represents a major challenge for companies looking to reshape their business and human capital strategies,” said Pete Bentley, chief commercial officer for Aon’s Human Capital business. He added, “this gap is remarkably consistent across regions and industries.”

Diversity and inclusion are viewed as key to improving workforce agility

When survey respondents were asked to assess 10 key factors needed to build and maintain an agile workforce, the ability to attract and retain diverse employees and create an inclusive culture ranked near the top. In the UK, 88% of respondents said this factor was very important or extremely important, ahead of factors such as identifying employees with key digital skills (72%), introducing new career paths (75%) and developing flexible compensation programmes (55%).

Only two other factors rated higher than diversity and inclusion―technology tools and infrastructure (94%) and communications tools and infrastructure (91%). Another top factor is the ability to assess employees for adaptability, collaboration and communications skills. Eighty-three percent of UK survey respondents said this factor was very important or extremely important.

Hiring outlook

On top of this, 57% of respondents described their hiring outlook as cautious or selective for either key roles or replacement roles, while 23% are hiring normally. Ten percent have frozen hiring, while 6% have accelerated hiring to meet surging demands.

Indeed, 44% said moving recruitment processes to a virtual environment has been more challenging than usual in the past six months, and 42% said making hiring decisions without the benefit of in-person meetings was challenging. Finding candidates willing to change jobs given uncertain economic conditions was said to be the biggest challenge for 39% of respondents.

Additional survey findings

For complete study results by region and industry, including additional data on performance management practices, rewards programs, workforce actions including layoffs and furloughs, the state of hiring, and adjustments to time-off policies, click here.