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COVID-19 accelerating skills gap, raising employee expectations of their employers – IBM

71% of high performing companies surveyed report they are widely deploying a consistent HR technology architecture, compared to only 11% of others.

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As many business leaders look to close the skills gap and cultivate a sustainable workforce amid COVID-19, a new IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) studyreveals less than 4 in 10 human resources (HR) executives surveyed report they have the skills needed to achieve their enterprise strategy.

Pre-pandemic IBM research in 2018 found as many as 120 million workers surveyed in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained or reskilled because of AI and automation in the next three years. That challenge has only been exacerbated in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – as many C-suite leaders accelerate digital transformation, they report inadequate skills is one of their biggest hurdles to progress.

Ongoing IBM consumer research also shows surveyed employees’ expectations for their employers have significantly changed during the COVID-19 pandemic but there’s a disconnect in how effective leaders and employees believe companies have been in addressing these gaps. 74% of executives surveyed believe their employers have been helping them learn the skills needed to work in a new way, compared to just 38% of employees surveyed, and 80% of executives surveyed said their company is supporting employees’ physical and emotional health, but only 46% of employees surveyed agreed.

“Today perhaps more than ever, organizations can either fail or thrive based on their ability to enable the agility and resiliency of their greatest competitive advantage – their people,” said Amy Wright, managing partner, IBM Talent & Transformation. “Business leaders should shift to meet new employee expectations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as holistic support for their well-being, development of new skills and a truly personalized employee experience even while working remotely. It’s imperative to bring forward a new era of HR – and those companies who were already on the path are better positioned to succeed amid disruption today and in the future.”

The new IBV study, “Accelerating the journey to HR 3.0,”conducted in partnership with global independent analyst Josh Bersin of the Josh Bersin Academy, includes insights from more than 1,500 global HR executives surveyed in 20 countries and 15 industries. Based on those insights, the study provides a roadmap for the journey to the next era of HR, with practical examples of how HR leaders at surveyed “high-performing companies” – meaning those that outpace all others in profitability, revenue growth and innovation – can reinvent their function to build a more sustainable workforce.

Additional highlights from the study include:

  • Nearly six in 10 high performing companies surveyed report using AI and analytics to make better decisions about their talent, such as skilling programs and compensation decisions. 41% are leveraging AI to identify skills they’ll need for the future, versus 8% of responding peers.
  • 65% of surveyed high performing companies are looking to AI to identify behavioral skills like growth mindset and creativity for building diverse adaptable teams, compared to 16% of peers.
  • More than two thirds of all respondents said agile practices are essential to the future of HR. However, less than half of HR units in participating organizations have capabilities in design thinking and agile practices.
  • 71% of high performing companies surveyed report they are widely deploying a consistent HR technology architecture, compared to only 11% of others.

“In order to gain long-term business alignment between leaders and employees, this moment requires  HR  to operate as a strategic advisor – a new role for many HR organizations,” said Josh Bersin, global independent analyst and dean of the Josh Bersin Academy.  “Many HR departments are looking to technology, such as the cloud and analytics, to support a more cohesive and self-service approach to traditional HR responsibilities.  Offering employee empowerment through holistic support can drive larger strategic change to the greater business.”  

Report findings suggest three core elements to promote lasting change

According to the report, surveyed HR executives from high-performing companies were eight times as likely as their surveyed peers to be driving disruption in their organizations. Among those companies, the following actions are a clear priority:

  • Accelerating the pace of continuous learning and feedback
  • Cultivating empathetic leadership to become a more health-oriented company and support employees’ holistic well-being
  • Reinventing their HR function and technology architecture to make more real-time data-driven decisions

Burger King Brazil is an example of a company who rapidly responded to new employee expectations and needs presented by this moment. Burger King Brazil worked with IBM to create a new virtual assistant based on IBM Watson Assistant, which helped during the pandemic to provide its workforce with self-service support and more transparent communications and connection to each other and company leadership. The solution supports its 16,000 employees, and on average responded to 1,100 questions per day in April alone.

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E-commerce retailers can save money by considering pick failures at stores

While warehouses are built for efficiency in picking, packing, and shipping items, pick failures are much higher in physical stores that are not designed for these purposes for several reasons (e.g., customers moving inventory without tracking, delivery receiving and recording errors, issues with labeling, theft).

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The share of e-commerce retail sales has grown steadily over the last decade. This trend has been driven by retailers with traditional brick-and-mortar stores adopting online channels to connect to customers. In a new study, researchers explored the world of omnichannel retailing — the merging of in-store and online channels in which customers can select from a combination of online and physical channels to place and receive orders.

The study examined top U.S. retailers’ use of omnichannel ship-from-store programs in which retailers use store inventory to deliver orders to homes instead of using a dedicated warehouse or fulfillment center. For the first time, the study incorporated the possibility of fulfillment attempts at stores to fail and identified how such retailers can adopt a policy that leads to significant savings when these effects are considered.

Conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Onera, Inc., the study is published in Manufacturing & Service Operations Management.

“The rising trend in e-commerce has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with online sales jumping from 11.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 to 16.1 percent in the second quarter,” says Sagnik Das, a former Ph.D. Candidate in Operations Research at CMU’s Tepper School of Business, who led the study. “In omnichannel fulfillment, retailers attempt to minimize costs while fulfilling orders within acceptable time periods.”

Das and his colleagues focused on single-item orders. Typically, online orders are sent to a favorable sequence of locations to be filled in order. Failed trials (i.e., when orders are not filled) are sent to stores later in the order for further attempts until the process reaches a time limit.

“The problem of multistage order fulfillment is an interplay of pick failure — that is, the likelihood that orders will not be filled due to unavailability — at the stores where they may be shipped from, walk-in demand at the stores, and associated shipping costs,” explains R. Ravi, Andris A. Zoltners Professor of Business, and of Operations Research and Computer Science, at CMU’s Tepper School of Business, who co-authored the study.

As stores become an integral part of retailers’ fulfillment strategy in omnichannel ship-from-store programs, the high rate of pick failures at stores becomes a considerable factor in fulfillment costs. While warehouses are built for efficiency in picking, packing, and shipping items, pick failures are much higher in physical stores that are not designed for these purposes for several reasons (e.g., customers moving inventory without tracking, delivery receiving and recording errors, issues with labeling, theft).

Researchers modeled the problem as one of sequencing the stores from which an attempt is made to pick based on anticipated pick failure and ship an order in the most cost-effective way over several stages. To identify the best solution to the fulfillment problem, they modeled pick-failure probabilities as a function of current inventory positions and the result of other online order fulfillment trials.

The study used data on actual orders from several top U.S. retailers that worked with an e-commerce solutions provider to optimize their fulfillment strategies. Researchers proposed three order fulfillment models: one in which physical and online demand were both sparse, another in which physical demand was dense, and another in which both demands were dense. They extended the third model to also incorporate order acceptance decisions along with sequencing the stores from where they are filled once accepted.

By enabling retailers to incorporate the probability of pick failure in their order management systems for ship-from-store programs, the study’s proposed online order-acceptance policies saved omnichannel retailers as much as 22 percent. Specifically, they identified the optimal sequence of stores to try the accepted orders to minimize costs; one of the policies also uses these downstream costs to determine when to shut off the online channel for selling certain items based on current inventory availability levels.

“Our study demonstrates that modeling pick failures along with their interaction with selecting and shipping costs is an important component in optimizing ship-from-store fulfillment costs for large retailers,” says Srinath Sridhar, Chief Technology Officer at Onera, Inc., who co-authored the study.

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Choosing a lucky CEO means bad luck for the hiring company

Sometimes CEOs happen to attain outstanding performance thanks to events beyond their control. Firms that subsequently hire them pay them more and experience declining results, according to a study.

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Seneca, the Roman stoic philosopher, wrote that “luck does not exist.” Modern managerial studies take the liberty of disagreeing. Luck exists in the form of events that are beyond the control of CEOs and firms alike. Movements in oil prices and the business cycle (e.g., variations in GDP growth, and employment rate) that boost the market value of firms are a couple of examples.

A recent study by Mario Daniele Amore (Bocconi University, Milan) and Sebastian Schwenen (Technical University of Munich) found that choosing a lucky CEO means bad luck for the hiring company.

Good luck allows CEOs to “shine” in the labor market, making them more likely to leave their firm. “The hiring companies, though, are not perfectly able to separate out luck from task performance in their candidate pool,” Prof. Amore explained. “Therefore, lucky CEOs are likely to possess greater bargaining power vis-a-vis new firms’ shareholders, and thus gain benefits in the form of higher compensation and more attractive job assignments.”

Using a sample of S&P 1,500 US firms from 1992 to 2018, the authors found a positive association between a CEO’s luck at the departing firm and the level of pay at the new firm. Specifically, this larger pay is mostly made of non-cash compensation items like stocks awards and options, rather than salary and bonus. More interestingly, lucky CEOs were observed to move more swiftly to new firms and to have a shorter time-spell between CEO jobs.

Authors also observed that the increase in lucky CEOs’ bargaining power especially occurs in less competitive industries.

Unfortunately, incoming CEOs’ luck is also associated with a subsequent decline in the performance of the hiring firms. In particular, the performance of firms that hired low-luck CEOs gradually improves, whereas the performance of firms that hired high-luck CEOs experiences a moderate decline.

What is worse, luck may induce an attribution bias: high-luck CEOs, or the boards that hire them, misattribute luck-driven performance to observed individual actions, with the consequence that lucky CEOs will likely implement at the hiring firm the same corporate investment policies they implemented in their former companies, irrespective of their real effectiveness.

“Luck increases the attractiveness of CEOs in the managerial labor market of less competitive industries, bringing about higher bargaining power of lucky CEOs to transit swiftly and earn more. Nevertheless, appointing a lucky CEO is associated with poorer company performance and slower growth,” Professor Amore concluded.

Mario Daniele Amore and Sebastian Schwenen wrote “Hiring Lucky CEOs”, which was published in The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization.

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Purpose beyond profit: How brands can benefit consumer well-being

I a brand adequately addresses moderating factors, the potential benefits to consumers and marketers are considerable. These factors include consumer trust, brand authenticity, brand credibility, commitment to purpose, consumer-value congruence, and brand-purpose proximity.

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Researchers from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University published a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology that offers fresh insights into “brand purpose” and its potential benefits to consumers.

The article, “Conceptualizing brand purpose and considering its implications for consumer eudaimonic well-being,” is authored by Patti Williams, Jennifer Edson Escalas, and Andrew Morningstar.

In response to industry reports, apparent consumer demand, and high-profile calls from top executives including BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink, brands have publicly begun pursuing purpose beyond profit. Brands in a wide variety of categories have sought to define, articulate, communicate, and act according to their “brand purpose.” 

The authors define brand purpose as a brand’s long-term aim central to “identity, meaning structure and strategy” that leads to productive engagement with some aspect of the world beyond profit.  

This research team explores the different types of well-being consumers may experience by engaging with brands they believe reflect their own values. Specifically, they focus on eudaimonia, a feeling of fulfillment resulting from living a meaningful life, contributing meaningfully to society, and acting in alignment with moral virtues.

Their framework cites five mediating factors that affect the relationship between brand purpose and consumer well-being: consumer purpose, meaning and significance, self-acceptance/achievement of true self, positive relationships, and other-praising emotions.  

The article suggests that, if a brand adequately addresses moderating factors, the potential benefits to consumers and marketers are considerable. These factors include consumer trust, brand authenticity, brand credibility, commitment to purpose, consumer-value congruence, and brand-purpose proximity.

While consumers may gain a vital sense of well-being; marketers, may secure positive brand judgements, brand loyalty, and brand evangelism.

“The ultimate goal of our review,” the authors write, “is to guide future consumer psychology research into brand purpose, a concept that we believe may have a transformative impact on business, consumers, and society.

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