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The business case for acceleration in ESG and talent management

from  November 15, 2022 | 3 min read

In Unit4’s 2022 Business Future Index, we’ve explored the impact and benefits of acceleration and what they mean for organizations. The Unit4 Business Future Index examines how 3,450 professional respondents (employees and leadership) from across 12 global markets and all sectors, consider their business’s performance between 2021 and 2022: in terms of the bottom line, business strategies and priorities, technology adoption, the impact of ESG and people strategies.

In this article – the second part in a series of 3 exploring the findings of this year’s Business Future Index – we’ll focus in on two areas: environmental, social, and governance criteria, and talent and people strategies.

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ESG and Talent – two essential pillars of your organization’s ability to thrive

Although these two areas might not appear to be linked at first, meeting ESG commitments – and making even greater commitments – can actually be a core part of finding the talent your organization will need to survive in the future.

One of the most important findings of our research exposes this link starkly. Struggling to find and keep staff across a mix of generations is the most likely (36%) talent acquisition and retention issue for our respondents. This kind of generational diversity is, however, a vital part of balancing skill retention and wisdom with an influx of new energy and ideas.

Diversity across racial, social, and economic backgrounds also contributes greatly to the skills mix and resilience of an organization – and since only 25% of our respondents are planning to improve diversity, it’s clear that ESG efforts along these lines and others will become a key area of focus in the future as companies compete for ever scarcer and more mobile talent worldwide. This is underscored by the fact that those who are outperforming their targets are more likely (31%) to be planning to make improvements.

Accelerations have improved ESG

ESG has seen huge improvements in the past two years – with transformation accelerations helping to cement it as a key metric for the modern organization.

In 2021, only 19% of those surveyed reported that their organization was doing very well when it came to meeting sustainability goals. In 2022, that has risen to around a quarter (24%). Sustainability goals haven’t fallen by the wayside due to the COVID-19 pandemic – in fact 69% of organizations feel they’re now better able to meet ESG and CSR goals because of the accelerations they’re experiencing.

But there’s still work to be done 

20% of respondents believe their company is perceived to have poor ESG credentials. This not only lowers morale but presents a major barrier to finding new talent. Struggling to find and keep staff across a mix of generations and other key diversity categories is an acquisition/retention challenge for 36% of businesses. What’s more, only 25% plan to improve diversity within their organizations.

Current talent acquisition and retention strategies are a blocker to acceleration

Organizations must focus on talent acquisition and retention – perhaps the single biggest systemic challenge in the years to come - but their current strategies are getting in the way of their success.

Organizations face two new challenges: finding and retaining talent (the biggest priority for most organizations over the next 12 months), and, conversely, enhancing their talent strategies to establish better ways to attract the best people.

This is an especially important priority for the public sector (68%) and higher education (70%) sectors.

Some organizations have been able to use digital transformation, and the ability to work remotely, to boost their workforce resilience - principally by using flexible and remote working to recruit from a much larger geographic area.

Flexible working is a must to attract top talent

But surprisingly, not everyone is taking advantage of the benefits that flexible working can bring in terms of attracting talent.

For the vast majority of people, the switch to greater flexibility has been a huge positive, making them feel more collaborative (82%) and more productive (84%) – and all while delivering a better work-life balance (86%.)

But even after two years, only 18% of all workers are experiencing unrestricted flexible working. Considering the ‘Great Resignation’ it should be no surprise that 76% of respondents say their flexible working policies need improvement – as do their tools. 62% of our respondents tell us that the tools in place to support flexible working aren’t adequate for their needs.

It’s clear there’s still a great deal of work to be done by many organizations to fully tap into a talent market that’s becoming more competitive than ever before. A change in approach to talent strategy will help – which can be significantly enhanced if greater consideration is given to corporate ESG priorities.

Ready to learn more?

There’s much more where this came from. To get the full overview of the findings of this year’s Business Future Index survey – including the impacts of acceleration on your bottom line, technology adoption, and the wellbeing of your people, and the steps you can take to ensure your organization isn’t left behind – check out our new interactive eBook here.

Read the rest of this blog series: 

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